Sunday, August 25, 2002

CHICAGO They’ve made their presentations and showed off their best features. They’ve been examined down to every last detail, evaluated and graded.
Now all of their work not to mention the millions of dollars they’ve spent comes down to a meeting in an airport hotel.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Olympic Committee’s site evaluation team will cut the list of American cities hoping to play host to the 2012 Summer Olympics in half, selecting two finalists from Houston, New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.
“Our charge is to pick a city with the best chance of winning the bid,” said Charles H. Moore, the former Olympic gold medalist who heads the task force evaluating the bid cities. “We feel any of the four are among the best in the world and any of them could host these games.”
The USOC’s board of directors will select the U.S. candidate for 2012 on Nov. 3. That candidate will then compete against as many as a dozen international cities, with the International Olympic Committee picking the host in 2005.
“In one level, the nervous tension is building a bit,” said Dan Knise, president of Washington DC 2012. “But that’s also tempered by the reality that we’ve done all we can.”
The 11-member site evaluation team visited each of the four cities for a second time in the last two months. Though the team was already familiar with the sites, many of the cities had changed key parts of their bids since the committee’s first visit.
Washington, for example, scrapped its idea of spreading venues among “hub cities,” centralizing most in an Olympic Park similar to the one at the Sydney Games. San Francisco moved some of its competition sites, too, putting 92 percent of the venues within 32 miles of the Olympic Village.
After the visits, each evaluation team member rated the cities, scoring the bids in almost 20 different categories. The evaluations were done independently, with the cities being judged on a number system rather than against each other.
“It’s very much in line with the IOC and how they choose a city,” said Bob Condron, director of media services for the USOC. “It’s very number-oriented, very well-documented. And it’s much more scientific than we have done in the past.”
The members’ scores will be compared for the first time at Tuesday’s meeting. The committee will then select the two cities it thinks has the best chance to win in 2005.
“The key is that the USOC is going to pick the city with the best chance to win internationally,” said Dan Doctoroff, New York’s deputy mayor for economic development and former head of NYC 2012. “Otherwise, this whole process is futile.”
San Francisco and Washington, D.C., are thought to be the front-runners. Washington is even acting like a host city already, with banners throughout the city touting the games. The “Arrivals Channel” at Reagan National Airport’s baggage claim has a donated ad for the Olympic bid.
But New York could be a sentimental favorite, after the September 11 terrorist attacks. The mayor of Rome, itself a contender for 2012, even suggested shortly after the attacks that other bid cities support New York’s candidacy, but the IOC rejected that idea.
Washington’s bid centers around an Olympic Sports Complex at the current site of RFK Stadium on a cleaned-up Anacostia River. The complex would be the site of nine sports, the new stadium, an Olympic plaza, the media center and various support facilities.
That means nearly all events would be within a mile of a rail or subway station.
“I would call it a low-risk, high reward bid,” Knise said. “We’ve got mass transit in place already. We’ve got a world-class swimming venue in place. We’ve got 23 of 33 venues in place already, and you add to that the great cultural aspect of Washington. We’ve got a pretty good case to make.”
San Francisco’s weather, waterfront and scenic vistas are its strong points. Organizers, who have already spent $5.5 million on their effort, plan to use the Golden Gate Bridge as a signature emblem, the way Sydney’s Opera House was used during the 2000 Summer Olympics.
“I like to say we are quietly confident,” said Anne Cribbs, a former Olympian and head of the Bay Area Sports Organizing Committee. “I believe that San Francisco is one of the favorite places for the world to visit. I think that the weather is a big thing in our favor and we have beautiful venues.”
New York is promoting its claim as the country’s biggest city, saying its subway system is extensive and can easily handle large volumes of people. All of the venues will be accessible by either rail or water, so athletes would never even have to be on a roadway.
The city also has a unique legacy with its diversity and immigrant history, Doctoroff said.
“New York represents the best of what the Olympics is all about,” he said. “Fundamentally, what draws people here is dreams whether the dream is to be rich or successful. Traditionally it’s been the dream of having a better life.
“New York, probably more than any other city, is a magnet for dreams.”
Houston’s technical plan is its strength, with 90 percent of venues either already complete or under construction. There’s a unique double stadium setup, with the Astrodome and Reliant Stadium just a few feet from each other. Most of the venues will be located there, a plus for security and ease of transportation.
Organizers, who have already spent $6.5 million, are also ready to commit to an $87 million renovation of the Astrodome, making it into an elite track and field facility if it gets the U.S. bid.
“Technical ability is going to equate to international appeal in 2005,” said Susan Bandy, president of Houston 2012. “Given they will have just come off Athens and they’re going into Beijing in 2005, the IOC is going to be feeling very risk-averse.”
But the ultimate question could be whether the IOC wants to come back to the United States. If an American city is chosen for 2012, the United States will have hosted three Olympics in 16 years. And not all of those memories are great, with the Salt Lake City bribery scandal and the many problems in Atlanta.
Then there’s the 2010 Winter Games. Vancouver is one of the favorites to host those Olympics, and the IOC might be hesitant to put two games in North America so close together.
But Condron said that shouldn’t be an issue. Europe has held winter and summer games close to each other in the past.
“This is not a posturing for 2016 or 2020,” Condron said. “If we had felt like we couldn’t have brought the games back in 2012, we wouldn’t have done this process and wasted everyone’s money and time. We feel this is very realistic.”

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