By Steve Keating
QUEBEC CITY (Reuters) - The International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted to approve a 20-year revenue-sharing deal with the United States on Thursday that ends a long-running feud which paralyzed American efforts to stage an Olympic Games.
The announcement by IOC president Jacques Rogge clears the path for future bids by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), which had held firm on its pledge to not seek a Winter or Summer Games until a new deal was in place.
The dispute over how to divide billions of dollars in TV rights and sponsorships had dragged on for years and left the USOC a virtual outcast within Olympic circles.
"This is a very happy moment for the International Olympic Committee but I believe also for the USOC as this agreement will definitely strengthen both sides," Rogge told reporters. "The IOC will be in a position to better function while the USOC would enhance its possibilities of having a leading role in sports in the world.
"This has been quite a long process, we started negotiating in May 2005, the beginning was a bit difficult and then it accelerated and we came to this very good conclusion."
Before Olympic leaders arrived in Quebec City this week for executive board meetings there were no hints an agreement was imminent, USOC chairman Larry Probst telling reporters recently that he hoped a deal would be reached by the end of the year.
Few details of the agreement were immediately available but the IOC did say the new deal will begin in 2020. The USOC will also be required to contribute to the IOC's administrative costs associated with the Olympic Games.
"From our standpoint we went into these negotiations with the objective of addressing key fundamental issues that were important to the IOC and at the same time insuring the financial well-being of the USOC on a long term basis," said Probst. "I think we were able to accomplish both sides of that equation."
The IOC had argued that the USOC received more than its fair share from global marketing contracts and U.S. broadcasting revenues and wanted a fairer distribution of the Olympic pie.
The USOC felt it was entitled to a larger share, claiming that it is American TV rights and sponsors that keeps Olympic coffers flush with cash.
The acrimony escalated to the point that the USOC believes it was a key factor in New York's failed bid for the 2012 Summer Games and Chicago's defeat when Rio de Janiero was selected for the 2016 Olympics.
"We hope this has removed a road block from a successful bid from the United States," said Probst. "We have a board meeting schedule for June and I am sure that will be a significant topic of conversation.
"We will discuss our strategy there and probably begin to make some decisions about a potential bid going forward."
Without an Olympics since the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Games, the United States could be back in the Olympic hosting business very quickly.
Reno-Tahoe, Nevada, Salt Lake City, Utah, and Denver, Colorado, are among cities that have expressed preliminary interest in hosting the 2022 Winter Games while Dallas has shown interest in a 2024 Summer Games bid.
(Editing by Frank Pingue)