Region is viewed as favorite to be U.S. Olympic venue

N.Y. is given chance out of sympathy from terror attacks

October 30, 2001|By June Arney | June Arney,SUN STAFF

Washington-Baltimore and New York are viewed as early favorites in the four-way race to be the U.S. candidate for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, according to two experts who follow the bids.

Lisa Delpy Neirotti, associate professor of sports management and tourism studies at George Washington University, ranks the Baltimore-Washington bid at the top of the list.

"D.C. has the sophistication and culture of New York, but more open space and less clutter," she said. "New York is almost too busy."

Washington-Baltimore, New York, San Francisco and Houston are vying to be the host of the Games after Cincinnati, Dallas, Los Angeles and Tampa, Fla. were cut last week. The U.S. Olympic Committee will make a final decision in November 2002.

The chosen U.S. city enters the international competition to be decided by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 2005.

Neirotti, who will attend her 11th Olympic Games in Salt Lake City next year, bases some of her views on New York's performance during the Goodwill Games in 1998: "It was difficult to get from one venue to another. It just seemed that the Games got lost in the city."

International sports consultant Richard H. Burton agreed with her ranking of the competing cities.

Washington-Baltimore-based Olympic venues would have better control of factors such as facilities, lodging and transportation than would New York, he said.

And when it comes to a marketing angle, Washington has an advantage, he said "Washington, D.C., can wrap it in the American flag best," said Burton, who is executive director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon's Charles H. Lundquist College of Business and has done volunteer work for the IOC in Lausanne, Switzerland. "Post Sept. 11, there may be a desire to wrap the Olympics in America's flag."

He and Neirotti stack the remaining two competitors in the same order - San Francisco, then Houston.

San Francisco will use the Golden Gate Bridge and sell itself as the city on the bay, taking advantage of what Burton described as "the Sydney-esque element," a reference to seaside site of the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.

San Francisco's venues are more compact than New York's or Washington's. And the wine country of Northern California would offer appealing side trips for the IOC - half of whose voting bloc comes from Europe.

Burton believes Houston will create an international reputation for itself, just as Atlanta did.

"Houston will surprise people," he said. "They're a smaller town [than most of the other candidate cities] with more to gain. Houston will spend to make it a ballgame."

Houston doesn't have the political complexities inherent in bids from Washington and New York, which involve multiple jurisdictions, he said.

Neirotti says the fact that Houston's is primarily an indoor bid may work against it.

"I don't think that's going to have strong appeal internationally," she said. "Who wants to come to an Olympics indoors?"

About 70 percent of the remaining work in the race to be the U.S. candidate host city is related to marketing, with the other 30 percent lobbying and politicking, said John Bevilaqua, an Atlanta marketing consultant.

Each city is likely to spend $1.5 million to $2 million to that end, he said, referring to advertising and public relations campaigns to convince the U.S. Olympic Committee and the nation that its venue is the best.

Bevilaqua ranks New York as the front runner followed by Washington-Baltimore, Houston and San Francisco. New York beats out Washington because of its impressive bid and leadership, coupled with the sympathy vote since the Sept. 11 attacks, he said.

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