PARK CITY, Utah - In their strongest public stance on Russia's controversial anti-gay law, the top two officials of the U.S. Olympic Committee said they would be in favor of amending the Olympic charter to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The Olympic charter states that any form of discrimination on grounds of "race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise" is incompatible with the Olympic movement.
"If it came to a vote of IOC (International Olympic Committee) members to eliminate any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation, I would absolutely vote yes to amend the charter," said USOC president Larry Probst, also an IOC member.
As a national governing body, the USOC doesn't have a vote, but CEO Scott Blackmun said the USOC would support a change to the charter.
Amid the controversy heading into the Sochi Olympics, some human rights groups have criticized the USOC for not flexing its substantial muscle on the issue. "In terms of influence, first and foremost we're a sports organization," Blackmun said. "We are not an advocacy or human rights organization but we are a part of a worldwide Olympic movement, and what we can do is advocate for change within our movement."
"We want to lead by example and advocate internally within the global Olympic community to make sure we, as a family, are doing everything we can to send the message that we don't tolerate discrimination."
Other issues the USOC leadership addressed:
Medals. After the biggest medal haul by a nation in Winter Olympic history three years ago in Vancouver, with 37 medals, the bar is high heading into Sochi. The 2010 Olympics was the first time the Americans won the overall medal count in the Winter Games since 1932. Sport Performance chief Alan Ashley avoided a medal projection, but said the Americans is coming off a World Cup season in which they finished second in the overall medal count to Norway.
Security. Given the volatile politics of the region and threat of terrorism - a Chechen rebel vowed to use maximum force to prevent the Games - Blackmun said the USOC, as it always does at the Olympics, is working with the State Department on the details of security. "We take security very serious wherever we're going," he said.
Marketing and sponsorship. Chief marketing officer Lisa Baird said the Sochi Games are generating more sponsorship interest than Vancouver. The reason for the growth is the USOC's decision to focus on marketing stateside, from its Road to Sochi Tour, which will kick off Oct. 29 with a 100-day countdown event in New York City to a nation-wide tour with 13 stops. It's the first time the tour has continued throughout the Games with meet-and-greet athlete autograph sessions, demonstrations and interactive experiences.
Future Olympic bid. Plans for an American bid for the 2024 Summer Games are already in the works, but not guaranteed. Less than 10 cities are considering a bid, Blackmun said, including Washington D.C., Dallas and Los Angeles.
Paralympics. After being criticized for its sparse coverage of the Paralympics last year, NBC announced it will broadcast 50 hours of the Sochi Paralympics. All events will be live streamed, also a first, on TeamUSA.org. "We have made it a focus to put Paralympic athletes front and center to get their stories told," Baird said."This amount of coverage is really going to take it to that next level."