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Olympics bid bars city's name


The effort to bring the 2012 Summer Olympics to the Baltimore-Washington area will go forward without the Baltimore in its title, officials said yesterday.

The bid will be known as "Washington D.C. 2012," and the group organizing the bid, previously called the Washington-Baltimore Regional 2012 Coalition, will become the Chesapeake Region 2012 Coalition. And that's OK with Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley.

"I would have preferred the dual-city designation, but we agree that Washington, D.C.'s status as the nation's capital city is an important differentiator for our regional bid, if we are to win the ultimate international competition," he said.

The move was made to bring the region's bid into compliance with International Olympic Committee rules, which say that bids must come from a single city. The change comes in advance of a June 1 deadline for resubmission of bids to the United States Olympic Committee.

Organizers for the Washington-Baltimore bid tried to retain the two-city designation, but knew it was an uphill battle, said John Morton III, chairman of the coalition.

"While folks in Baltimore may be a bit disappointed, it really is the right thing to do," Morton said. "It should be remembered that it's a change in name only. The economic benefit to Maryland and Virginia remains the same."

Events planned for Baltimore - including baseball at Camden Yards, gymnastics at a new arena and soccer at PSINet Stadium - would still be held here, organizers stressed.

Although organizers knew that the name would ultimately have to be changed, they had hoped to hold off at least until the field of bids was reduced in the first quarter of 2002 or until a winner was named in October 2002.

But when the USOC returned the local bid for technical changes, the single-city designation again became an issue.

"We were asking them to reconsider their position," said Dan Knise, president and chief executive of the coalition. "We had not accepted it as a foregone conclusion. On one level, I'm disappointed, but on the other hand I can't say I didn't see it coming. We thought that the dual-city designation was helpful to us in reinforcing the partnership between Washington and Baltimore."

The regulation also affects bids from San Francisco and Tampa, which have been marketing themselves as "Bay Area 2012" and "Florida 2012," Knise said.

Also included among the field of eight competitors are Cincinnati, Dallas, Houston, New York and Los Angeles. The winning U.S. city then enters the international competition. The International Olympic Committee will choose a site for the 2012 Olympics in 2005.

The economic impact of the 2012 Games is projected to be more than $5 billion, and Maryland's share is expected to be about 53 percent of that, with 28 percent going to Washington and 19 percent to Virginia.

Those are the kinds of numbers that Baltimore City Council President Sheila Dixon thinks about, despite her surprise in the name change.

"The city's going to benefit greatly," she said yesterday. "I understand that Washington is known all over the world. When people come, they're going to get to know Baltimore and the whole state."

Local organizers are preparing for the arrival of a team from the U.S. Olympic Committee, which will visit the region June 10-13 to conduct a technical review of venues being proposed for the 2012 Olympic Games.

In each city, topics will include general and sports infrastructure, sports event experience, general housing and village plans, transportation strategies, government support and public opinion, general financial plan and guarantees, and international strategies, according to USOC officials. The site-evaluation team also will tour key facilities and meet with each city's bid leadership personnel.

The pending visit affords little time for disappointment over the name change.

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