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The U.S. Olympic Committee has had a rough six months. Chicago’s bid to host the 2016 summer games was soundly rejected by the International Olympic Committee in October — leading to calls for the ousting of the national organization’s top leadership. In January, the USOC named attorney Scott Blackmun, 52, as its new chief executive officer. He replaced acting CEO Stephanie Streeter, who came on board after her predecessor Jim Sheer was pushed out last year. Blackmun recently left Denver firm Holme Roberts & Owen, where he started his legal career in 1982. He rejoined the firm in 2006 after stints with the USOC and Anschutz Entertainment Group, where he was chief operative officer. The National Law Journal spoke with Blackmun about his new job, the USOC’s problems and the upcoming Vancouver games. His answers have been edited for length. Q: You just started your new job last week. How are things going so far? A: I think it’s going well. I’ve got a fantastic team in Colorado Springs and everybody is really excited about the Olympic games. Right now our exclusive focus is on the Vancouver games and making sure we’ve got all the logistics in place to make sure all the athletes can compete to the best of their ability. Q: Has it been tough to step into this position so close the Vancouver Olympics, which start on Feb. 12? A: It’s tough, specifically because everybody is so focused on Vancouver and the execution of Vancouver that we don’t really have the opportunity to do what you would typically do at the front end of a situation like this, which is looking at planning, staffing and long-term objectives. It’s also a great opportunity because everybody in the worldwide Olympic movement will be gathered in one place. It’s a great opportunity for me to connect with people I haven’t seen in a long time and meet some new people. Q: You were interim CEO of the USOC for 11 months right after the 2000 winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Tell me how your law background comes into play. A: Our primary role is as a revenue generator for the US Olympic movement. Obviously, our relationships with our sponsors and broadcasters are of paramount importance in terms of our ability to execute our mission. Those are fairly complex relationships, and so my ability to understand and negotiate contracts I think is very, very helpful to me in this role. Q: Tell me about your practice at Holme Roberts & Owen. A: It was a transactional practice focused on sports and entertainment but not limited to sports and entertainment. I had some private equity clients I was working with and some high-tech clients. Q: There has been quite a bit of public discussion about problems at the USOC. What are your top priorities right now? A: My highest priority is to make sure we execute well in Vancouver. Looking at it from a longer-term basis, one thing is revenue generation. Most of our revenue for this quadrennium — we operate in four-year cycles and this is the second year of our four-year cycle — is already contracted for, so we’re really focused on the 2013 through 2016 quadrennium. We’re looking at what kinds of value and inventory are we going to provide for our sponsors to ensure we continue to support our athletes at the level we have historically, and hopefully at a higher level. Importantly, we also haven’t had as big a role in the worldwide Olympic movement as we probably should, and we’re going to need to prioritize spending time with the rest of the world. That’s going to mean a lot of travel. Those are two of the critical initiatives. Q: What is the USOC’s biggest challenge right now? A: Our biggest challenge is what’s happening in the broader economy. It’s been very difficult for sports properties to expand, renew and create new sponsorship opportunities. Looking at the broader-based economy, we are really focused on created a value proposition for our sponsors that causes them to want to support us at a time when other sports properties are finding it more difficult than a couple of years ago to garner that support. Q: What will you miss about private practice? A: I’m looking forward to not having to do the timesheets. In all seriousness, one thing I will miss is the camaraderie and team-orientated approach to the practice. HRO is a very team-oriented firm. I’m going to miss feeling like I have all my partners with their shoulders to the wheel with me. Q: I’ve heard Lake Tahoe mentioned as a possible site for the 2022 winter games. Do you think we will have an Olympic games in the U.S. in the next 20 years? A: It’s important to us to have games in the United States. I think the timing of when we next submit a bid is open to question. The next opportunity we would have is the 2022 games, but we haven’t really made any determination of when we would submit a bid. Q: You plan to meet with the International Olympic Committee this month. What do you hope comes out of that meeting? A: I think there is a priority on creating a better relationship between the USOC and the IOC and between the USOC and international federation. The first step is just sitting down and spending some time with them, and we intend to do that in Vancouver. Q: Vancouver is in less than two weeks. Is there any event you are especially looking forward to? A: My calendar started filling up, and when I looked at it I realized I wasn’t getting enough time to do what I really love to do, which is to watch the events. I’ve asked our group to carve out some time for me to see events. I’m going to try to see a little of everything, but I think the first event I’m scheduled to see is the downhill [skiing] on Saturday, the 13th.

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