Six months of shaky decisions and turmoil came to a head for the U.S. Olympic Committee on Wednesday when its acting CEO said she would step down -- another crack in an organization that was humiliated when Chicago was ousted in the first round of the voting to award the 2016 Summer Games.
Stephanie Streeter said that she would not seek the USOC's CEO job on a permanent basis, and that she would leave in the next five months.
The decision came just five days after Chicago's humbling, first-round exit in the vote to award a site for the 2016 Olympics, a contest won by Rio de Janeiro. It also happened on the same day leaders of America's Olympic sports organizations responded "No" by a 40-0 vote to the question on a survey they conducted: "Do you believe the Acting CEO has the ability to be an effective leader of the Olympic Movement?"
The United States contributes more money to the Olympic movement than any other nation, yet its Olympic organization is rife with infighting and turnover, perceived internationally as arrogant, and populated with leaders who are having trouble turning things around.
"I'm incredibly saddened by the developments, which I lay largely at the feet of the USOC, which has clearly lost its way," said NBC Universal Sports and Olympics chairman Dick Ebersol. "It's a combination of people who don't have a full-time commitment to it, too many people who really don't have an understanding of international sports and relationships. I don't believe there will be another Olympics in the U.S. until the USOC really gets its act together."
USOC Chairman Larry Probst conceded that turning around the group's international reputation is not a one- or two-year project. "I'm talking 10, 15, 20 years," he said.
Chicago's elimination in the first round was universally viewed as an embarrassment, and one of the biggest surprises ever handed down by International Olympic Committee voters. One IOC member, Denis Oswald of Switzerland, went so far as to call it "a defeat for the USOC, not for Chicago."
The USOC will hire a national recruiting firm by the end of the month to search for Streeter's replacement. The next CEO will be the third to sit in that chair in the span of about a year. The latest upheaval began in March when Jim Scherr was forced out after six years of relative stability and success.
Depending on how the CEO search goes, Streeter could be with the USOC through March 21, which is when the Paralympics end in Vancouver. The Vancouver Olympics are set for Feb. 12-28.
Whether her departure satisfies her critics will almost certainly depend on who the board chooses to replace her.
"This is just a first step," said Steve Penny, president of USA Gymnastics and a key member of the leaders of national governing bodies who answered the questionnaire on Streeter.
Ebersol, whose efforts have helped bankroll the Olympic movement to the tune of billions of dollars over the years, predicted Chicago losing out on the games will diminish the value of American TV rights by at least 15 to 20 percent, "just because it won't be the same level of advertising" a network could get from an American games.
He expects NBC will still bid, though that wouldn't be an indicator that all is well at the USOC.