The Olympic movement has attracted the interest of presidents, prime ministers, monarchs and despots. But, today, the movement will be introduced to a Maryland politician who is accustomed to getting his way, and getting it now.
Gov. William Donald Schaefer will be going for the gold as he leads a delegation to Dallas in an attempt to lure the United States Olympic Festival to Maryland. Schaefer's appearance before the U.S. Olympic Committee is part of the state's last-ditch effort to forge a victory in the wake of a political scandal.
"Circumstances warrant the governor going down there," said Paul Schurick, Schaefer's press secretary. "The Olympic Festival represents literally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring an event to Maryland that will pump several hundreds of millions of dollars into the state and attract worldwide publicity."
But Maryland remains a long shot in the selection process for festivals in 1993, 1994 and 1995. The state's original bid was submitted in July by the Maryland State Games Foundation, which was dissolved last month after a state auditor's report detailed misuse of funds.
Denver, San Antonio, St. Louis and South Florida are the other finalists for the 37-sport event that is held in the years between Summer Olympic Games. The three winners will be announced tomorrow after voting by the Olympic Festivals Committee and the USOC's Executive Committee.
Maryland's new bid bears Schaefer's handiwork. J. Henry Butta, C&P Telephone president and CEO and a longtime Schaefer ally,heads the committee. University of Maryland president William E. Kirwan and athletic director Andy Geiger have been enlisted for lobbying duty, with sportscaster Jim McKay, 1988 Olympic-gold-medal basketball player Vicky Bullett and public-relations consultant Phyllis Brotman, president of Image Dynamics.
The package was developed during the past two weeks by the state's Department of Economic and Employment Development and its office of sports promotion. State officials refused to reveal substantive details of the plan, and Butta declined to comment.
"We've gone through the old bid, line by line, page by page, item by item, and we've revised it significantly," said J. Randall Evans, the DEED secretary.
Among the changes in the Maryland bid are:
* Maryland will focus on securing the festival in either 1994 or 1995 and will drop out of the running in 1993, the year the Baltimore Orioles will be host to baseball's All-Star Game.
* The University of Maryland's College Park campus will serve as the principal village for the more than 3,000 athletes expected to attend the festival. Previously, athletes were to be housed on college campuses throughout the state.
* No direct state funding will be used for a festival budget that will reach at least $10 million. Earlier plans called for the state to kick in $1 million, with corporate sponsors providing $6 million and ticket sales yielding $3 million.
* A foundation headed by Butta will be the guarantor of the festival. The foundation will be required to supply the USOC with a $250,000 site selection fee. The Maryland State Games Foundation guaranteed the USOC $1 million.
* The city of Baltimore, through a letter from Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke to USOC president Harvey Schiller, officially is backing the bid. Baltimore refused to jump on the previous bid bandwagon because city officials had doubts about the management of the Maryland State Games Foundation.
"Everything is in place," said Mike Marqua, head of the state's office of sports promotion. "We could do this tomorrow if we had to."
It is unclear what impact the Maryland State Games Foundation scandal will have on the state's bid to secure the festival.
"We're taking into account that it is a whole new committee," said Don Porter, who heads the USOC's 12-member site selection committee. "The only thing we know about that situation in Maryland is what we read in the news accounts. I don't feel that our committee will be prejudiced because of the situation that has previously happened. I'm hopeful that we'll look on the merits of what is being presented. That's what is going to convince the members of the full committee."
State officials plan to attack the scandal head-on.
"We're going to say it's the same state, but a different and better group with more private involvement," Evans said.
Maryland's prime attraction to the USOC is geographic. Having an Olympic Festival in the state would enable the USOC to provide up-close and personal lobbying with political leaders in Washington. The USOC is engaged in a campaign for a fund-raising checkoff on federal tax forms.
USOC officials also have stated a preference for holding a festival in the East before the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.