- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 29, 2002

U.S. Olympic Committee officials making their final in-person review yesterday of the joint Washington-Baltimore bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics made no pronouncements on their opinion of the bid and offered no clues whether the local effort still will be alive when a final selection is made in November.
However, that did not stop local bid officials from giving themselves passing grades following the first half of the two-day USOC site visit.
"I have no doubt that we have what it takes to host the Olympics, and I have no doubt we will not be [one of the cities] eliminated [by the USOC]," said Clarence Bishop, senior vice president of the Chesapeake Region 2012 Coalition. "We think they're very pleased with what we're showing them."
The USOC site visits, starting in Washington and continuing in New York, Houston and then San Francisco, are the last opportunities for each of four U.S. bid cities to show off their proposals and are considered crucial to the evaluation process.
The coalition yesterday led a 14-member bid evaluation task force from the USOC through the Thurgood Marshall Center in Northwest, the District's first African-American YMCA center; the University of Maryland, slated to be the Olympic Village site for a locally held Games; and RFK Stadium.
After a drastic April revision of the local bid, the 90-acre RFK Stadium site became the centerpiece of the coalition's proposal. Nine sports are now proposed to be held there, plus a large sponsor pavilion and media center. The main Olympic Stadium also is planned for the site.
By declining to comment yesterday, USOC officials followed their usual policy during site visits. However, they will publicly discuss the visit today after its conclusion.
At Maryland, the coalition received a boost of star power when retired Baltimore Orioles legend Cal Ripken arrived to greet the USOC evaluators. Ripken is a coalition board member, but until recently has been involved mostly in name only something he intends to change as the process moves forward.
"This area is rather sports crazy," Ripken told the USOC members. "Everywhere you look, there's new stadiums going up and investments in sports being made. I've certainly been a beneficiary of that. As someone who's lived in this region their whole life, I can say with full confidence the quality of this area is more than sufficient to host the Olympics."
The visit was not entirely without its hitches, however. A passing thunderstorm hit the touring party late in the afternoon, and the group was met by a very small band of protesters led by the D.C. Statehood Green Party that opposes the Olympics. Similar protests are planned again for today.
Unlike yesterday, today's agenda will be controlled by the USOC and will consist almost entirely of a rigorous, detailed question-and-answer session behind closed doors. The questions will be very technical in nature and range from security and transportation to event staging and logistics.
"There's another big day ahead of us. The group is very knowledgeable about our bid and are asking very specific questions about how we propose to use certain areas and move people about, the distances between certain points," said Dan Knise, coalition president and executive director. "It's hard to know yet what they really think, but they've been extremely thorough in their questions."
The group did not travel to Baltimore, as it did during the USOC's first site visit last year. No site changes were made there.
Despite Washington's self-confidence in its Olympic bid, the region is competing in a domestic dash against the other three cities. A September cutdown by the USOC will trim the field to two, and a final selection is expected following a board meeting Nov.2-3 in Colorado. The American winner then will compete against a global field, with the International Olympic Committee selection scheduled for 2005.


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