- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 30, 2002

Boosters of the joint Washington-Baltimore bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics are feeling pretty good about themselves today. Bid officials survived a grueling two-day site review by a U.S. Olympic Committee task force, and USOC senior official Charles Moore said yesterday the local bid team "enhanced its position" in the race for 2012.
The comment supports a long-held belief within the Olympic community that Washington is a front-runner to win the domestic nod for 2012. But the race is by no means a lock, and three other strong bids still await final USOC review.
"We have four very competent bids," said Moore, chairman of the USOC's site evaluation task force. "These are each cities that have what it takes to have the Olympics."
A more detailed look at each rival bid:
New York. Obviously the largest and most well-known city in the field, it will play host to the USOC task force today and tomorrow.
Given the city's nature of extremes, the 2012 Olympic bid also has glaring attributes both positive and negative. A massive public transportation network already in place, including rail and water, is well-versed in moving millions of people about town. The bid has enhanced the water aspect and branded its overall transit plan "Olympic X."
But the two key elements of any Olympics, a primary stadium and Olympic village, do not exist in New York. The stadium is proposed for Manhattan's West Side, adjacent to the Jacob Javits Convention Center a site that has long been discussed as a new home for the New York Yankees and more recently the New York Jets. Such a project would cost at least $1billion, and lock-solid funding commitments remain elusive.
The Olympic Village is proposed for the Queens West development, just across the East River from the United Nations.
Each of the U.S. bid cities is projecting an operating surplus, itself a stroke of hubris given the still-sketchy history of Olympic economics. But New York went several giant steps forward, projecting an operating surplus of more than $1billion.
The New York bid, of course, is greatly colored by the terrorist attacks of September 11, and questions remain over the city's ability to ensure security in an area already teeming with a daytime population of nearly 20 million.
"We have no idea if [September 11] will help us or hurt us," said Dan Doctoroff, New York City deputy mayor and head of the Olympic bid. But "we don't want any sympathy from anybody."
Houston. The Texas city, long a center of amateur sport, is either the dark-horse favorite in the race or by far the weakest of the four U.S. bids remaining, depending on who's doing the talking.
The bid will rely heavily on Reliant Park, the large cluster of stadiums that includes Reliant Stadium, the new home of the Houston Texans, and the Astrodome. The opening and closing ceremonies would be at Reliant Stadium, and the Olympic Village would be adjacent to the University of Houston and Texas Southern University. Compared to Washington, the Houston plan is much more compact, with most event sites within eight miles of each other. An estimated 92 percent of needed venues in Houston already exists or will by 2007.
The sinful heat of Texas summers is well documented, but bid advocates there insist that will not be an issue.
"We have 180,000 climate-controlled seats in our venues, led, of course, by the Astrodome and Reliant Stadium [which has a retractable roof]. We think that's a pretty powerful way to dispel any questions people have about our weather," said Susan Bandy, president of the Houston 2012 Foundation.
Houston's biggest hurdle is its image as a second-tier American city and its apparent similarities to Atlanta, the still somewhat embattled host of the 1996 Summer Games. Some opinion exists within Olympic circles that Houston does not have enough global cachet to compete against a field including Moscow, London, Paris, Rome and many other world hubs.
"That's an interesting question but really only a question," Bandy said. "We're the fourth-largest city in the country. We speak more then 90 languages. We're the space capital of the world. We were international long before it was [trendy] to be international. The belief that we're not [an international city] does exist, certainly in this country, but it's not based in anything."
San Francisco. Like Washington, the Bay Area made a major revision of its bid in April, shifting several events from Sacramento back into San Francisco and its immediate suburbs.
The changes, like Washington's, were well received by the USOC, and the Bay Area recently landed another coup when it drafted native Texan Michael Johnson, a five-time Olympic medalist and still the world record holder in the 200 and 400 meters, to promote not Houston but San Francisco.
"When it comes to providing the best conditions, the best environment and best plan for the athletes, San Francisco 2012 laps the competitors," Johnson said.
San Francisco is banking on its obvious scenic beauty, temperate summers, widespread tourist appeal, the large number of nearby colleges and its vast experience holding major events like the Super Bowl and U.S. Track & Field Championships. The proposed site for the Olympic Stadium is Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., and the Olympic Village would be nearby at the former Moffett Field Naval Air Station.
Similar to Houston, 80 percent of Sam Francisco's needed venues already exists.
All four cities have spent recent months tightening up the technical elements of their Olympic bids. But Moore cautioned that global appeal to the International Olympic Committee will take precedence over nuts-and-bolts supremacy.
"If it's a question of technical elements versus international appeal, it's definitely the latter," Moore said. "This is going to be a race with a lot of great cities from around the world. But it's one we are absolutely committed to winning."


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