DENVER (AP) – U.S. Olympic Committee officials decided Saturday to meet with leaders from about a half-dozen American cities this spring to gauge interest in hosting the 2016 Games, the next step in determining whether a U.S. city will submit a bid.

Buoyed by positive feedback from International Olympic Committee members at a meeting last week in South Korea, the USOC board decided to send representatives to talk to mayors and other business leaders and give them parameters for a possible bid.

USOC chairman Peter Ueberroth, chief executive Jim Scherr and newly appointed international vice president Bob Ctvrtlik will travel to the cities. Ueberroth said he hopes to have all the meetings completed by the end of May.

“As a lot of people said, “The U.S. is back,’ in a way,” Ueberroth said of the meetings in South Korea. “We were well received.”

No American cities have officially announced their interest, although among those thought to have at least preliminary interest are: New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Houston.

Ueberroth stopped short of guaranteeing a U.S. city would make a bid. The USOC is still determining the factors that would weigh into a bid.

Among them is the amount of revenue the 2016 Olympics can be expected to produce and how much a host country will retain.

A big chunk of that revenue comes from TV rights, and the U.S. Olympic TV rights are sold only through 2012.

The idea of a country scouting out its own city for a bid is customary in most places, but not so in the United States. Ueberroth is determined to change that.

One widely held belief for New York’s failure to land the 2012 Games was that the city’s lack of cohesiveness with the country’s Olympic committee didn’t play well with the IOC.

“There has to be a good partnership between the USOC and the bid city,” Ueberroth said. “We’re going to be pretty strong about that point.”

There were no surprises among the list of “musts” the USOC expects from any bid city. They included stadiums for opening ceremonies and track and field, Olympic and media village and adequate hotel and convention space. All the infrastructure must be, in Ueberroth’s words, “already built or fully committed.” Funding for the Olympic stadium in New York fell apart only weeks before the final selection, dealing a devastating blow to the city’s hopes.

The IOC will determine the site of the games in 2009.

Many feel 2016 could be America’s best chance to land the games in the near future, with cities in Africa (Cape Town and Johannesburg) and South America (Rio de Janeiro), two continents that have never held the games, starting to organize possible bids for 2020 and 2024.

Ueberroth said no city should begin putting together committees or raising money until meeting with the USOC, so “we can give them a candid look at the bid process.”

Ctvrtlik’s position was created last month in hopes of improving the USOC’s standing in the Olympic community. Many felt the USOC had grown distant from the world because of the housecleaning it has undergone – now basically complete – in the wake of the Salt Lake City scandals.

Ctvrtlik said choosing an American candidate cannot be a drawn-out process. The USOC hopes to know whether it will submit a bid before the end of the year.

“We want to make not just Americans, but the entire international community proud,” Ctvrtlik said. “It’s not enough to hold an average Olympics.”

Also at the meeting, board members discussed:

-The efforts of the national governing bodies of all the summer sports in an early look ahead to the Beijing Olympics. Scherr said the 2005 results in major international events were the best on record by the U.S. summer athletes, though he conceded it’s hard to project that into Olympic success three years before the game.

-The need to better define how athletes are expected to behave at the Olympics, a clear result of embarrassments involving Bode Miller, freestyle skier Jeret Peterson and speedskaters Shani Davis and Chad Hedrick.

The USOC will begin the Athlete Ambassador Program, in which high profile athletes will speak about the expectations of Olympians to potential Olympic athletes. The USOC will also review its own code of conduct and try to streamline its own policies so it can act more quickly in case of discipline problems. Normally, discipline problems are first vetted through the national governing boards before the USOC makes a decision.

“We take it seriously,” Scherr said. “It’s our responsibility to help athletes in a performing role to respect our country.”

AP-ES-04-08-06 2117EDT