Sunday, July 22, 2001

Cincinnati is the 'Rudy' of Olympic bidders




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        For five years, we have looked at Nick Vehr and seen a man climbing Everest on his knees. Vehr wants Cincinnati to host the 2012 Summer Games. He wants who to do what? Vehr is the last spawning salmon, swimming upstream.

        But, boy, has he worked at it. Man, have Nick Vehr and his gung-ho band of believers at Cincinnati 2012 put in the miles. It's easy if you're San Francisco to make an Olympic bid. How hard could it be if you're Washington or New York? Look at our monuments, our beauty. Behold our blatant greatness. Any questions?

        But Cincinnati?

        “I know it's a great story line, the whole underdog thing,” Vehr said Friday.

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Nick Vehr has alerady devoted five years to his quixotic quest.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
| ZOOM |
        Underdog? Vehr was a starting tight end at Notre
Dame. So let's put the Cincinnati 2012 bid in perspective: It's the Rudy of Olympic quests. “But I really believe it's the right time for Cincinnati to host the Olympic Games,” he said.

        He has gotten us this far: Starting Monday night for

        four days, nine members of the United States Olympic Committee will be in town, checking us out. They will bus to Dayton, Columbus, Lexington and points in between. They will observe every inch of metro Cincinnati.

        Vehr believes it's time for a Midwestern city to host the Games. He thinks Midwestern values will appeal to an “Olympic movement,” whatever that is, lately rocked by scandal. Vehr is convinced a kinder, simpler Games is the answer, and we're just the guys to put them on.

        This is not a place of showy gestures. The next four days won't be, either. The local bid committee will work the little angles hard. Oh sure, Cincy 2012 has its eight PowerPoint presentations, 30-minute persuasions on why the phones will work, the bills will be paid and the buses will run on time.

        But it also has booked the USOC people into the Marriott in Covington, where their rooms will face the Cincinnati skyline. Hotel staff has been instructed to open the blinds in each room Monday night, so the special guests get a full facial of downtown as soon as they walk in.

        All hotel employees will wear Cincy 2012 bid pins. The bus drivers will wear similar shirts. Scoreboards at each arena will flash “Welcome USOC.” And so forth.

        “By the fourth city, their heads are going to be spinning,” Vehr said of the USOC members. (Cincinnati is fourth on the list of eight cities to be visited.) “What matters is we have the fundamental capability to pull this off. The next thing is, they want a good partner. When they leave, they have to be saying, "Wouldn't that be a great group of people to work with?'”

        In other words, the Little City That Could will make them feel loved.

        Will it be enough? It would make the 1980 hockey team's win look like a mortal lock.

        On Friday, Vehr bore the glassy gaze of a marathoner at Mile 26. The circles under his eyes were so deep, he looked like a raccoon. “I sit back now and try to think of the one thing we haven't thought of,” he said. “I haven't thought of it yet.”

        If it doesn't work — if, by the end of this year or early next, the USOC dumps Cincinnati from its roster of contenders — you could look at it as five years of folly. The Rudy Games? Uh-huh.

        Or you could look at it like this: One person in this town had the guts and the vision to think big. Maybe that will sway the movers and shakers to do the same. What a welcome switch that would be.

        When Vehr was a senior at St.Xavier High, he told one of his coaches he wanted to play football at Notre Dame. “What have you been smoking?” was the coach's answer. Five years later, Vehr had won three letters and played on a national title team in South Bend.

        The Rudy Games aren't dead yet.

        E-mail: pdaugherty@enquirer.com. Past columns at Enquirer.com/columns/daugherty.

City gets Olympic inspection
- DAUGHERTY: Cincinnati is the 'Rudy' of Olympic bidders
Where Olympic events would be held
A look at the competition for the U.S. bid
New ethics rules promote a squeaky-clean process
USOC Site Evaluation Team staff members



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