Baltimore area wants 2012 gold


After years of planning, the 2000 Olympic Games are about to get under way. Most important, the people of Sydney and all Australians will have an opportunity to celebrate and show the world what can be achieved through a community's joining and working together. To this end, the Baltimore-Washington region has a chance to capture this same Olympic spirit.

We are a strong contender to represent the United States in the international competition to host the 2012 Olympic Games.

The year 2012 may seem a long way off, but the race to capture that gold is being run today. Our detailed bid to the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) is due Dec. 15. This critical document will outline exactly where and how we would conduct the 2012 Games. Eight U.S. cities are likely to submit proposals, and it will be the USOC's job to select the U.S. candidate city in 2002.

We could be starring on the world's stage 12 summers from now. But just as important, our Olympic effort can help bring to life the concept of regionalism in a way that has eluded us for too long. While there are exemplary examples of regional cooperation and enlightened leaders who foster a regional approach, when examined from a broad perspective, regional results are often hard to see. We need to move beyond dialogue to meaningful action.

We plan to hold the Games in five concentrated areas, or hubs -- Baltimore, Washington, Annapolis, Prince George's County/College Park and Virginia/George Mason University. These hubs were selected to give everyone the chance to share in the "games of the people" and enjoy nothing less than a regional celebration.

The regional quality of this effort starts at the top, with a board of directors that reflects the diversity of this community and its athletic, academic, business, government and community leadership. The board oversees the preparation of our bid.

We are calling on teams of experts made up of community leaders from throughout the region. In small groups, people from Baltimore, the Virginia suburbs, Washington and all across Maryland sit around a table, roll up their sleeves and work on issues ranging from athlete housing to medical care to marketing our region.

In two areas of particular importance, both from an Olympic and a civic standpoint, the bid effort has already played the role of catalyst for a growing regional dialogue.

Recently, for example, law enforcement officials from more than 20 area jurisdictions -- including Baltimore County, Baltimore City, Anne Arundel County, Fairfax County, the Virginia and Maryland state police and Washington -- began work on a security plan for the Games. Although neighboring jurisdictions meet often and cooperate regularly, this effort on behalf of our Olympic bid is unique in its breadth and its reach.

The same thing is happening with transportation.

Our bid proposal team is working closely with the metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and the Baltimore Metropolitan Council to develop a transportation plan to accommodate visitors and athletes. With these two groups, we are conducting a rare, truly regional assessment of what exists and what is planned in terms of roads, mass transit, rail transit and airport construction. This work may help create one of the great legacies of the 2012 Games -- an improved regional transportation network.

Artists from throughout the region have started preliminary discussions on a cultural Olympiad to take place before and during the Games. Late this month, we will gather with them for a half-day regional symposium to continue more detailed planning.

Swim clubs from Maryland, Virginia and Washington are also working together to host the FINA World Cup Swim Meet in November at the University of Maryland, College Park, a showcase for many competitors from the Sydney Games. Events like that are important to our bid proposal. They demonstrate to Olympic officials that we know how to host major athletic events and also help build excitement around the prospect of hosting the Games.

We have not overlooked excitement. In what could be the first Olympic event of its kind, we are envisioning an opening ceremony that simultaneously links participants on the Mall in Washington with those in Baltimore's Inner Harbor, highlighting to the world that this is truly a regional undertaking.

I have no doubt that Olympic gold is within our reach, with the ultimate prize more than 17 days of hosting the Games. It will also be bringing a regional spirit to life in a way that builds community pride, brings our diverse community together and leaves a legacy that will benefit our area for years after the Games.

John Morton III is chairman of the Washington/Baltimore Regional 2012 Coalition and mid-Atlantic president of Bank of America.

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