- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 5, 2002

The U.S. Olympic Committee said yesterday it plans to trim the field of domestic candidates for the 2012 Summer Olympics from four to two by September, placing more pressure on Washington to distance itself from its rivals in coming weeks.

USOC officials long had held out the possibility of making some cut to the field of 2012 finalists Washington, bidding jointly with Baltimore; San Francisco; New York; and Houston before making its decision during meetings Nov.2-3. But now that the process has been made known, Washington's immediate chances for 2012 likely will be won or lost during a site visit scheduled for June 28-29.

USOC officials will visit the other three finalists between June 30 and July 15. Last fall the committee removed Los Angeles, Cincinnati, Dallas and Tampa, Fla., from consideration.

"This clearly puts a premium on our work in the next month," said Dan Knise, president and executive director of the Chesapeake Region 2012 Coalition, the local Olympic bid group. "The pressure is on us to perform and get the benefits of our bid across [to the USOC bid-evaluation task force]. But it's been that way all along. This [new] schedule continues to emphasize the USOC's focus on merit."

After the USOC's selection of a single domestic 2012 candidate, that city will compete in a three-year global competition for the Games. The International Olympic Committee then will pick the 2012 host in 2005. Other likely bidders include Toronto, Moscow and Paris.

After the summer site visits, the USOC bid-evaluation task force is expected to make its choices of the two remaining finalists around Labor Day and submit those cities to the organization's executive committee for approval.

"The charge of our task force is to pick the city with the best chance of winning the Olympic Games of 2012," said Charles Moore, chairman of the USOC's bid-evaluation task force. "We feel this [cutdown] is an important step in identifying the most qualified cities to compete for this honor."

During a site visit to Washington and Baltimore last summer, Moore said the local bid "raised the bar" for other U.S. bidders to match. Trying to repeat that impression, coalition officials have given numerous tweaks to the local bid in recent weeks.

In April, the group's written plan for the Games was revised to shift some venue sites away from the suburbs and concentrate events in downtown Washington and Baltimore. In particular, a focal point of the revised bid is a proposed Olympic Sports Complex on the grounds of RFK Stadium and the D.C. Armory.

That facility would house track and field, opening and closing ceremonies, all aquatic events except water polo, boxing, beach volleyball, team handball and archery, as well as the primary media center, sponsor exhibits and additional spectator entertainment.

Also in April, the coalition started a $500,000 marketing campaign designed to promote the bid nationally. The group's Web site, www.dc2012.org, additionally has been revamped. And a Youth Sports Day, in which area children can attend sports clinics led by regional Olympians and Paralympians, is planned for June 15.

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