Guest Editorial: Blackmun’s leadership improved Olympics

  • Scott Blackmun, CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee, speaks at Yongsan Garrison, a U.S. military base in Seoul, South Korea. Blackmun is resigning as CEO of the US Olympic Committee, citing health problems as the reason he’ll depart after leading the federation for more than eight years. The 60-year-old CEO was diagnosed with prostate cancer earlier this winter, and did not attend the Pyeongchang Games. AP FILE PHOTO

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Scott Blackmun resigned his post this week as CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee, while battling cancer amid a sex abuse scandal he did not cause.

One cannot overemphasize the devastation caused by widespread sex abuse of American Olympic athletes, and Blackmun was the first to agonize that his organization had not done more to prevent and stop the crimes. All strong, upstanding leaders wish they could act with the benefit of hindsight.

“Could we do more? Always,” Blackmun said last year. “Should we have begun acting before 2010? I wish we had. But to suggest that the USOC is not diligently and effectively working to solve this problem is unfair to the USOC and misleading to the American public.”

Blackmun’s concern went much deeper than words. If he was negligent for failing to see and act, Blackmun wanted the world to know. He initiated and commissioned an ongoing independent investigation designed to determine what he and other key figures in the USOC knew about the assault of athletes before the scandal surfaced.

Blackmun cared about people and worked to build them up. Under his watch, the USOC made unprecedented efforts to recruit and hire women and minorities into key positions.

He lived by the USOC’s philosophy of Olympism, which says in part: “Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example, social responsibility and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.”

Blackmun improved the committee’s relationship with the International Olympic Committee and moved mountains to help Los Angeles land the 2028 Summer Olympics. He brought order and peace where chaos reigned among several of the National Governing Bodies that oversee Olympic sporting teams.

During eight years of leading the USOC, Blackmun could not have been a better friend to Colorado Springs.

Other cities, including Chicago and New York, have played every trick in the book to lure the headquarters of the USOC away from Colorado Springs. Blackmun defended our community as the best location for the committee, dozens of governing boards and the U.S. Olympic Training Center.

Because of Blackmun, Colorado Springs benefits every day from our identity as Olympic City USA. We benefit from sharing our community with some of the world’s most gifted athletes, their families and coaches.

“Scott Blackmun has done an outstanding job as the CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee and I am sad to learn of his resignation,” wrote Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers upon hearing of Blackmun’s resignation Wednesday. “I have found Scott to be a principled and ethical leader of the USOC and it has been a pleasure to work with him. The relationship between the city of Colorado Springs and the USOC has never been better and much of the credit for that belongs to Scott.

“My staff and I wish Scott the very best as he deals with his health issue and we are genuinely grateful for all he has done for the Olympic movement and for Olympic City USA.”

Blackmun leaves leadership in the capable hands of USOC board member Susanne Lyons, who will serve as acting CEO.

The best of leaders cannot prevent or stop all evil perpetrated in darkness. Blackmun will forever be the man at the helm when predators assaulted one of our country’s leading institutions. Concurrently, he will be the man who strengthened our country’s Olympic organizations, defended our community and launched the process to find out what went wrong.

Blackmun’s successors will be wise to be guided, as he was, by the Olympic creed.

“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

Blackmun fought well. We hope he fights well in the battle for his health.

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