- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 14, 2001

The U.S. Olympic Committee yesterday gave high marks to the joint bid of Washington and Baltimore to play host to the 2012 Summer Olympics following a comprehensive two-day site review, setting an early standard to beat for the seven other American bidding cities.

"[Washington and Baltimore] have raised the bar," said Charles Moore, chairman of the USOC Site Evaluation Team. "Every other city remaining will be judged against what we saw here. The group here gave us every indication they are ready to execute their plan.

"What we saw here was even better than what we expected after reading their bid document," Moore said.

that it would buy Axys Pharmaceuticals Inc. for about $177 million in stock.

Stops also were made in each of the Coalition's five proposed clusters for the 2012 Games Washington, Baltimore, Fairfax, Annapolis and College Park and detailed presentations were made on plans for security, transportation, fund-raising and other key areas.

The site visits are considered critical to the viability of the Olympic bids. The USOC's key goal is to assess each city's true ability to play host to one of the world's largest cultural gatherings of any type. An estimated 1.25 million visitors will descend on the host city each day during the Games. The Chesapeake Region 2012 Coalition conservatively set its proposed budget at $2.7 billion.

Washington and Baltimore are competing against Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Tampa, Fla., and Cincinnati to become the USOC's single nominee for the 2012 Games. The USOC will visit the other candidates by late August, select finalists in March and name a winner in October 2002. The International Olympic Committee will pick the 2012 host in 2005.

"We're convinced we have what it takes here to receive the [IOC] bid to host the Games," District Mayor Anthony Williams said. "The long and short of it is that a day doesn't go by where we don't greet visitors from all around the world. We do this as a normal course of business."

The Coalition scored with the USOC on the depth and variety of the area's cultural resources, as well as its large number of existing sports facilities. A locally held Games would require the construction of only three new stadia: one for track and field, a cycling velodrome and an aquatics facility for swimming and diving.

"Clearly we impressed the team with our organization and ability to execute our plan," said Dan Knise, Coalition executive director.

Predictably, the USOC site team expressed concerns about Washington's bottlenecked traffic. The tour traveled on Metro, MARC, area roadways, buses and even sailed on the Chesapeake Bay during the two-day visit. Following all the travel, USOC officials noted the area already has more transportation resources than many other recent Olympic hosts, notably Atlanta.

But the USOC also appears unsure whether the infrastructure will keep up with population growth over the next decade and then be able to handle the massive influx of Olympic visitors. Traffic delayed Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley from the start of yesterday's news conference.

"The transportation system here is good now. But by 2012, it may be a different story," said Evie Dennis, a USOC site team member.

The Coalition's unprecedented attempt to hold the Games' Opening Ceremonies jointly at the Mall and Baltimore's Inner Harbor by far the most striking feature of its 631-page bid also received only tepid response during the USOC's visit.

"It's a very interesting approach. It may not be the final approach," Moore said. He added that the team has not yet studied the plan closely enough to know whether such an idea would even be feasible.

Coalition staffers are anxiously looking forward to July 13, the day the IOC announces its choice to host the 2008 Summer Olympics. If Toronto upsets favored Beijing, the chances for any American city just four years later particularly one as close as Washington would be severely crippled.

"We're in this for the long haul, but clearly we'd like to see Beijing win," Knise said.

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