If first impressions -- make that fleeting impressions -- mean anything, Baltimore apparently caught the eye of the U.S. Gymnastics Federation.
In town for little more than 24 hours, USGF executive director Mike Jacki and his staff caught a flight out of here yesterday with a little extra baggage -- a case made for them that Baltimore should be the site of the 1992 U.S. Olympic gymnastic trials.
"Baltimore did very well," said Jacki, who will go on to inspect Memphis, Tenn., and Columbus, Ohio, the two other finalists for host city.
"It has a nice physical arrangement for an event like this," said Jacki, who promised a decision by Dec. 1.
Jacki and his staff, assistant executive director Cheryl Grace and special events director Allison Melangton, spent a sun-drenched Sunday and a gorgeous morning yesterday getting the out-of-towners' tour of the Inner Harbor. The aquarium, the science center, Harborplace. The usual stops.
But what seemed to impress him most was the proximity of the hotels to the Baltimore Arena, where 60 gymnasts would compete for 14 spots on the Olympic team June 4-14 in 1992.
That means 60 single-minded 13- to 20-year-olds who have come through nine months of regional competition to get to the trials, and are more concerned with not missing their start times than they are with the shopping at The Gallery.
"The amenities are nice," Jacki said. "The harbor is a nice place to wind down or for their families. And this is definitely a family event.
"But these young people have spent perhaps two-thirds of their lives to get to this point. They, most of them, will not get another chance. They need very, very few distractions. Therefore we are very concerned about servicing and transportation, everything to make it as simple and as meaningful as possible."
Jacki made a passing acknowledgment of the aesthetic limitations of the Arena. "We understand the Arena will go through some cosmetic changes that will better represent what this event is supposed to be," he said.
What impressed him more, Jacki said, was the flexibility of the Arena management.
"We pretty much told them whatever they want, we can do," said Mike Marqua, director of the Maryland Office of Sports Promotion. "At a lot of other places, it is pretty much, 'Here is the package; take it or leave it.' "
Baltimore also promised the USGF $350,000. That's the guarantee based on a ball-park budget of $1.7 million, most of which Marqua expects to be underwritten by corporate sponsorship.
"What Columbus and Memphis will offer them, I don't know," said Marqua.
Jacki said, "Money is just a part of it," and added that "all the cities are equal in this area."
Memphis can offer a brand-new arena, which will be completed in time for this event. Columbus can offer experience, having been the host city for a U.S.-U.S.S.R dual meet.
But Baltimore also has some experience in this area. It was the host city for the National Figure Skating Championships in January 1989.