Md. revives Olympic Festival bid, enlists C&P chief

January 19, 1991|By Patricia Meisoland Bill Glauber

The state of Maryland is resurrecting its bid for the U.S. Olympic Festival -- a bid whose future has been uncertain since the abolition of the Maryland State Games program.

To do it, Gov. William Donald Schaefer gave the job yesterday to the state's Department of Economic and Employment Development. In turn, the department has enlisted a veteran trouble-shooter for Mr. Schaefer, J. Henry Butta, president of Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co. of Maryland, to head a new team that will present the bid before the U.S. Olympic Festival Committee in Dallas on Jan. 31.

If Maryland's bid is chosen, Mr. Butta has volunteered to tap volunteers from the private sector for an executive committee thatwould raise money for the event and run it. The University of Maryland also would play a key role in the event.

Maryland is one of five final contenders for the mini-olympic competition in 1993, 1994 and 1995, but its bid was imperiled last month when a legislative audit uncovered numerous financial improprieties in the office in charge of the bid -- the now-defunct Maryland State Games, an arm of the state health department.

In the 11th-hour maneuver announced yesterday, the governor said the bid now will be handled by DEED's Office of Sports Promotions, whose job is to help private groups to bring sports events to the state. State officials said they have not decided whether DEED would also take over the State Games, which the health department closed last month in the wake of state criminal investigation. The dismissed director of the State Games has said his office used federal drug program money to pay the $25,000 Olympics bid application fee.

The Butta team traveling to Dallas will have 12 days to prepare to sell the state's bid, but its members have spent the last two weeks assessing the bid's financial reliability and concluded it is realistic, said Mike Marqua, executive director of the Sports Promotions Office.

The original bid, which outpaced competition from 30 cities, had a $10 million price tag and included $6 million in corporate support, $3 million from ticket sales and an unknown state contribution. It also promised the U.S. Olympic Committee $1 million in proceeds from the event.

Mr. Marqua declined to say whether the numbers had changed. But he said the bid's

BTC focus has changed to emphasize volunteer private and corporate involvement instead of state government. He said that his office would provide technical and logistical support, such as transportation arrangements for the estimated 3,000 athletes.

Besides Mr. Butta, who also is chairman of the Maryland Higher Education Commission, the team to Dallas will include William E. Kirwan, president of the University of Maryland at College Park; ABC-TV sportscaster Jim McKay, who served as the network's Olympic games host; Phyllis Brotman, an advertising executive and state chair of the U.S. Olympic Committee; Vicki Bullett, a College Park student and Gold Medal winner in the 1988 Seoul women's basketball Olympics; and Andy Geiger, the director of athletics at College Park.

Mr. Butta was on vacation and could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Geiger said his staff and others on campus "will have to put their shoulders to the wheel and make the thing work. I think we can do it," he said. "If you look at the athletic infrastructure of the state, we've got terrific facilities and terrific energy." College Park is raising money to help pay for a $62 million program to upgrade athletic facilities, and Mr. Geiger said the Olympics deadline will push them to do a more effective job.

Maryland has been chosen to host 1992 Olympic trials -- the final competition for U.S. Olympic contestants -- in gymnastics and canoe-kayak.

The last host of the Olympic Festival, a competitive event held in off years between Olympics, was Raleigh-Durham, N.C, which estimated that it brought in $225 million to the local economy.

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