Local Olympic bid takes its show on the road Washington-Baltimore on display at Olympic Congress in Phoenix

Commerce LTC

October 14, 1998|By June Arney | June Arney,SUN STAFF

PHOENIX -- As about 900 people in the sporting world descended on this Southwestern city for the annual United States Olympic Congress, Washington-Baltimore organizers had their first chance to show off since they united to bid on the 2012 Summer Games.

With 3,000 watts of light, a high-technology animated video and free T-shirts, Washington-Baltimore Regional 2012 Coalition promoters hoped to accomplish exactly what everyone else in attendance was trying to do -- send a message that wouldn't quickly be forgotten.

In the Phoenix Civic Plaza expo hall, visitors stepped onto a circular map of Washington, Baltimore and Northern Virginia that filled the 20-by-20 foot space, studded with about 20 stars highlighting main venues to be used. A 16-foot-high torch topped with red acrylic flames flickered in the center of the exhibit, catching light from a rotating color wheel. If the light reflected around the room and bounced off other people's exhibits, so much the better. The whole idea was to be noticed.

"It says the region is serious, and there's a unity," said Paul C. Wolman, president of P. W. Feats Inc. of Baltimore, whose company created the display in a record four weeks.

The three-day Congress is the yearly convention of the Olympic movement. There, newcomers to the Olympics learn from those who have gone before -- about everything from predicting economic impact to preparing for site visits to understanding the politics involved.

Washington-Baltimore spent close to $100,000 on its exhibit and a seafood feast for yesterday's closing ceremonies featuring 600 crab balls, 650 crab claws, 350 stuffed shrimp, 600 pieces of Smithfield ham stuffed with crab and 34 cases of Maryland wines.

Even the background music for the closing ceremonies was authentically local, created by Baltimore composer Jeff Older for the occasion. On hand to answer questions about the bid were some of the region's top executives, including John Morton III, coalition chairman and president of NationsBank's mid-Atlantic banking group, and Stadium Authority Chairman John A. Moag Jr.

The challenge is formidable as the Washington-Baltimore Regional 2012 Coalition competes against San Francisco; Dallas; Cincinnati; Houston; New York; Seattle; Tampa-Orlando, Fla.; and Los Angeles.

The USOC is slated to choose a U.S. candidate city in 2002. The winner will then face international competition, with the International Olympic Committee picking the site for the 2012 Games in 2005.

There's a friendly competitiveness among the bidders, who squeezed into sometimes standing-room-only seminars. They scanned the rooms, sometimes audibly taking stock of which competitors were present and sizing up one another's T-shirts and logos, brochures and strategies.

One thing that will set a city apart is a willingness to be creative and sweat the details, said Michael Dyer, vice president of event management for the National Basketball Association, and a speaker at the congress.

"Those are the types of things that people remember, that might just tip the scales," said Dyer. He tells of New York City submitting its bid -- which it later won -- for the 1998 NBA All-Star Game in a safe that required listening to a five-minute promotional video before yielding the combination. "You never know how close a decision is."

The expo hall where Washington-Baltimore strutted its attributes housed exhibits from five other cities competing for the 2012 Games. San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles did not have displays.

Seattle's night sky was the backdrop for that city's booth, where visitors sampled chocolate-covered cherries and espresso beans from one of the city's best-known companies -- Starbucks. Despite recent setbacks in getting required documents to the USOC because of a lack of support from the City Council, organizers remained hopeful.

"I think we'll get past it," said Dave Syferd, vice president of the Seattle Bid Committee. "But it's a struggle."

Last week, the USOC gave all nine cities until Dec. 31 to turn in or revise paperwork initially due last month. Along with Seattle, Washington-Baltimore, San Francisco and New York still must turn in city council resolutions supporting their bids.

Dallas's promoters, about 70 strong at the congress, handed out tote bags and large fans bearing scenes from Olympic sports. Tampa-Orlando and Cincinnati came with large, colorful displays. Houston may have had a relatively quiet display, but brought in Brazilian and Chinese fan dancers for the closing ceremonies.

Nearby, things were anything but quiet at the North Carolina booth, where that state is bidding on the 2007 Pan Am Games against San Antonio and South Florida. The USOC will choose that candidate city, too.

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