Friday, December 15, 2000

Olympic bid hits big snag


State, city balking at funding

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Ohio Senate President Richard Finan warns that “pure, practical politics” likely would prevent the state from promising to cover any major Olympics-related debts.

        That could leave a gaping hole in Cincinnati's bid for the 2012 Olympiad, because the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is demanding such a guarantee from future Olympics hosts.

THURSDAY COVERAGE
  • Details of the bid
  • Map of proposed venues
  • Status of venues
  • A look at Cincinnati's competition
  • Four annual festivals would precede Games
        Cincinnati 2012 Inc. sent its bid for the Olympics to the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) Thursday. Cincinnati and seven other U.S. cities are competing to become the U.S. candidate to compete internationally for the 2012 Games.

        Since the IOC is demanding the guarantee, Cincinnati has until Dec. 31, 2001, to tell the USOC how it would handle it.

        Sen. Finan (R-Evendale) said the state constitution will not allow the government to put its credit behind any private enterprise.

        “The only way would be if we appropriated a big chunk of money and set it aside in case they needed it,” Mr. Finan said. “When we're facing a situation where the Supreme Court has found our school funding unconstitutional twice, and we're going back for a third round, are we going to take money and set it aside? I think that's a tough sell to the General Assembly.”

        In addition, it appears that Cincinnati City Council will not honor a request for $500,000 to help Cincinnati 2012 through the bidding process over the next two years.

        “There is a reluctance to include the Olympics in the budget right now, as a matter of economics and a matter of principle,” Mayor Charlie Luken said. “I, along with many other members of council, thought this would be done with private mon ey.”

        Cincinnati 2012 has a budget of $7.5 million to carry it through the bid process. The organization has raised $5 million.

        Joe Hale, president of Cinergy Foundation and chairman of the Olympic effort, said local support for the bid effort is important.

        “It's very important, both as a vote of confidence and from a financial standpoint,” Mr. Hale said.

        But Nick Vehr, president of Cincinnati 2012 and a former councilman, said the proposal was so strong it was worth working to overcome such obstacles.

        “Nothing about this is going to be easy,” he said.

        The Hamilton County Commission also is considering an Olympic request for $500,000 over two years. Commissioner Tom Neyer supports the funding, while Commissioner John Dowlin has asked what return taxpayers would get on the investment.

        Commissioner Bob Bedinghaus, who will vote on the county's 2001 budget, has been unavailable for comment since losing his re-election bid in November.

        Tom Brinkman, founder of the anti-tax organization Citizens Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), said he doesn't think the Olympics will work in Cincinnati without billions in government support.

        Mr. Brinkman, who will take a seat on the state legislature in January, said Ohio has other, more important needs — like spending hundreds of millions on higher education over the next 12 years.

        Sen. Finan agrees that education spending will be the legislature's primary focus.

        “Georgia spent a ton on the Olympics,” Mr. Finan said. “And in Utah, they're doing road construction and building bypasses and interchanges all over the place.”

        Given the state's education funding needs, he said, “it will be difficult to allocate big chunks of money to the Olympics or anything else.”

       



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