State loses Olympic festival bid, looks ahead San Antonio, St. Louis, Denver chosen as sites

February 02, 1991|By Bill Glauber

Maryland lost in the Olympic bid game, but won in the face-saving competition yesterday.

The state's application to be host of a United States Olympic Festival was turned down. But the effort the state made to keep its bid alive in the wake of a political scandal enabled Maryland to emerge as a potential long-term player in amateur athletics.

Olympic festivals were awarded to San Antonio in 1993, St. Louis in 1994 and Denver in 1995. South Florida and Maryland were the losing finalists after a site selection panel's recommendations were ratified by the U.S. Olympic Committee's executive committee meeting in Dallas.

Maryland's chances were damaged in December, when the original bid group, the Maryland State Games Foundation, was dissolved in the wake of an auditor's probe into misuse of funds. A new committee, headed by C&P Telephone chairman J. Henry Butta and bolstered by the support of Gov. William Donald Schaefer, worked feverishly in the past two weeks to refashion the state's proposal.

jTC Officially, the Maryland delegation was out to win. Unofficially, the political, business, academic and athletic leaders were trying to preserve the state's reputation in amateur sports.

"I got the sense people were very impressed that we took the offense on this," said Randall J. Evans, secretary of the state's Departmentof Economic and Employment Development. "We put together the first team and brought them down here and said we're in the midst of cleaning up an unfortunate situation."

"While I'm disappointed that Maryland was not chosen today as a site for the Olympic festival, we are all glad that we made a bid this year," Schaefer said in a statement.

confident there will be more opportunities for us to advance amateur athletics in the next four years."

USOC officials declined to discuss their reasons for not selecting the two losing finalists, but Evans said the Maryland State Games Foundation scandal impaired the state's bid.

"Obviously, the scandal was a big disadvantage," he said. "But we clearly had a chance, which is why we came. We want to establish ourselves as a player. They got that sense from us."

Despite the setback, the state will play a central role in U.S. Olympic trials for the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. The gymnastics trials will be held in Baltimore, and the fencing team will be selected in Hagerstown. The whitewater canoe-kayak trials are expected to be held on the Savage River.

Evans said he hopes the bid committee will remain intact, and he added that the USOC encouraged the state to join the bidding for Olympic festivals in 1997, 1998 and 1999.

University of Maryland president William E. Kirwan and athletic director Andy Geiger, Baltimore Convention and Tourist Bureau director Wayne Chappell and public relations consultant Phyllis Brotman were key committee members.

"We've got this team of folks, and there are many other types of competitions we could bring to the state," Evans said. "Our task now is to sit down and take a look at the top 10 or 15 events we ought to try and attract to Maryland."

Olympic festival committee head Don Porter said the three winning cities had obvious strengths. Porter pointed to new facilities in San Antonio, including the Alamo Dome, which is scheduled to open three months before the 1993 festival. St. Louis and Denver each struck a good balance between corporate and governmental support, according to Porter. Officials of the winning cities said the Olympic festival will pump between $20 million to $40 million into their local economies.

"We selected the three best cities and tried to match up the cities to the years," Porter said. "We wanted the festival to be the event. For those cities that didn't make it, we encourage them to apply again."

Maryland could draw a lesson from one of yesterday's winnersFour years ago, San Antonio was a losing runner-up in the Olympic festival bid process. The city bolstered its bid and upgraded its facilities.

"This is just the beginning," Evans said. "We're glad we made the effort."

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