Region feels pressure of U.S. bids deadline


One of the inherent challenges in trying to land an event that is 12 years away is persuading people to get serious about the venture now.

The Washington-Baltimore Regional 2012 Coalition, working to bring the Olympics here, knows that all too well.

But with the deadline to submit a bid to the United States Olympic Committee less than six months away, the group doesn't have to spend as much time justifying its existence these days.

"I've seen this real shift in recent months," said Dan Knise, president and chief executive officer of the Washington-Baltimore Regional 2012 Coalition. "People are sensing the urgency."

Knise is using the six-month deadline as a way of solidifying the effort. The Games are won or lost now, he says.

A millennium-style clock on the coalition's Web page serves as a constant reminder, ticking away the days, hours, minutes and seconds until bid submission.

"It's a positive way to create some pressure, a sense of urgency and some momentum," Knise said. "This is real. If we really want to bring these Games to this region, we've got to get to work and get the community involved."

By Dec. 15, the coalition must put together a 19-chapter, 550-page formal bid proposal with themed chapters on everything from meteorological and environmental conditions to security to transportation. A team has been assigned to each theme. A total of about 50 consultants, volunteers and staff are working on the project.

To satisfy the requirement that a host city put on an arts festival that runs during the Games, Knise recently rallied the arts community. Washington and Baltimore participants - many of whom didn't know one another previously - are furiously working on the details of the festival and opening and closing ceremonies, a task they must complete in the next few months.

As proposed, most of the athletic competition will take place within five areas: downtown Washington, downtown Baltimore, Annapolis, Prince George's County and Northern Virginia.

Cost projections

The coalition must get answers to some unusual questions: How much would it cost to rent the University of Maryland, College Park campus for a month and a half? How much would it cost to feed 15,000 athletes and officials?

Local organizers also must decide how many tickets to sell to various sporting events and how to price them. They must evaluate how much money will be generated from television, sponsorships and licensing. Fortunately, some of those numbers will be provided by the U.S. Olympic Committee, experienced in such matters.

As the bid deadline bears down, organizers must maintain a steady stream of high-profile sporting events and execute them flawlessly. That ability can translate into favorable votes down the road. One coming event is the first-ever International Deaf Baseball Tournament slated for July 2-7, featuring elite-level deaf athletes from Canada, Cuba, Japan, the United States and Venezuela at Joe Cannon Stadium near Baltimore-Washington International Airport and at Gallaudet University in Washington.

The U.S. women's soccer team will compete with Russia on Aug. 13 at the Naval Academy. Ocean City will be host to the 2000 USA Open Beach Volleyball Championship on Sept. 9 and 10, and Nov. 15 and 16, the University of Maryland will be the site of the USA/FINA World Cup Swimming meet.

Grass-roots drive

The coalition also recently launched its grass-roots campaign, soliciting individual gifts ranging from $15 to $500, and business gifts of between $250 and $5,000.

"If we could get $50,000 I would be ecstatic," Knise said of the grass-roots effort. "If you think about what you're doing, you have to buy into this dream. To see people take that step is exciting to us."

The Washington-Baltimore group already has raised $7 million of the $10 million considered necessary to last through 2002 when the USOC chooses an American bid city. The group thought it would need $12 million to pay for salaries, consultants and other costs, but has reduced that estimate.

Washington-Baltimore, along with seven other regions competing for the 2012 Games - San Francisco, Dallas, Cincinnati, Houston, New York, Los Angeles and Tampa-Orlando, Fla. - has until Dec. 15 to submit a bid. The USOC will take three months to evaluate them and request any necessary revisions.

Decision in 2002

The USOC is expected to chose finalists in March 2002, then make the final decision on a U.S. bid city later that year. That city then enters the international competition. Three years later, the International Olympic Committee will name a host city. Although the field of international competitors is not finalized, at least a dozen cities have proposed bids, including recent interest from Tel Aviv, Israel; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and Britain.

"If I were to characterize where we are today, we've moved beyond dialogue to action," said John Morton III, chairman of the Washington-Baltimore Regional 2012 Coalition. "The fact that the venue owners and our elected officials have embraced what we've proposed speaks volumes. Try to think of any major regional initiative that has taken on the optimism and the success to date that this has."

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