Soccer in Washington? A capital idea D.C. bolsters bid for World Cup opener

October 30, 1991|By Gary Davidson | Gary Davidson,Special to The Sun

WASHINGTON -- The organizing committee charged with attracting World Cup 1994 soccer games to the region put its best foot forward yesterday, apparently impressing an international inspection delegation with a whirlwind tour of the District of Columbia.

Without significantly contributing to the proceedings, Baltimore seemingly moved a step closer to becoming the host of the weeklong Federation Internationale de Football Association Congress that precedes the June 17-July 17, 1994, tournament.

Without a firm commitment on Jack Kent Cooke's proposed new football stadium, Washington's hopes of attracting the World Cup final become ever more remote. But with Washington's status as the nation's capital and its strong presentation, RFK Stadium has apparently become a leading candidate to host the event's opening game -- featuring defending champion Germany -- and attendant ceremonies. This would give Baltimore a convention Maryland officials estimate would attract 5,000 to 7,000 delegates.

With no bid submitted for the final match and RFK considered too small for a semifinal, Washington still seems in line for approximately five games. It is estimated $50 million to $75 million could flow into the local economy, with 10 percent to 15 percent going to Maryland, said John Koskinen, World Cup 1994 Washington, D.C., Region Venue Bid Committee chairman.

Visits to Washington and Philadelphia yesterday by four-man FIFA inspection tours commenced examinations of 19 cities, which will be pared to 12 to play host to varying numbers of the 52 games in the competition.

With the 12 cities designated as venues probably in February and the awarding of specific games set for May or June, there is little time to "convince [FIFA] you can get the [new] stadium built," said Koskinen. "It gives us a major possibility to get the FIFA Congress. The signs we had today were very positive. They were impressed by RFK. They've enjoyed the city. They were very impressed by the regional nature of the bid."

That three of the four FIFA inspectors also represent the German soccer federation bodes well for Washington's bid for the opening games, since the defending champions have a strong influence on where they will play.

After a two-hour tour of RFK, the FIFA group attended a news conference at the stadium, went to a luncheon at Union Station and proceeded to a reception at the German Embassy before having dinner at the Watergate.

"The stadium is in remarkably good condition for it being 30 years old. It's remarkably well-maintained," said Herman Neuberger, inspection head and FIFA vice president, through an interpreter. "I don't want to make any binding comments, but the welcome extended to us was overwhelmingly cordial."

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