Once again, Moag dares to dream big

July 19, 1998|By KEN ROSENTHAL

You want to bet against him, bet against him. The new football stadium at Camden Yards is testament to John Moag's fighting spirit. And this time, he is not alone.

Moag is merely one of the heavy hitters trying to secure the 2012 Olympics for Baltimore and Washington. Chances are it will never happen. But the last time people bet against Moag, he stole the Cleveland Browns.

"Objectively, in a lot of respects, I'm more confident about this," said Moag, one of the Baltimore board members appointed by Mayor Schmoke to join the consolidated organizing committee preparing the Olympic bid.

"I'm well-versed about the criteria for selection, as well as the unstated criteria. The broadcast rights are up in 2012. There's no better place to be than on the East Coast of the United States.

"If you look at what makes a great Olympics, it's here. We've got three airports, Amtrak and I-95 running through the sites, the existing infrastructure. And we're manageable. It's easy to run an Olympics here, as opposed to New York City."

The major venues are in place -- two new football stadiums in Maryland, a new arena in D.C., a revered ballpark in Baltimore. Only a velodrome, aquatics center and Olympic Village would need to be constructed.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle would be bringing together cities as different as Baltimore and Washington. But at least from an organizing standpoint, that already is done.

The emotional union? Uh, Washington will be fine, but Baltimore -- proud, provincial Baltimore, distrustful of all things D.C. -- will need to shed its insecurity once and for all.

We might as well break it to you -- Washington's name will be on the bid. It's a world capital, in case you've forgotten. And the International Olympic Committee would name one city the host, even if it meant offending Li'l Ol' Bawlmer.

That said, Moag is confident that the city and state would play as important a role as D.C., if not more important. In fact, he envisions building an Olympic Village just south of Camden Yards.

"They want the athletes to be able to walk to the key venues," Moag said. "That would tend to point to Baltimore as kind of the hub of athletic events, D.C. as the hub of the cultural Olympics as well as such sports as basketball and soccer."

Washington organizers surely would have their own ideas, but ++ Moag the only venues currently in D.C. are the MCI Center and RFK Stadium. Much as Ravens fans hate to admit it, even Jack Kent Cooke Stadium is in Maryland.

"The University of Maryland at College Park is going to be used. Towson State is going to be used. The Naval Academy is going to be used," Moag said. "There's Camden Yards, and the [Inner] Harbor.

"I not only don't see Baltimore getting left out, I see Baltimore being a big winner. If the city was not a winner, and it became clear that Baltimore was getting shortchanged, I don't think that government would step up to the plate. The state of Maryland has to guarantee that everything is going to come off."

So does D.C., for any events that take place within its city limits. Ultimately, that could be Maryland's trump card in securing the lead organizing role.

Would you trust Marion Barry's city with the Olympics? The D.C. side already is embroiled in a dispute -- it's proceeding without Elizabeth Ganzi, the chairman of its Olympic exploratory committee. Ganzi has threatened to file suit.

The IOC might frown on such a large Olympic radius, with events spread throughout the Baltimore-Washington corridor. The region, like every other U.S. contender, also lacks an Olympic Stadium for opening and closing ceremonies and track and field.

"Jack Kent Cooke is probably not an appropriate venue for an opening or closing ceremony because of its location. It's not integrated into an urban setting," Moag said.

The Ravens' stadium is, but it's in the wrong city.

Moag offered a suggestion.

"The Mall, maybe," he said. "Who says the opening and closing ceremonies even have to be in a stadium?"

The Mall is indeed an intriguing site, with the U.S. Capitol, Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial providing spectacular backdrops.

But talk about a security nightmare.

"You're going to have to deal with a whole variety of security issues," Moag said. "Can you fence off the Mall? Maybe. Everyone has got to be open-minded and creative about how this unfolds."

Moag said it would not be necessary to build another stadium -- either the Ravens' new facility or Jack Kent Cooke Stadium could be altered for track and field.

At present, neither stadium could fit a track oval on its playing surface. Moag said a platform could be constructed to expand the square footage at either site, raising the floor while knocking out several rows of seats.

JKC would be the more likely candidate -- it starts with a capacity of 78,600, while the Ravens' stadium will seat about 69,000. The Olympic Stadium in Atlanta had a capacity of 83,100. The one in Sydney, Australia, will hold 110,000 for the 2000 Games.

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