SYDNEY, Australia - Two days ago, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley attended Mass at St. Mary's Cathedral in Hyde Park during his visit to the Summer Olympics. But, even in church, the Games weren't far away.
"The men's triathlon was competing with the Eucharist," O'Malley said. "You knew when the cyclists were coming by, because you would hear this 'Yea!' over the priest."
O'Malley wants the Olympic triathlon to be conducted at the Inner Harbor in 2012. He and his counterpart from Washington, Anthony A. Williams, came to the Sydney Olympics to promote the bid of the Washington-Baltimore Regional 2012 Coalition, which aims to land the world's premier sporting event.
"Our bid is one of the real races here," said Dan Knise, president and chief executive officer of the coalition, which is competing against seven cities for the right to represent the United States in the 2012 bid process.
The U.S. Olympic Committee will select one of the bids in fall 2002. The American bid is viewed as the early favorite for the 2012 Games, which will be awarded by the International Olympic Committee in 2005.
The bid process has a long history of corruption. Fallout from bribes associated with Salt Lake City's selection for the 2002 Winter Olympics continues, and new IOC rules prohibit the Washington-Baltimore Coalition from lobbying IOC members.
O'Malley and Williams can promote their cities and lobby the USOC. Knise said they are the only mayors from American bid cities, which include San Francisco, Dallas, Cincinnati, Houston, New York, Los Angeles and Tampa-Orlando, Fla., to come to Australia.
"The fact that we both took time out from busy schedules says a lot," O'Malley said. "This is a serious bid, and we're both committed to making it successful. Our presence underscores that and sets us apart from other cities. Win or lose, this has forced us to think about our shared assets and to work cooperatively."
On Thursday, O'Malley and Williams will do a behind-the-scenes tour of the Olympic Village at Homebush Bay, an industrial wasteland that was converted into a hub of arenas and stadiums where hundreds of thousands of athletes, media and spectators converge.
There is no centralized venue in the Washington-Baltimore bid, which would stretch from Northern Virginia to the Chesapeake Bay to Camden Yards.
"One of the things that strikes you about this is the tremendous amount of logistics involved, from transportation to accommodations to venues," O'Malley said.
"We have a leg up on a lot of [bid] cities in that we already have great facilities. The challenge is the transportation piece. As mayors, that excites us, because transportation has an ongoing benefit."
The mayors were among the 18,000 at the International Aquatic Center on Saturday, when Australian Ian Thorpe had a hand in a couple of world records.
Williams saw Baltimore's Michael Phelps swim last night. O'Malley has attended men's gymnastics and boxing, and sang onstage at Country Roads, a pub in the Rocks district.
O'Malley said he has been overwhelmed by the reception visitors have received here.
"Coming from an American perspective, one of the pitfalls of this is how you balance the corporate and public sides," O'Malley said. "Compared to the Democratic convention, it's obvious that this is not a corporate-owned event. It's something the people of Sydney have put on for the world."