Region makes Olympics cut

`8 great cities' trimmed to 4 by U.S. committee

Competition to be 2012 host

New York, Houston and San Francisco also still in running

October 27, 2001|By June Arney | June Arney,SUN STAFF

SALT LAKE CITY - The Baltimore-Washington area's quest to be host to the 2012 Summer Olympic Games took a big step forward yesterday - along with bids from New York, San Francisco and Houston - as the United States Olympic Committee cut in half the number of cities it was considering.

The paring of what had been eight U.S. cities vying for the Games followed a unanimous vote by the committee designated by the USOC to tour those cities last summer and study their bids.

Eliminated from the race for the 2012 Games were Cincinnati; Dallas; Los Angeles; and Tampa, Fla.

"I expect it to be a tough competition," said Dan Knise, president and chief executive of the Chesapeake Region 2012 Coalition. "I'm elated today. I'm happy for our community. But I realize we have lots of work still to do."

Said Charles H. Moore, chairman of the USOC's bid-evaluation task force: "These were eight great cities. It's just that we felt that these four, in the aggregate, were better prepared, at this time, to host the Games."

The four finalists repeatedly appeared at the top of the scoring in many of the critical categories considered by the International Olympic Committee, Moore said. Those categories included general and sports infrastructure, transportation and international strategies and partnership abilities.

"They all stood out or they wouldn't be here," Moore said. "And they all have a lot of work ahead of them to show that they can stand out in the international competition."

Moore declined to rank the cities or explain why one advanced and another didn't.

"I'm not going to go there," he said. "We are absolutely not going to go back and rank them. It's done, finished. Everyone that's left will start with a fresh slate."

Moore also praised the strengths of the cities not chosen, including Los Angeles, which has been host to the Games twice. He said all could play important roles in the Olympic movement in the future.

"I'm not surprised," said Rick Burton, executive director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon's College of Business, who has also done work for the IOC. "L.A. held the Olympics twice before. I think the USOC wants to spread the Olympic movement into new territories."

Organizers in the eight cities found out whether their years of work had paid off just minutes before the news was made public yesterday. The group had been to dinner together Thursday night after the vote that decided their fate, but the results were kept secret, pending final approval by the USOC executive committee yesterday.

The USOC tried to keep the mood light at the final dinner, but those who attended said there was an undercurrent of nervousness among the competitors.

The remaining candidates will be winnowed down to a single U.S. bid city in November 2002. That city then enters an international competition that is expected to include Toronto; Tel Aviv, Israel; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil;Havana; London; Madrid, Spain; Moscow; Budapest, Hungary; and Warsaw, Poland.

The IOC will choose the host city for the 2012 Summer Olympics in 2005.

The U.S. field may be further reduced even before November, once the USOC revisits the four cities in April or May.

Each city must have a financial guarantee in place by Nov. 30 to cover any debt should revenue fall short of projections or expenses exceed those anticipated. Since the Atlanta Games in 1996, the IOC has required such governmental guarantees from any city bidding on the Games.

Any of the four cities failing to meet the deadline would be eliminated, Moore said. Such an eliminaiton seems unlikely now.

Houston's guarantee is in place. Washington's is to be finalized within the next two weeks. New York enacted its guarantee Wednesday, and San Francisco's mayor already has signed off on the matter, Moore said.

Bid-evaluation task force members said they separated their decision from the Sept. 11 attacks, but there has been some movement to rally around New York. The city has become, for some, a sentimental favorite. The mayor of Rome has even told the IOC that his city would bow out of the competition if others would do the same to clear the way for New York.

But Daniel Doctoroff, who heads the New York bid, said his city has no intention of capitalizing on the tragedy.

"Our real pitch is that New York really is the place that everybody will feel at home," he said. "We describe ourselves as the Olympic Village every day. For 400 years, we have drawn people from around the world. By virtue of our size, we've crammed them together in a small space, and they've been forced to get along."

New York's bid includes construction of an 86,000-seat stadium with a retractable roof on Manhattan's West Side.

Houston's bid is expected to benefit from having many venues in a compact area.

"I'm a little surprised at Houston [making the cut]," said John P. Bevilaqua, an Atlanta communications consultant who has been involved in eight Olympics and follows the 2012 effort.

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