February 10, 2006

US left without IOC executive board seat

By Karolos Grohmann

TURIN (Reuters) - American influence in the International
Olympic Committee ebbed on Friday when the United States failed
to grab a seat on the IOC's executive board.

It was the second blow in two days for the country with the
wealthiest and most powerful National Olympic Committee, after
the IOC voted against reinstating popular U.S. sports softball
and baseball as Olympic sports.

But IOC chief Jacques Rogge played down any talk of a rift
between them.

American IOC member James Easton failed to get elected as
an executive board member despite fellow American member Anita
DeFrantz's last-minute withdrawal to boost his chances.

This left the United States, the nation with the most
influential National Olympic Committee, without an executive
board seat.

Disgruntled National Olympic Committees have also been
complaining about USOC's lion's share in Olympic television and
marketing revenues.

Asked whether ties between the IOC and USOC have cooled,
IOC chief Jacques Rogge said: "I do not share that perception.
We have to put things in context."

"This is not the case. In the last 20 years the U.S. have
organized four Olympic Games," he said.

Rogge said there have been ongoing discussions between the
IOC and USOC chief Peter Ueberroth over revenue distribution.

"It is true that there are discussions with the U.S. on
revenue distribution. This is going on between friends."

Rogge also rejected claims that the exclusion of softball
and baseball was politically driven.

"This has not been a political decision," he said. "This is
done on the basis of a report."

The IOC elected German member Thomas Bach, who replaces
Easton as its vice-president.

Bach had previously held the post from 2000 until 2004.

IOC members at the 118th Session also voted in five new
members, including Francesco Ricci Bitti, International Tennis
Federation chief, and Hein Verbruggen, executive vice-president
of the International Cycling Union.

Italian government official Mario Pescante and South
African Sam Ramsamy were elected to the executive board.