Saturday, May 17, 1997
Setback won't extinguish
Vehr's torch


BY TIM SULLIVAN
The Cincinnati Enquirer

It dawns on Nick Vehr that his youngest child may have children of her own by 2012, but it does not deter him. His Olympic quest is delayed, but undaunted. His vision for the Summer Games of Cincinnati grew a bit blurry this week, but the campaign continues.

"The truth is that I couldn't not do this if I wanted to," Vehr said Friday afternoon. "I've stepped inside the dream, and I will just not allow myself to step back outside until it's either over or it comes."

When United States Olympic Committee leadership recommended Thursday that no American city pursue the 2008 Summer Games, Vehr might have taken it as his cue to move on. He might have decided that Cincinnati's outside chance at a longshot bid on a one-time event in 2012 was no longer worth his time.

He might have decided to chuck the idea, and to throw his energies into some more promising project. He might have rescued the rain forests, perhaps, or developed a smart bomb for telephone solicitors. Instead, Nick Vehr presses on in the proud, obsessive tradition of Don Quixote and Captain Ahab. He is one of those guys who can't take a hint.

"I don't know what it is," he said, "but there's just this genetic thing that makes me want to be involved in a big way in this community, and I can think of no bigger way (than the Olympics). The potential for impact and the potential for change is unmatched." Vehr's premise is sound - the Summer Games would have a profound impact on any place - but this doesn't make them attainable. Competition for the rights - both foreign and domestic - is increasingly crazed.

Beijing's bad luck

Eight American cities were willing to pay $100,000 just to compete for the U.S. bid for 2008, knowing that those Games would likely land on another continent. Comparatively speaking, though, their madness was modest.

In pursuing the 2000 Games, Beijing distributed thousands of fly swatters among its citizens so that its insect population might be less irritating to Juan Antonio Samaranch, president of the International Olympic Committee. Factories were closed to cut down on pollution. Air force units were sent on sorties to break up cloud formations.

Yet national groveling is no guarantee of getting the Games. Beijing lost out to Sydney, even after nominating Samaranch for the Nobel Peace Prize. Tricky thing, Olympic politics. It is conceivable that Nick Vehr could be devoting his working life to a rainbow beyond his reach.

Not to worry, he says.

"I'll never have to look back and wonder what if?" Vehr said. "For me what really drives this is a desire to have an impact on the quality of life in this community and its people, to push people to look further than they're used to looking, to see things where right now they can't see anything."

A dose of the positive

Cincinnati can surely use some of that. This city needs more vision and less venom; a clear idea of what it wants to be and leadership able to articulate it. Maybe Vehr has picked the wrong vehicle, but he has the right idea.

"If Nick's behind it, I think it can happen," said Dan Pinger, whose public relations firm employs Vehr part-time. "If anyone else was behind it, I'd have serious doubts.

"He is a dreamer, but he's also an excellent thinker. If you explore his personality, the very core of Nick, he's an upbeat person. He always finds the positive in the grimmest negative, and he perseveres." Because it will take four more years before the USOC sanctions another Olympic bid, some cities must reevaluate their perseverance. New York, organizer Dan Doctoroff indicated, is already wavering. Cincinnati remains stubborn.

"Clocks and calendars - they don't matter with things like this," Nick Vehr said. "Go ask Amanda Borden why she spent years and years in the gym so that when it came time she could go nail the balance beam routine to win the gold for her team. Go ask Joey Hudepohl why he spent every morning of every year in the swimming pool so he could swim 30 seconds in Atlanta."

Go ask Nick Vehr why he bothers, and he'll tell you it's no bother at all.

SULLIVAN ARCHIVE