Victory from defeat

August 28, 2002

YESTERDAY'S ELIMINATION of the Washington-Baltimore region from the competition to be the U.S. candidate to host the 2012 Olympic Games was a surprising disappointment. There's no way around that.

This was a real loss - of a rare chance to bring the world and a good chunk of its attention and money to our doorstep.

And it isn't likely to return soon. Either the United States will host the Summer Games in 2012, blocking another viable U.S. bid for a long time, or it likely will keep promoting New York City or San Francisco - the two remaining competitors - for subsequent Olympics.

We wish only well for the two cities in the final stage of the U.S. competition this fall and in the international competition for the 2012 Games. Condolences to Houston, the other bid eliminated yesterday.

At the same time, it's hard to fathom how the Washington-Baltimore bid - a well-designed, financially conservative plan - could not have been among the top two.

It would be particularly troubling if the unusual regionalism inherent in the Chesapeake coalition's bid was somehow a negative. Regional cooperation is usually the subject of a lot of hot air and not much meaningful action. This was definitely not the case with this bid, whose value exceeded the sum of its parts.

That sort of effort has been long overdue for Baltimore and Washington, and leaders in both cities and in state government should be highly commended for it. It's telling that their first reaction to the Olympic loss was to talk of building on this cooperation. "I don't think we ever worked more closely together on anything, at least since the War of 1812," Mayor Martin O'Malley said of the ties the two cities have forged since combining their Olympic bids in 1998.

And there's no shortage of concerns on which the cities should cooperate - starting with regional transportation projects such as the proposed maglev line; such common, vexing problems as inner-city crime and failing schools; and the Chesapeake bid committee's new notion of creating a regional sports commission to lure national and international events to this area.

This was an adventure that came up short. But concrete steps to continue and build on its solid and laudable regionalism would snatch an enduring victory from defeat.

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