Yesterday's announcement that Beijing will play host to the 2008 Summer Olympic Games has re-energized officials hoping to bring the 2012 Summer Games to the Baltimore-Washington area, but some analysts say Toronto, yesterday's runner-up, has the inside track.
"You can see the goal line, there's nothing in between," said Dan Knise, president and chief executive of the Chesapeake Region 2012 Coalition. "It reinforces how high the stakes are and re-energizes us. I think the fact that they didn't pick a North American city opens the door even wider for the Baltimore-Washington bid and the Baltimore-Washington area."
Most experts agreed that if Toronto had beaten out Beijing for the 2008 Games, the International Olympic Committee would not have returned to North America four years later.
But, because Toronto submitted such a sound bid and received the second-highest number of votes, observers say the Canadian city is in good position to land the 2012 Games. Other cities competing for 2008 were Paris; Istanbul, Turkey; and Osaka, Japan.
"My sense is that Toronto would have a much better chance than any U.S. city for 2012, which would mean that you're looking at at least 2016, maybe 2020," said John P. Bevilaqua, an Atlanta communications consultant specializing in sports marketing who has been involved with eight Olympic Games. "Whichever U.S. city is the candidate for 2012 would have to be considered a long shot given the geopolitical nature of the circumstances that exist today. The wild card is the next [Olympic] president."
A new Olympic president is to be named Monday to replace retiring Juan Antonio Samaranch.
Also, situations change. For instance, a Toronto bid official has said that 1,000 acres important to the bid might be developed and unavailable by 2012.
Knise is optimistic that yesterday's news bodes well for the United States and for the Washington-Baltimore bid.
"The way the circumstances have unfolded today, we are a very legitimate contender for 2012," he said. "Our focus over the next 16 months is to continue to burnish our bid and make sure we have everything pulled together."
In the months to come, the Washington-Baltimore effort will continue to draw athletes into its work, bid on elite athletic events, rally community support and work to raise the final $1 million of its $8.5 million goal, Knise said.
"We want to be good partners with the USOC to bring the Games home, hopefully, in 2012," Knise said.
The Washington-Baltimore region won high marks last month from a United States Olympic Committee team sent to evaluate its bid for the 2012 Games. Other U.S. cities bidding on the 2012 Games are Dallas, Houston, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Tampa, Fla. The USOC team will visit all eight areas by the end of summer.
The USOC executive committee might announce a list of finalist cities as soon as year's end, with the U.S. candidate city to be named in October 2002. That city will then enter an international competition for the 2012 Games. The International Olympic Committee is expected to choose the site in 2005.
For one Baltimore-based firm, yesterday's announcement was cause for celebration. RTKL Associates had won an international design competition sponsored by the city of Beijing as part of its bid for the 2008 Games. A master plan and urban design for the Beijing World Exhibition and Sports Center, prepared by RTKL's Los Angeles office, was chosen over entries from 15 design firms around the world.
Overall, the Beijing Olympics will be a $22 billion project, but it is unclear what the economic impact will be for RTKL. The Olympic work is the most high-profile ever for the firm, which has 900 employees worldwide.
"Probably after a few days of partying for everyone, it's time to start talking with them about what the process should be," said Raymond Peloquin, a vice president of RTKL in Baltimore.
"We're just excited to be part of what's going on."