ACAPULCO, Mexico -- Larry Probst mingled with delegates from around the globe this week, holding one-to-one meetings with influential IOC leaders and taking his seat on the conference dais as a council member.
For the chairman of the U.S. Olympic Committee, it's a new chapter in U.S. relations with the international Olympic world after years of isolation, which culminated in Chicago's humbling first-round defeat in last October's vote for the 2016 Games.
"There has been a dramatic change," Probst told The Associated Press during a break from meetings of the Association of National Olympic Committees and the IOC executive board. "The whole relationship is just feeling much better than a year ago. That's good both for the U.S. and the Olympic movement."
Probst and USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun have ramped up their international goodwill campaign in Acapulco, working overtime to rebuild ties with the IOC after bitter disputes over Olympic revenues and other issues.
"It's been a productive week," Probst said. "For me it was an opportunity to connect with a lot of the influential IOC members. It's been a great chance to pick their brains."
In the past, USOC leaders might have been invisible, or even absent, from such an Olympic gathering. Now, they are starting to make their presence felt.
Probst rattled off meetings with members including Carlos Nuzman, the Brazilian who led Rio de Janeiro's winning bid for the 2016 Games; Thomas Bach, the German IOC vice president who is considered a strong contender to succeed Jacques Rogge as president in 2013; Richard Carrion, the executive board member from Puerto Rico who negotiates U.S. television rights; and Patrick Hickey, the Irishman who heads the association of European Olympic Committees.
"We are committed to engage with the international community," Probst said. "We will show up at their events, whether it's sports competitions or meetings. We have been there and will continue to be there. This is a long-term commitment, not just something for a few months."
Probst has a travel schedule to prove it. Next up for Blackmun and him is a trip to Guangzhou, China, for the Asian Games, opening Nov. 12. It's believed to be one of the few times USOC leaders have attended the Asian event.
"People come up to me and say, 'This is so unusual,"' Probst said. "It's head-scratching to me. It seems like the natural thing to do."
Probst has also been invited to attend the European Olympic Committees assembly in Belgrade, Serbia, but may be excused because they fall on the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in November. In any case, he plans to travel to Russia early next year and visit three or four European cities.
Probst has started consulting with his international relations advisers about the travel schedule for 2011.
"It's a long list," he said. "We will be there."
There were several signs in Acapulco of the USOC's rapprochement with the rest of the world.
Probst was picked to ANOC's executive council, and the USOC signed an agreement with the Brazilian Olympic Committee on athlete exchanges and training. The U.S. also was chosen to host two international sports conferences for the first time -- an athletes forum in Colorado Springs in October 2011 and the World Conference on Women and Sport in Los Angeles in February 2012.
"It's another demonstration of our commitment to the Olympic movement," Probst said.
Rogge welcomed the change in climate since Chicago's defeat in Copenhagen.
"There is no issue about Chicago's elimination any more," Rogge said. "There might have been an emotional issue for some time but our U.S. friends were very gracious in accepting the decision."
Still to be resolved is perhaps the main issue that soured USOC-IOC relations -- the U.S. share of Olympic revenues.
A breakthrough came recently when the USOC agreed to pay about $18 million toward the administrative costs of staging the Olympic Games. Now the two sides are preparing to begin talks on a broader revenue-sharing deal that will take effect in 2020. Many international officials believe the U.S. receives far too much sponsorship and TV money.
USOC and IOC officials held informal talks in Acapulco ahead of the real negotiations.
"What we talked about was initiating the process," Probst said. "We want to start sooner rather than later. We've said consistently this is something we want resolved. They will be complicated discussions. It will take time."
The IOC has selected three representatives to lead its side in the talks -- executive board member and finance commission head Gerhard Heiberg, Carrion and Rogge's chief of staff, Christophe De Kepper.
"I see a very positive change," Heiberg told the AP. "The interest is there. They are humble, they are open, they are more than willing to sit down and discuss. I feel we have all possibilities in the world to find a solution acceptable to both parties."
In the meantime, however, the U.S. remains without a presence on the IOC's policymaking executive board. The last member was Jim Easton, who lost his board seat in February 2006.
"We just have to continue being involved and building relationships," Probst said. "At the appropriate time we'll take on that challenge."
The U.S. currently has three rank-and-file IOC members -- Easton, Anita DeFrantz and athlete member Angela Ruggiero. Many national Olympic committee presidents are IOC members, but Probst was guarded when asked if he hopes to get onto the IOC himself.
"That's something for President Rogge to decide," he said. "We will continue doing what we are doing and see how things develop."