- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 27, 2002

More than four years of work, nearly $10 million in expenses and tens of thousands of man-hours spent toward a Washington- and Baltimore-based Olympics will either be given a ringing endorsement today by the U.S. Olympic Committee or wiped out in an instant.
USOC officials will meet today in Chicago to narrow the field of domestic hopefuls for the 2012 Summer Olympics from four to two, and unlike last year's first cut of the field, this decision is fraught with difficulty. Each of the four candidates Washington-Baltimore, New York, San Francisco and Houston offer compelling advantages, but also significant drawbacks such as weather, infrastructure, international appeal and traffic.
But local Olympic boosters firmly expect their name to be called during the 5 p.m. (EDT) press conference, likely joining San Francisco, another informally favored bidder, to create a bicoastal fight for the final USOC endorsement.
"There's nervousness to be certain, but we feel very good about what's coming up. I would be very surprised if we don't reach the next round," said Dan Knise, executive director of the Chesapeake Region 2012 Coalition, the official group of the local Olympic bid. "There's really nothing else we can do now but wait for the scores. We've laid it all out on the line. We've made our case that a locally held Games would be great for the Olympic movement. Now we need some feedback."
Following today's decision, the single U.S. candidate for 2012 will be selected during USOC meetings Nov. 2-3 in Colorado. The chosen city will compete in a stacked global field against such hubs as London, Paris, Rome and Moscow, with a final International Olympic Committee decision expected in 2005.
"It's an incredibly loaded field," said Charles Moore, chairman of the USOC's site-selection team, which is leading the review of American 2012 bidders. "But we think we have the best four cities in the world to have the Games. Regardless of who we pick, we need to have a city go forward that can compete globally, and we'll have it. We simply now have the responsibility to make a very hard call."
USOC officials have jealously guarded their leanings, and the actual decision will not be made until later today. During the past two months, the Moore-led site-selection team has visited each city and scored them on nearly 20 criteria ranging from security and transportation to marketing and climate. Each of the numerical scores of the 13-person panel have remained separate until today.
"We haven't done anything yet relative to actual voting," Mr. Moore said. "That happens [today]. I think we're all very eager to see what the scoring comparisons bring forth, what we see when the cities are finally scored against each other."
Despite the objective nature of the scoring process, the bid cities have still lobbed in a few late testimonials in recent days seeking to get a late and more subjective advantage. San Francisco bid officials delivered to the USOC written endorsements from California's political leaders, while Houston scored an official nod from the International Association of Athletics Federations, the global governing body of track and field.
The Washington-Baltimore and San Francisco bids appear particularly strong because of their international appeal a key USOC criterion as well as a relatively minimal need for major facility construction. Both cities earlier this year concentrated their geographically far-flung bids closer to their downtowns. The local bid in particular created a new hub of venue activity at the current site of RFK Stadium, proposing a vast new Olympic Sports Complex holding nine sports, a media center and sponsor pavilion. Much of it would employ temporary seating.
"There are certainly a lot of different scenarios out there in who people think are going to go on [to the final USOC round]," said Anne Cribbs, chief executive of the Bay Area Sports Organizing Committee. "It's kind of like an election. We won't really know until it's all over. But aside from some butterflies, we feel very, very confident about our bid. We think the Bay Area will be an excellent stage for the Games."
The Houston bid, perhaps the most technically sound of the four, stands as the dark horse of the field. With a tightly concentrated venue plan, extensive battery of existing facilities, strong local government commitments and long legacy of amateur sports, Texas boosters are fervently pitching a risk-free Games, something also important given the problems experienced six years ago in Atlanta and now ongoing with 2004 host Athens. But the Sun Belt city's similarities to Atlanta and lack of international magnetism remain unresolved issues.
New York, meanwhile, likely stands in last place in the four-city race. The city may be the country's media and financial center, but it also needs by far the most venue construction, with more than $1billion in new venues required. The terrorist attacks of September 11 will not be a major factor in the USOC vote, some observers say.
"Sentimentality is not part of this, and it really shouldn't be. The Olympics are a massive undertaking and require very serious consideration," said John Lucas, an Olympic historian and retired Penn State University professor. "So when the factors are soberly assessed and the desires of the IOC are entered in, I am virtually certain we're looking at Washington-Baltimore and San Francisco moving on."


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