As CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee, Sarah Hirshland has one of the toughest jobs in sports. Last year, she took the helm of an organization that since 1978 has been tasked by the federal government with developing non-profit sport activity at all levels, including youth. It was an unfunded mandate. Since the 1990s, and increasingly over the past decade, energies have shifted more toward the tippy-top of our sport system in an effort to turn Olympic hopefuls into Olympic stars.
Some argue that heightened focus on medals laid the groundwork for the sexual abuses that emerged in USA Gymnastics, which has caused deep soul-searching at the USOC and the sport-specific national governing bodies (NGBs) it oversees. What’s next for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic movement, as reforms are introduced? What if the USOC focused first and foremost on the safety and well-being of athletes while also growing opportunities for all, not just those with medal potential? Do countries like Norway offer lessons, as the Aspen Institute’s Tom Farrey recently explored for The New York Times?
On May 22 in Washington D.C., Hirshland held a one-on-one conversation with Farrey as part of the Aspen Institute’s Future of Sports series. Following the talk with Hirshland, there was a panel that discussed the future of the U.S. Olympic movement. Additional speakers included:
- Shannon Miller, seven-time Olympic gymnastics medalist
- Han Xiao, chair of USOC Athletes’ Advisory Council, former table tennis player
- Max Cobb, National Governing Bodies Council chair, U.S. Biathlon CEO
- Cindy Boren, Washington Post sports reporter
What are your thoughts on next steps and reforms for the USOC? Please share your opinions in our post-event survey.
- USOC leader: Reform is possible with or without Congress (The Associated Press)
- Olympic sex abuse prevention center needs federal funding help, USOC chief says (The Washington Post)
Future of Sports is a quarterly conversation series by the Sports & Society Program that helps stakeholders think through key questions shaping the future of our games, the sports industry and its impact on society. Past events examined the future of football, college athlete pay, sports betting, athlete activism and coaching.
Thank you to The Washington Post for its support as media partner of the Future of Sports series.