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Maryland loses out in Olympic Festival bidding


Despite an impressive last-ditch effort, Maryland failed today to land a position as host of an Olympic Festival in 1994 or 1995.

The U.S. Olympic Festival Committee in Dallas awarded the 1993 festival to San Antonio, the 1994 competition to St. Louis and the 1995 event to Denver. The 1996 Olympics are in Atlanta.

The Olympic Festival, which will be held in Los Angeles this summer, involves competition in 37 sports in non-Olympic years.

In addition to Baltimore, South Florida also lost out in the bidding.

"Of course we're disappointed," said Randy Evans, secretary of the state Department of Economic and Employment Development (DEED). "They called us in this morning and said about what you would expect to hear -- that it was a good fight, that all the areas had distinguished themselves in their presentations.

"The up side is that we could regroup and do as well as we did. The committee acknowledged that."

The Maryland bid originally was put forth by the Maryland State Games Foundation, a group under investigation because of alleged misuse of funds. It was only at a late date that Gov. William Donald Schaefer and a new committee attempted to fan the flames of what seemed like a dying effort. Some felt the stigma surrounding the original group would count against the Maryland proposal.

"We are not coming away in a defeated position," said Evans. "Let's not forget Maryland already has been elected to host three trial events for the 1992 Olympics [in Barcelona, Spain]. We have the gymnastics competition at the Baltimore Arena, we have fencing competition in Hagerstown and we have the whitewater canoeing on the Savage River."

Evans said the current team that went to Dallas to present the Maryland offer will not disband, but set its sights on sports events for the future.

"With people like Henry Butta, Phyllis Brotman, Wayne Chappell, Andy Geiger and William Kirwan on our team, we feel very confident," Evans said. "No one likes to lose, but we all think we have made an extremely worthwhile investment in putting this 'first team' into place.

"Now all we need is a nickname."

Evans said his group also was "surprised and thrilled" to get promises of help from the state legislature during its presentation yesterday.

No other delegation brought along its governor. Schaefer told the committee Maryland is ready "to do it now." Schaefer promised complete support for the event.

He said he would sign a bill that would allow Maryland to have a "tax checkoff" for the event if such a bill came to his desk. He also said if the committee picked Maryland as a venue, "we'll start immediately" to establish the organizing committee.

The committee also received a telegram from Sen. Laurence Levitan, chairman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, and Rep. Charles Ryan, chairman of the House Committee on appropriations, stating the unanimous support of their committees for the Festival.

A letter from Mayor Kurt Schmoke promising the city's support also was presented.

The presentation included a film by sportscaster Jim McKay, who pointed out the success with which Maryland has handled events ranging from the Preakness and the Maryland Million to the World Canoe and Kayak Championships and National Figure Skating Championships.

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