- The Washington Times - Monday, May 27, 2002

The recent visit by our Team USA Olympians and Paralympians provided a fitting reminder of how powerful the Olympic spirit can be. As these athletes crisscrossed the region for congressional meetings, school assemblies and a presidential visit, they helped bring to life the meaning of hard work, perseverance and overcoming obstacles. They helped us understand both the journey and the goal and the importance of teamwork.
Here in Washington and the surrounding region, we have the opportunity to capture this same Olympic spirit. Our bid to host the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games continues to build momentum as we head toward the November 2002 decision with regard to the U.S. candidate city.
As one of four finalist cities the others are Houston, New York, and San Francisco we are working hard to improve our bid proposal, showcase our sports-friendly fans and build community support. The Greater Washington Board of Trade's Potomac Conference recently at Gallaudet University brought together business, government and non-profit leaders to discuss how we can assure victory in November. More importantly, this session also focused on how our region can use this bid, and the eventual hosting of the Olympic Games, to make our community a better place to live, work and play.
Our region has less than six months to win a shot at hosting the 2012 Olympic Games. The U.S. Olympic Committee will make its final visit here in late June before naming the U.S. candidate city in November.
Being named the U.S. candidate city all but guarantees that our region will some day host the Olympics if not in 2012, sometime in the future. On the other hand, if we don't win in November, we've probably eliminated any chance of hosting the Olympic Games in our nation's capital for at least 25 years.
Business and government leaders like the expected economic benefits of hosting this major international event 70,000 new jobs and $131 million in new sales-tax and personal income-tax revenues alone.
But every resident of the region will like the prospect of enhanced community facilities that will be used for Olympic and Paralympic training and remain in our neighborhoods long after the Olympic Games are over. New, needed sports facilities (e.g., a community swim center in Arlington) would be partially funded by revenues from broadcast rights, sponsorships and ticket sales. Transportation improvements will come as well. This could be the way we finally get rail to Washington Dulles International Airport.
Beyond the economic and infrastructure gains the Olympic Games would bring is the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for communities on both sides of the Potomac Washington and Wheaton, Ballston and Baltimore to get behind a single, uniting mission. Working together for the next 10 years on the Olympics could be a community-builder like none we've ever had an experience that would be good practice for solving other challenges like water quality, transportation and affordable housing. The Olympics can help us become a stronger community.
Proof of the Olympics' community-building potential was reported to the Potomac Conference by the chief executive of the New South Wales Chamber of Commerce in Sydney, Australia, site of the 2000 Summer Olympics. Beyond the $1.1 billion in new trade and investment that the Olympics brought to New South Wales, hosting the Olympics paid long-term dividends in how local groups work together. Now conversation among all agencies is second nature.
Our region has the assets to win the coveted Host City bid 23 of 33 venues already exist or are under construction; 100,000-plus hotel rooms; a superior rail transit system and three airports. Our national capital area is experienced in hosting international visitors and we have long been a symbol of freedom. We also offer countless inspiring backdrops, from Baltimore's Fort McHenry to the Washington Monument and yet we're one of the few world capitals that have not hosted an Olympic Games.
It's time for Washington and our region to assume its rightful role on the world stage. In the words of the 2012 bid committee's new theme, we are the "heart of the nation and host to the world."
Salt Lake City lit its torch. Sydney lit its torch. Now it's time for the greater Washington region to light a fire under ourselves and give our best to the host city bid. I encourage every citizen to share the excitement of the Olympic Games and join our "race for the rings."

Samuel A. Schreiber, president of Greater Washington First Union/Wachovia, serves on the board of Washington, D.C. 2012.


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