Baltimore-D.C. could get back in bidding game for 2016

July 07, 2005|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

Now that International Olympic Committee members have decided not to take Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island for the 2012 Summer Games, would they feel more at home in the Inner Harbor, College Park and downtown D.C. in 2016?

Stranger things have happened. Just ask the French, considered the prohibitive favorite yesterday until the ballots were tallied.

After the vote - during which New York fared only marginally better than last-place Moscow - the president of the U.S. Olympic Committee added insult to injury by saying the city would not have a leg up on the competition next time.

"We will have a new process for the next four years. We'll open it up," said Peter Ueberroth, the former Major League Baseball commissioner.

That comment piqued the interest of the businessman who headed the region's unsuccessful bid for the 2012 Olympics.

"I was a bit surprised by Mr. Ueberroth's comments," said Dan Knise, president of Washington 2012. "We need to know a lot more before we can decide. The opinion I'll be sharing over the next several days is that we should remain interested and engaged in the process."

A spokesman for Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley suggested a similar wait-and-see posture.

"Certainly, the interest is there," said Rick Abbruzzese. "We will have to see what the details are, get together with our partners in D.C. and go from there."

In many cases, a losing bidder gets a chance at redemption. Athens, Beijing and Salt Lake City won IOC approval after coming up short. The Utah capital lost to Nagano, Japan, for the 1998 Winter Games by four votes, the same margin London enjoyed over Paris yesterday, and then won the 2002 Games on the first ballot.

"It's rare to win on your first attempt," said Deedee Corradini, former mayor of Salt Lake City. "We regrouped. ... We knew we had a fabulous bid and we lost by just a few votes. Everyone who was enthused the first time was enthused the second time."

But New York officials may not be in the mood to set themselves up again for possible failure.

"Some of you have asked me whether 2012 is the right time for New York. Let me be clear: 2012 is the only time for New York," Mayor Michael Bloomberg told IOC delegates before the vote.

The mayor noted that some aspects of the city's bid - especially the land deal for the Olympic village - might not be available later. Also, Bloomberg faces re-election in November, and the driving force behind the city's Olympic bid, Dan Doctoroff, has hinted that he probably will not want to lead another attempt.

"We had a unique set of circumstances. I think this was our moment," said Doctoroff, New York's deputy mayor and founder of the bid campaign back in 1994.

Corradini, who was a member of the group that evaluated the bids of all eight U.S. cities and helped choose New York, cautioned against a snap decision.

"You really need to take some time off to lick your wounds because you really take it personally," she said.

Sports marketing consultant John Bevilaqua believes any bidder will need to do a gut check before committing to a 2016 campaign.

"They have to ask themselves if they have the emotional and financial courage to sustain another round of intense bidding," said Bevilaqua, who was vice president of communications for the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games. "I wouldn't be surprised if eight to 10 cities are interested in bidding."

Baltimore and Washington dropped their competing bids in June 1998 and banded together as the Washington-Baltimore Regional 2012 Coalition, later shortened to Washington 2012.

The committee spent five years and $9.5 million to entice the U.S. Olympic Committee. But the bid was rejected, along with one by Houston, in August 2002. In a bicoastal duel three months later, New York was chosen over San Francisco.

"Clearly, we'd have some work to do. We'd have to get the community re-engaged with the idea of hosting the Olympic Games. I think that's hard after you've been defeated once," Knise said. "But I think it's doable. I think the area remains a very committed sports town. It remains a place that's used to being on the world stage. As a result, I think we could get people excited again."

Knise said the region's residents supported the idea of hosting the Olympics in far higher numbers than New Yorkers did. In addition, infrastructure improvements and venue construction considered vital to the Summer Games - such as a rail line from Washington to Dulles International Airport and a new baseball stadium for the Nationals - would be completed.

"All of the assets that we wanted to use for the 2012 Games are still in existence, and many are going to be in better shape in 2016 than they would be today. ... I think we have a lot going for us," he said.

Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, who was Utah's governor during the successful bid and the Winter Games, said there are lessons for winners and losers.

Leavitt said the winner must remember that it's time to deliver on the promises made in its bidding documents.

"The work is just beginning, and history has demonstrated that there are hard times ahead," he said.

For the losers, Leavitt suggested they "build on the unity" and civic pride developed during the bidding process "and realize that there's great value in the effort. History rewards persistence."

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