Vying for 2012 Olympics spurs regional teamwork Private sector commits at least $6 million

March 11, 1998|By Lowell E. Sunderland | Lowell E. Sunderland,SUN STAFF

Top business leaders from Maryland, Washington and Virginia formally committed yesterday to joining forces in making a bid to bring the 2012 Summer Olympic Games to this region.

Senior executives who control some of the biggest corporate budgets in this area, so often polarized by urban rivalries of long standing, agreed at the Loew's Annapolis Hotel to spend between $6 million and $12 million in private-sector money over the next two years on getting the bid.

The lower figure already has been committed, although no one would say after the closed-door meeting who put up how much. But as John Moag, head of the Maryland Stadium Authority and leader of a recent state effort to attract the games, put it, "That's cash."

Meanwhile, smiles and a new, self-conscious emphasis on referring equally to Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia were ubiquitous as the late-afternoon meeting broke up.

"It's momentous," said Ioanna T. Morfessis, president and chief executive of the business-based Greater Baltimore Alliance. She wasn't the only one so enthusiastic.

"From the get-go," said Elizabeth Ganzi, who headed a recent Washington-area effort to seek the Games, "we were always about being a regional bid. We knew the challenges. We knew the rivalries between the communities. But we also knew it would be a great thing for this region."

The executives finessed one sticky, albeit cosmetic point, naming their merged effort. Will the bid come from Washi-more? Balti-Wash? Mary-Wash-Va? More smiles.

But a name, which Moag called a "technicality," was left up to a board of directors the executives will choose shortly to be responsible for the new "organizing committee." For the time being, think of that committee as representing something like the "Capital Region -- USA," a marketing pitch many area businesses are using.

The International Olympic Committee will have the last word on whether one city's name must be used, as has been the policy, or altering that policy to allow combined identities.

A task force of the business leaders that since December had been weighing the ramifications of merging separate, competitive efforts, concluded that "a consolidated bid will significantly enhance the region's opportunity to win."

Further, the task force said, and the larger group agreed, "the regional bid should be signed by the mayors of Baltimore and Washington and the governors of Maryland and Virginia."

But the private sector, not government, should be "the principal source of both leadership and resources," the group agreed.

At least as important as bringing to this area world-class athletes in many sports and the tourist dollars that flow from an Olympic spectacle will be a chance to do something more lasting for the region, the executives agreed.

A position paper noted that hosting the Games would "serve to unify the [greater Baltimore and Washington] market, provide "a sense of urgency" to address transportation, including improved inter-city mass transportation, and "showcase the region globally" for business.

Among those in Annapolis were executives from NationsBank, a heavy hitter in backing the 1996 Games in Atlanta, as well as of the Olympics internationally; Mobil Oil, which is headquartered in Fairfax, Va.; Baltimore's Legg-Mason; Bethesda's Host Marriott Corp.; Arthur Andersen LLP, and Bell Atlantic-Washington.

Yesterday's meeting was led by Mary E. Junck, president of the Times Mirror Co.'s eastern newspaper group that includes The Baltimore Sun, and Donald E. Graham, chairman of the Washington Post Co.

Several executives stressed after yesterday's meeting the strong influence the two newspaper executives had in convincing others to combine their bid efforts.

Pub Date: 3/11/98

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