More than a year before bids are due and three years before the United States Olympic Committee picks a U.S. standard-bearer, Dallas is the popular choice for the site of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, according to a recent survey commissioned by Baltimore-based Eisner & Associates Inc.
Washington-Baltimore was the favorite of 12 percent of the people polled, below Dallas' 21 percent and San Francisco's 13 percent -- and that pleases local bid leaders.
"We're a viable candidate with cities who have either already hosted the Olympics or would be on the list people would name in general as the top cities in America," said David L. Blum, vice president, associate director of strategic planning at Eisner.
Poll results showed Los Angeles and New York tying with 11 percent. Cincinnati followed with 9 percent, and Houston trailed with 7 percent. Fifteen percent did not know which city was most appropriate.
More than 1,000 Americans -- 554 women and 480 men -- were interviewed for the poll, which has a margin of error of 3.5 percent, Blum said.
"This confirms for me that people outside the region see us as a legitimate contender," said John Morton III, president of NationsBank's Mid-Atlantic Banking Group and volunteer chairman of the Washington-Baltimore Regional 2012 Coalition.
"What this survey shows doesn't surprise me, and I think it's extremely good news. Our dream is a real one. We can win this."
Local organizers haven't begun to publicize across the country, said Dan Knise, president and chief executive officer of the coalition. "That's pretty good news that we're in the top three," he said.
The region, along with its seven competitors, must submit bids to the USOC by March 31, 2000. That committee is to choose a U.S. candidate city in 2002.
An international competition follows, with the International Olympic Committee naming the host city in 2005.
Washington-Baltimore's ranking is especially impressive given the fact that most people don't think of the cities as a unified region.
Blum attributes Dallas' strong showing to its high-profile National Football League team.
"I really think that the halo of the Cowboys as 'America's Team' makes the connection to Dallas," he said.
"Part of the brand of Dallas is the Cowboys. When you think of Washington, you don't necessarily think of the Redskins."
In a second survey question, Eisner looked at the impact of the Salt Lake City bribery scandal on consumer attitudes toward Olympic sponsors.
Nine IOC members have resigned or been expelled for receiving cash payments, scholarships and other favors -- in several cases estimated at more than $100,000 apiece -- in exchange for votes for Salt Lake City for the 2002 Games.
The controversy has expanded to call into question several past Olympic city selections.
The results showed that more than 31 percent of Americans were not aware of the controversy. Another 39 percent have heard about the controversy but do not feel differently toward sponsors.
Nine percent had heard of the scandal and have a more positive attitude toward sponsors, while 18 percent were aware of the scandal and have a more negative attitude.
Looking at the results by age group, Blum reported that 58 percent of people ages 18 to 24 know nothing about the scandal.
"By 2012, they're going to be in their prime buying stage, so there's going to be very little impact to sponsors," he said.
Coincidentally, the USOC recently commissioned its own survey to assess damage from the Olympic scandal.
Those results showed that 83 percent of Americans had positive to strongly positive feelings about the Olympics. Ninety percent recognized that the controversy didn't involve Olympic athletes, and 91 percent said their feelings toward those athletes had remained constant or become more positive since the negative publicity.
"The USOC survey confirms the experience we're having," Morton said. "The enthusiasm in our region remains very high for hosting the Games."
However, 73 percent of those polled agreed that there should be significant changes in how Olympic cities are selected to play host to the Games.
About 83 percent said there should be greater oversight of the organizations charged with planning the Games, according to the survey of 1,000 Americans, which has a margin of error of 3 percent.
Pub Date: 2/09/99