The Washington Post

Billy Mills miffed at USOC cover charge

Billy Mills, the only 10,000-meter champion in U.S. history who won gold in Tokyo in 1964, is miffed that the United States Olympic Committee and its corporate partners are charging former Olympians’ guests $200 a day to attend the USA House in London.

Mills said he and other former Olympians were made aware of the fee before they left for London. But he said they were led to believe it would be to cover their guests’ entire stay in London, and that they wouldn’t be charged $200 each day they visited the USA House, the social-gathering hub where many U.S. athletes and former athletes mingle and where parties are held after athletes win medals for the United States.

“We get a two-day pass for a guest,” Mills said earlier this week from Olympic Stadium, where he was a guest of Track and Field News, not the U.S.O.C. “In this case my wife of 50 years, who is with me at the Olympic Games, she can go in twice with me. The other eight days we’re here, go down to the USA house to meet friends and some of my Olympic colleagues and we have to all pay $200 day for a guest with us — even though it’s a spouse.

“I just think, somewhere down the line, we have to look at the whole process and look at what really is profit at all cost. What is the true purpose of these Games? I spent so much time the past 24 months helping promote, in many ways, the Olympic dream globally. And then we come here, and we face profit at all cost. It makes us lose our perspective.”

“Somewhere along the line, they need to realize that many, many Olympians have so much to offer. We try to do it on a global basis just in our own lives.”

Patrick Sandusky, the U.S.O.C.’s head of communications, said in an e-mail to The Post that the USA house is not used for profit.

“In fact we offer any USA Olympian, complete access to the house free of charge plus two guests,” Sandusky wrote. “The house features unlimited food (more than four meals worth), unlimited drinks, desert, a full bar and opening hours from 10 a.m. until 1 a.m. Given the number of living Olympic alumni we have (almost 8,000) and number who travel to the Olympic Games (literally hundreds), we believe we are doing as much as we can for alumni Olympians, given that our primary focus is on our current team.

“We also believe that $200 for a full day that includes unlimited food, drinks and adult beverages , in a comfortable and private environment, is an extremely good deal when compared to the prices of dining in London,” he added.

Mills, who has brought his wife Patricia to every Summer Olympics since 1964, when he came from behind in the final 100 meters to beat the defending Olympic and world champions, said he has an idea to balance the process out.

“Maybe the outcome, maybe the answer is, the next time the USOC wants us to do something for them, we just charge them a nice fee and that will cover the $200 for our spouse.”

“I’m speaking out on not only my own behalf but also my Olympic colleagues,” he added. “Those I met there were a little shocked. I won’t give you their names. I’ll let them speak for themselves.”

Mike Wise is a sports columnist for The Washington Post.

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