Reaching for gold requires long days

Organization's head strives to put games in Baltimore, D.C.

2012 Olympics

January 09, 2000|By June Arney | June Arney,SUN STAFF

Dan Knise walked briskly into the Sheraton Baltimore North Hotel in Towson, scarcely breaking his stride as he warmly shook hands, then made a beeline for the hotel directory to check the meeting roster -- all in one fluid motion.

Not yet 8 a.m., and the president and chief executive officer of the Washington-Baltimore Regional 2012 Coalition was running 10 minutes early. But that could never last on a day that would take him from his home in McLean, Va., to Towson, to downtown Washington, back out to Columbia, and finally home again.

His first meeting was with a staff member and a local sporting event planner to talk about ticket prices and hotel room rates, bus placards and sponsorships. Knise scribbled notes on a pad of white, lined paper, pausing only to make suggestions and to answer a cell phone call from his office in Washington.

Knise has been on the job for 13 months, logging up to 200 miles on his sport utility vehicle each day -- zigzagging across the state drumming up money and enthusiasm for the Olympics. He put so much mileage on his old Jeep that he decided to trade it in for a new 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee last summer.

In one day, Knise made decisions on bleachers for a coming track event, sold the regional Olympic bid on a radio talk show, updated local news organizations on his recent Australia trip and worked on venue selection for the 2012 Games.

Day to day, there are schools to visit with touring Olympic athletes. CEOs to court. Staff meetings to run. And always, a long list of telephone calls to return.

From ticket prices at sporting events, to decisions on who should receive Olympic jackets, to staging the ultimate sports party for the world to attend, Knise is in charge of them all. Even though the targeted Olympic Games are more than 12 years off, Knise and his staff of four live in a daily swirl of activity.

Knise puts it succinctly: "The groundwork is laid now for whether we'll win or not."

Washington-Baltimore is competing for the 2012 Summer Games against San Francisco, Dallas, Cincinnati, Houston, New York, Los Angeles and Tampa-Orlando, Fla. Each city must submit a bid to the United States Olympic Committee by Dec. 15, 2000.

The USOC will choose a U.S. bid city by 2002, which then enters the international competition. Three years later, the International Olympic Committee will name the host city.

There were people both surprised and skeptical when officials in Washington and Baltimore announced in June 1998 that they would make a joint bid for the Summer Games. But Knise insists that the region is not simply in the mix, but a strong contender.

"You do pick up this sense from the leadership of the National Governing Bodies and the USOC that they find the combination of a Washington-Baltimore bid very attractive," he said. "We're near the front. There's no doubt about it. The common wisdom on the street is that we're one of the front-runners."

Knise, though, is not casual about the challenges facing the effort. He knows that the region has a reputation as a transportation nightmare, that crime is an issue, and that the two cities, often rivals, must remain united to stand any chance at winning out.

"We have created the heightened state of excitement that we need now, but it will need to be even greater in two years," Knise said. "If we ever lose our regional focus, that will be an obstacle to our success. So far, I don't see anything getting in the way of that."

Indeed, he believes that the region has far fewer obstacles to overcome than some cities it is competing with.

"We don't need the Olympics to make this a great place," he said. "It's already a world-class region. The Olympics would just be the icing on the cake. Arguably, some of the other cities are using the Olympics to try to elevate themselves to world-class status."

Campaign to be costly

So far the local effort has netted pledges of $6.5 million, more than half of the goal of $10 million, the amount organizers believe they need to get through 2002, when the USOC will name the American bid city.

"The toughest money is ahead of us," he said. "That's the hard part."

There is more to do than just raise money: a 19-chapter, 550-page formal bid proposal must be completed, and early next year, the coalition will release a list of recommended venues for the sporting events.

As 9 a.m. draws near, Knise is on the move again. This time, it's a drive to radio station B102.7, where he has an interview with Josh Spiegel, the news and public affairs director.

Once inside, he takes one look at the elevators and says: "Let's take the stairs. Do you mind?"

On the second floor, Knise hands Spiegel a Washington-Baltimore Olympic pin, red, white and blue stars inside a larger star, made to look as if they are in motion -- one of about 4,500 pins that have been handed out since October 1998. "You can trade them on eBay for $15, I hear," Knise quips to the radio personality.

"Here's a T-shirt, you can join the Olympic movement," he adds.

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