Cheers and high-fives at City Hall

Dominique Dawes, a Md. Olympian, tells what it means

October 27, 2001|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,SUN STAFF

A hush fell over the packed room at City Hall as Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley made the long-anticipated announcement of finalist cities to be host to the 2012 Summer Olympics.

"I'm excited to report that one of the finalists is ... San Francisco," the mayor said yesterday, just minutes after getting word from the U.S. Olympic Committee that the eight candidates had been narrowed to four.

But the silence was broken by cheers, applause and high-fives from government officials, athletes and Olympic bid committee members when O'Malley announced the last of four finalists - "the greatest bid of all - the Baltimore-Washington region. ... Everyone knows how fantastic it was for the city when the Ravens won the Super Bowl. This would be the Superbowl of Super- bowls."

Organizers had felt confident that the region would make the cut, but many still sighed in relief after hearing that Baltimore-Washington, along with San Francisco, New York and Houston, will advance to the next stage of competition.

"It felt like I just finished the floor routine, because I was really nervous," said Olympic gold medalist and gymnast Dominique Dawes, a member of the Chesapeake Region 2012 Coalition's board of directors, who joined O'Malley and county and city officials yesterday to hear the USOC's selections.

"Having an Olympic Games here in my hometown area would add so much richness," said Dawes, a Silver Spring native who has competed at Olympics in Barcelona, Spain; Atlanta; and Sydney, Australia. "This would be a wonderful opportunity for everyone in the U.S. to know the nation's capital and the region around it are strong - the strongest they'll ever be."

For the city, a chance to vie for and possibly land the 2012 games will mean unprecedented exposure and economic spinoff and a chance to make badly needed upgrades to infrastructure and replace outdated facilities such as the Baltimore Arena, O'Malley said.

The Games would bring 5 million visitors to the region, worldwide television exposure plus $5 billion in economic activity, the mayor said.

"Imagine the international Olympic torch being carried by athletes from all over the world past sights such as the Star Spangled Banner and the U.S. Capitol," O'Malley said. "This is a terrific thing for this region - and we don't mind sharing it with Washington."

Barbara Bozzuto, a coalition board member and event consultant, said the coalition has a year to hone its bid and be host to national and international championships and events before the USOC makes its final decision in November 2002. Board members said they feel confident about the competition with the other finalist cities.

"Washington is the capital of the free world," said George P. Stamas, a board member and vice chairman of Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown. "What better region - what better symbol of what this country represents."

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