Nearly 100 Olympic-level coaches are visiting the region -- along with dozens of other sports leaders -- for the U.S. Olympic Committee's Coach of the Year awards and to experience the area's sports facilities first-hand.
"It's really exciting for all of us," said John Morton III, president of Bank of America's Mid-Atlantic Banking Group and volunteer chairman of the Washington-Baltimore 2012 Coalition, which is trying to bring the 2012 Summer Olympics to the area. "It firmly establishes us as a legitimate contender to host these 2012 Games."
The three-day event, which began yesterday, is expected to draw about 225 people to events in Washington and Annapolis. Included will be at least 15 members of National Governing Bodies -- the administrative bodies of various Olympic and Pan American sports.
The region had competed to play host to the Coach of the Year awards against Houston and Tampa, Fla., both of which have played host to the conference.
Attending the event will be "elite" coaches, those who work at the national, international, collegiate or professional levels, and "developmental" coaches, who work with youth.
A top coach will be named in each category, and an honorary Coach of the Year will be chosen.
The attendees are among those who will help choose a U.S. designated bid city for the 2012 Games.
Washington-Baltimore is competing for the 2012 Summer Games against San Francisco, Dallas, Cincinnati, Houston, New York, Los Angeles and Tampa-Orlando, Fla., among U.S. cities. A detailed bid proposal must be submitted by each city by December 2000.
The events will center on Washington, with a trip to Annapolis scheduled for tomorrow. The original proposal called for some activities in Baltimore.
"We got some early signs that the USOC preferred Washington, D.C.," Morton said. "We decided to use Washington as the best way to win the selection process and to incorporate trips out."
USOC officials thought that Baltimore was too far to travel with such a compact time schedule, but Annapolis wasn't, Morton said.
"We've stayed regionally oriented and focused on winning," Morton said. "We'll do what's best in keeping with that philosophy."
About a dozen local Olympians have been tapped to attend the festivities and greet attendees, who will include four local coaches.
To be honored are Audrey Weisiger of Clifton, Va., an internationally known figure-skating coach; Adam Werblow, head coach of St. Mary College's sailing team; James C. Wofford of Upperville, Va., a world-class equestrian competitor; and Silvan Poberaj of Cabin John, head coach of the USA canoe/kayak slalom team.
The weekend will cost more than $250,000, which includes an undisclosed portion that will be paid by the USOC, according to Dan Knise, president and chief executive officer of the coalition. Locally, accounting firm Arthur Anderson LLP has pledged $25,000, he said.
Another 27 local companies have generated a total of $165,000 in contributions, according to coalition officials.
The activities are being orchestrated by P. W. Feats, a Baltimore marketing event agency, the same group that created the display that Olympic organizers took to the Olympic Congress last year in Phoenix.
"The biggest goal is to give the U.S. Olympic representatives a first-hand experience of how we in our region handle any big event," said Paul C. Wolman, president and chief executive officer of Feats. "Our goal is to have people walk away talking about the city. We want a flawless event."
The coaches' conference is the first of a half-dozen large athletic events that will occur in the region during the next nine months -- all designed to increase the area's sports profile.
They include a swim meet for more than 300 Olympic swimmers at the University of Maryland, College Park in November, a USA World Cup wrestling meet at the Patriot Center at George Mason University in February and the Star Class 2000 world sailing championships in Annapolis in May.