Area's Olympics bid called certain finalist

List of 8 U.S. cities being shortened to 3 or 4 tomorrow

October 25, 2001|By June Arney | June Arney,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore-Washington region's bid to play host to the 2012 Summer Olympics will make the cut when the U.S. Olympic Committee reveals its list of finalists to bid for the Games, according to a source with direct knowledge of the process.

New York and San Francisco also are projected to be on the list.

"They're really strong," said the source. "Those are a lock."

Los Angeles also might be included depending on how many cities are chosen, the source said.

"We are optimistic," said Dan Knise, president and chief executive of the Chesapeake Region 2012 Coalition. "We have so many attributes that make our bid a strong bid. You can't ignore these great venues that we have in place. Our international appeal is very high. Having said that, we have to be realistic that there are still unknowns in the process, and we have to wait and see."

The USOC will narrow the competition from eight cities to three or four during a mid-day news conference tomorrow. Other U.S. cities vying for the Games are: Cincinnati, Dallas, Houston and Tampa.

The USOC will name the U.S. bid city a year from now. The winning U.S. city will then square off against international competitors, with the International Olympic Committee choosing a host city for the 2012 Games in 2005. The international field is likely to include Toronto, Tel Aviv, Rio de Janeiro, Moscow, Budapest and Warsaw.

The Baltimore-Washington region's bid for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games has long been favored to advance to the next step, according to Olympic experts.

"I can't see any way that Washington would not be included in the final cut," said John P. Bevilaqua, an Atlanta communications consultant who has been involved with eight Olympic Games and follows the 2012 effort.

Washington organizers won high marks for their bid when the site-evaluation team visited in June.

"In 2 1/2 days, we observed some impressive leadership," Charles H. Moore, leader of the USOC site evaluation team, said after the group's official visit to the region in June. "We saw a team that is completely organized and completely committed to bringing the Games to Washington-Baltimore."

Around the Rings, an Olympic newsletter, says Washington, New York and Los Angeles are shoo-ins and, in fact, should be the only finalists when the vote is taken.

"One of the things that we consider in this process is who can win internationally," said Bob Condron, director of media services for the USOC.

The USOC's site-evaluation team was expected to meet last night and come up with recommendations on cities to move forward in the race for 2012. Those recommendations will be made to the USOC executive committee tomorrow morning. The individual bid cities are expected to learn their fate minutes before the announcement is made public.

Site-evaluation team members gathered in the summer after visits to the Washington, Dallas, Houston, Cincinnati and evaluated those cities against International Olympic Committee requirements. The same process occurred after visits to New York, Tampa, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

There has been no ranking of the eight cities, USOC officials said. Such a process was scheduled for Sept. 15, but canceled after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"At this point we haven't started comparing," Christopher Cole, a member of the site-evaluation team, said yesterday afternoon.

For local Olympic organizers, the combined bid effort has been nearly four years in the works - the product of what started as separate bids by Baltimore and Washington. Talks on combining the bids began in earnest in autumn 1997 at the suggestion of Mary E. Junck, then president of Times Mirror Co.'s Eastern newspapers, which included The Sun, and Donald E. Graham, chairman of the Washington Post Co.

The region's hopes for landing the Games are encompassed in a 600-page "bid file" - representing more than 15,000 hours of work by about 200 people - submitted to the USOC in December 2000.

Proposed Olympic venues in Baltimore include Oriole Park at Camden Yards, where baseball would be played; PSINet Stadium, the site for soccer; and a new arena that would be used for gymnastics. In Washington, a renovated Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium would be used for track and field, while the MCI Center would have basketball.

There is some nervousness as the region's bid organizers await the USOC's decision.

"Are they going to choose us?" Knise asked. "We're optimistic that we'll move to the next step. We're anxious to move to the next step."

Sun staff writer Jon Morgan contributed to this article.

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