Olympic group ready to dazzle

As 1 of 4 U.S. finalists, D.C.-Baltimore coalition prepares for next phase

October 28, 2001|By June Arney | June Arney,SUN STAFF

SALT LAKE CITY - If Washington-Baltimore's bid for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games is to survive the final U.S. cut a year from now, it must dazzle the United States Olympic Committee with an ability superior to that of Houston, New York or San Francisco to dominate international competition.

"We want a winner who can bring the Games back to the United States in 2012," said Sandy Baldwin, president of the USOC.

Olympic officials have wiped the slate clean for each of the four finalist cities and challenged them again to distinguish themselves. Eliminated from the competition Friday were Cincinnati, Dallas, Los Angeles and Tampa. Key to Washington-Baltimore's strategy will be a marketing campaign - expected to cost between $100,000 and $500,000 and to be developed early next year.

"We stay focused on winning," said John Morton III, chairman of the Chesapeake Region 2012 Coalition and president of Bank of America's Mid-Atlantic Banking Group. "The next step is, we partner with the USOC to make the bid stronger. We continue to host world-class events and to bring the Olympic culture to the region."

During the summer, after the USOC's bid-evaluation team visited each of the then-eight competing cities, members suggested ways to strengthen the bids.

The USOC will elaborate on those suggestions and will provide updated budgetary advice. Expanded guidelines will be provided at a Dec. 7 meeting in Colorado Springs, Colo.

The local bid group has raised $8.6 million of its $9.5 million goal. Now, there will be another push to bring in the remaining money and $500,000 more to help with marketing, said Dan Knise, president and chief executive of the Chesapeake coalition.

Fund raising, which has essentially been on hold since the terrorist attacks Sept. 11, will gear up again, he said. Although most of the effort will focus on corporate sponsors, grass-roots appeals will also be made, using the motto established to build community spirit: "Share the dream. Join the team."

The coalition's six-member marketing committee will help devise a national advertising and public relations campaign that will carry the bid through the next crucial months.

"We know we need to do a good job of sharing with the world why this is a good place to host the Games," Knise said. "We know what we're doing is powerful, but how do we explain what makes it such a powerful international player, beyond the fact that we have the nation's capital as part of our bid?"

Organizers must also continue to bring elite athletic events to the region, showing an ability to make athletes comfortable and to execute the events flawlessly and with style.

The coalition also hopes to secure the Visa American Cup international gymnastics competition for the Patriot Center at George Mason University in the spring.

It is unclear whether security changes will be part of any modifications of the local bid.

"Our plan was very much a high-level, conceptual and organizational plan," Knise said. "The real work on that will be done after 2005."

After the USOC names its U.S. Bid City for the 2012 Games late next year, that city will enter an international competition. The International Olympic Committee will select a host city in 2005. Among the cities likely to compete are Toronto, Tel Aviv, Rio de Janeiro, Moscow, Budapest and Warsaw.

The USOC is leaving open the possibility that it might further reduce the number of competitors before a final city is chosen in November 2002. That elimination, should it occur, would probably follow another round of visits to the cities planned for April or May.

A city could eliminate itself by not filing its required financial guarantee by Nov. 30. But each city has those documents in place or is well on the way toward meeting the deadline.

The Washington-Baltimore bid for the 2012 Games calls for events to be concentrated in a corridor running from Morgan State University on the north to George Mason University, in northern Virginia, on the south.

Among the handful of potential sites outside that corridor are Annapolis, Frederick and Garrett counties in Maryland, Great Meadow in Fauquier County, Va., and Beaverdam Reservoir-Brambleton Regional Park in Ashburn, Va.

"We've been dealt a good deck with the venues we have, the transportation we have and the rich backdrop that we have," Knise said. "An Olympics in this region is viewed by many as a way to reunite the world in peace again."

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