- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 10, 2002

It is entirely possible New York will hold an outstanding Summer Olympics. It is entirely possible the country's media and financial center will marshal together the $5 billion it says it needs to stage a modern Olympiad complete with a long list of massive construction projects and prove a world of doubters wrong. It is entirely possible New York represents America's best chance to land another Olympics.
But lost in New York's coronation last week as the U.S. Olympic Committee's candidate to play host to the 2012 Summer Olympics was exactly how New York won. Sure, New York is a global hub, and the USOC needed a brand name to compete in a stacked world field that will include Rome, Paris, Moscow, Madrid and possibly Toronto. It's also important to remember, however, the two other primary competitors for the USOC nod, San Francisco and Washington, were both trampled upon in the Big Apple's run to glory.
Backtrack to August. New York, San Francisco, Washington and Houston were the four semifinalists for the USOC endorsement. Initial expectations leaned heavily in favor of Washington and San Francisco moving on to the final domestic round, but USOC officials had been blown away by New York's bid during a site visit earlier in the summer. Washington missed the cut, its bid hampered by "anti-American [sentiment]," according to Charles Moore, head of the USOC's site evaluation team.
In more than four years of active pursuit of the 2012 Olympics, officials from Washington's bid team say they were never once told of any specific problems with the International Olympic Committee, particularly any stemming from Congress' harsh treatment of then-IOC head Juan Antonio Samaranch in 1999. But Moore admitted those feelings played a role in the committee's selection, and a blindsided Washington never received a fair chance to respond.
San Francisco moved on to join New York in the final round of domestic competition, but it too would be cut off at the knees. Last weekend, just minutes before San Francisco was set to make its final pitch to the USOC board of directors, bid officials were told they were not allowed to talk about their planned budget for a Bay Area games.
San Francisco's budget, a carefully crafted effort involving more than three years of work, reflected a planned operating surplus of $409 million, with that extra money going mostly to amateur sports programs. The figure, while quite bullish given the sordid history of Olympic finance, still attempted to meet the IOC's new mandate toward leaner, more fiscally responsible Olympics and a minimum of new venue construction. Instead, San Francisco lost one of its three key themes just before the pivotal moment in the long bid competition.
Two different scenarios, but in essence, the bait and switch was exactly the same.
"The USOC showed in its decision that glitz matters," said Dan Knise, executive director of the Chesapeake Regional 2012 Coalition, the formal organization for Washington's bid. "Overall, I still think the process was well managed. But the end clearly showed a lot of room for improvement. The way it finished was a shame.
"The budget is a very important element in all of this. To have [San Francisco] not be able to address that and find out at the last minute, that's not the right time."
San Francisco officials were similarly confused about the last-minute news.
"[Moore] took off the table one of our three key concepts," Bob Stiles, director of San Francisco's bid, said after New York was announced as the winner. "[The budget] was on the table since April. That was approved by the site evaluation team in July."
The fairly wide margin of last weekend's vote 132 votes to 91 for San Francisco indicates New York likely would have won the USOC nod regardless of what San Francisco was able to discuss in its final pitch. But when combining these events with some questionable contacts made by both New York and San Francisco to the USOC before the final vote, America's Olympic movement remains not fully recovered from the Salt Lake City bribery scandals of 1998-99.
Moore said the decision to remove budgetary matters from the final 2012 presentations was made to prevent any appearance of essentially trading cash for USOC votes. But USOC executive director Lloyd Ward told the San Jose Mercury News on Friday that additional reform is needed in the selection process to make it more transparent and less susceptible to continued problems.
Others within the USOC do not believe such steps are necessary, guaranteeing the furor from the 2012 selection process will continue for some time.
"I think the bid process was fair. Our challenges were what they were," said Herb Perez, a member of the USOC's executive committee. "Both cities provided excellent bids. Both cities would have done very well advancing the Olympic movement for us. But at the end of the day, there are winners and losers. That's competition. It's a hard thing. You're going to have the losers second-guessing themselves and wondering what went wrong."

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide