Sports are serious business for Olympic Committee chairman

Nearly 200 people gathered on campus Friday to get advice on how to succeed in business from a former Time magazine man of the year.

Peter Ueberroth is a former Major League Baseball commissioner who now heads the United States Olympic Committee. His speech Friday was part of a lecture series presented by the James H. Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the Lundquist College of Business. He spoke about the evolving nature of business in today’s world.

“In the United States, we are changing. We are changing the way we employ people, we are changing the way we educate and we’re changing the way we raise our families,” Ueberroth said. “We have to take advantage of the razor of change.”

He said he applies business to sports. And when it comes to businesses, he looks for eight elements that make a successful organization.

The business world, he said, moves too fast to “run” or “manage,” requiring a successful company to actively compete.

Ueberroth emphasized that successful businesses exercise integrity and have two people in the highest ranks of power who exchange roles and trust each other.

Companies will always have operations amid the hustle of the city, he said, but businesses also need to move away from the commotion to compete.

He said CEOs must be in charge of government relations, businesses must learn to demand service and need to allow every employee to be a part of the organization.

Ueberroth concluded his list of must-have ingredients for a successful business by stressing the importance of businesses that understand the value of education.

“Let’s make it better for the next generation,” he said.

Ueberroth gave a rundown on his outlook for sports’ current status in business today:

Hockey fails on television but could boost its ratings by toning down the violence. Baseball has succeeded in many areas, but faces losing the family audience because of increasing prices. Basketball became an international sport because games began being televised around the world. American football has a steroid problem but will address issues it faces. Soccer serves as a foundation sport because it requires players to use the lower halves of their bodies, a skill necessary for many other games.

Ueberroth kept his discussion of steroids in sports brief but emphasized the need to cleanse sports of these drugs.

He said the United States Olympic Committee must – and will – guarantee “that we’re going to take a clean team to Beijing.”

The 2008 U.S. Olympic Committee, whose slogan is “amazing awaits,” aims to represent the heart of the Olympic and Paralympic movements.

“Our brand is athletes,” Ueberroth said. “You’ll see no Hollywood.”

He showed a video that celebrated the Olympic dream through the memories, desires and excitement of former Olympians and Olympic hopefuls.

“‘Amazing awaits’ is the opportunity to achieve something that you have in your mind, even though you don’t know if you can accomplish it,” an athlete said near the film’s end. “If you prepare everyday, you can become amazing, and it awaits each and everyone of us. It’s just a matter if we can execute and take that opportunity and perform and be successful.”

Meghan Hastie, an MBA candidate at the Warsaw Center, attended the lecture and said it was very inspiring.

“I took away the commitment by certain people to sports,” she said. “It does leaps and bounds for the industry.”

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