Tuesday, December 05, 2000

Olympic bidders seek $500,000 from county

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Nick Vehr made a pitch to Hamilton County commissioners Monday, asking that county taxpayers ante up in his bid to bring the 2012 Olympic Games to town.

        Mr. Vehr, president of Cincinnati 2012, wants $500,000 from county coffers to help him land the Summer Games. He's asking for $250,000 from each of the next two years' county budgets.

        The request comes 10 days before the deadline to submit a proposal to the U.S. Olympic Committee. Cincinnati is one of eight cities asking to be picked by the USOC in the fall of 2002. That city will then compete against an international field to be host for the games.

        Mr. Vehr said the money will be used over the next two years to pay his staff, as well as paying for the expenses of working through the bid process and in marketing that effort.

        A nonprofit organization, Cincinnati 2012 still needs about $2.5 million to cover expenses of the bid process. Mr. Vehr said it has raised $5.1 million privately and now needs a show of public support.

        Commissioners said they will consider the matter at a Dec. 13 public hearing on next year's budget.

        If selected by the USOC, Mr. Vehr said, it will take an additional $3 million in local and state government support to go through the international bid competition. The budget would be about $15 million, he said, with about 20 percent of that coming from public sources.

        “The economic benefits of the Olympic Games are hardly disputed anymore,” Mr. Vehr said. “It's very real and very measurable.”

        What is being disputed, however, is the amount of public money it will take to put on the games should Cincinnati be selected as the host city.

        Mr. Vehr said ticket sales, sponsorship, broadcast rights and merchandising sales will cover all costs.

        Chris Finney doesn't believe it.

        Mr. Finney, an attorney for an anti-tax organization called Coalition Opposed to Additional Taxes and Spending (COAST), says the games will cost taxpayers $9.23 billion.

        “The fact is, it will be enormously expensive,” Mr. Finney said. “If you look at the real-life experience in Salt Lake City and Atlanta, the public infrastructure improvements have been to the tune of billions of dollars.”

        COAST used information off the Internet to calculate how much would have to be spent on venues and infrastructure improvements in Cincinnati.

        Mr. Vehr said those numbers are inaccurate and, in many cases, not relevant to the bid his organization has developed.

        The COAST report, for example, says Cincinnati 2012 will have to spend $2.5 billion on new facilities. Mr. Vehr said the cost will be about $188 million.

        “As we have said repeatedly over the past several years, one of the greatest strengths of the Cincinnati bid will be the ability to utilize primarily existing venues,” Mr. Vehr said.

        He added that all operating expenses for being host to the games will come from private sources — a $2.5 billion budget. Mr. Vehr has projected that his group will raise $2.7 billion, leaving a $145 million surplus after the torch is extinguished.

        Mr. Vehr was in Columbus Monday night, seeking a resolution of support from its City Council. He told the Columbus council that he would not seek its financial support for the effort.


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