The chairman of the U.S. Olympic Committee says "it is our intention to bid" for the 2024 Olympics if a number of criteria are met — the strongest indication yet that the United States will put forth a bid city by the end of next year.
Among the requirements chairman Larry Probst listed as the USOC makes its decision: "Do we have the right message, the right technical plan, the right leader, right financial support, governmental support?"
"A lot of things have to fall into place," Probst said Tuesday after the USOC board's quarterly meeting. "But we continue to be focused on that opportunity."
A small group from the USOC has been visiting potential host cities, including Boston, Dallas, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco and Washington.
CEO Scott Blackmun said the list of cities will be slowly and quietly culled next year, with the process speeding up after the Sochi Olympics in February. The USOC must commit to a bid by the end of 2014.
"From my travels ... the last three or four months, I've heard a lot of encouragement from numerous IOC members about us putting forth a bid for 2024," Probst said. "We continue to focus in that direction."
The International Olympic Committee typically encourages a U.S. city to bid, knowing that interest from the world's most powerful Olympic presence can only serve to build interest in the games. When it comes to awarding the games, however, the IOC strikes a quite different tone. The U.S. hasn't hosted an Olympics since 2002 in Salt Lake City and hasn't hosted a summer games since 1996 in Atlanta.
The country's last two bidders, Chicago and New York, have been humbled in the selection process, each finishing fourth.
Blackmun and Probst have been traveling the globe trying to shore up the USOC's reputation, knowing that is the best way to have a chance at the ultimate prize for an Olympic federation — the honor to serve as host of the Olympics.
Blackmun said the USOC is committed to a private process in determining which city to put forth as the 2024 candidate — unlike previous efforts, which have been public, costly and, at times, embarrassing.
"We've got a handful of good candidates, and that's all we want to say right now," Blackmun said. "Some cities may not want to go forward and may not want that to be public."
The IOC will pick its 2024 host in 2017.
While Probst gave the strongest signal yet that the USOC would put a city in the mix, Blackmun tried to temper that later on the same conference call with reporters.
"We haven't made a decision if we're going to bid at all for 2024," he said. "It's gradual. The list will get smaller."