Friday, October 26, 2001

First 2012 Olympic cuts today

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        SALT LAKE CITY — A handful of Olympics dreams will die today in the snow-capped shadow of the 2002 Winter Games.

        The United States Olympic Committee will make the first cut of the 2012 Summer Olympics, when it pares the list of potential U.S. host cities from eight to three or four.

        Cincinnati is considered by the national press to be a long shot. One oddsmaker put Cincinnati's chances of hosting the 2012 Games at 1 million-to-1.

   Web sites for cities bidding on the 2012 Olympics:
   • New York —
   • San Francisco —
   • Houston —
   • Dallas —
   • Tampa-Orlando —
   • Washington-Baltimore —
   • Los Angeles — no Web site.
   • Cincinnati —
   • Olympics in the Queen City would be held on the last two days of June and first 15 days of July 2012.
   • The Olympic bid document is three volumes, 806 pages and 17 pounds that cost $4 million to produce.
   • The budget is $2.6 billion, with a $311 million contingency fund and a $145 million surplus.
   • Most events are spread over a 100-mile-or-more radius in every direction — boxing in Lousiville, equestrian events in Lexington, softball in Dayton, wrestling in Columbus and sailing on Lake Erie.
   • The bid acknowledges public spending for land and other improvements, but presumes the bulk of the revenue will come from sponsorships, TV rights, tickets and merchandising.
   • A temporary dome would be built over Nippert Stadium on the University of Cincinnati campus for gymnastics and the medal rounds of basketball.
   • Two temporary facilities — an archery complex and a velodrome for cycling — would be built at Princeton High School in Sharonville.
   • An Olympic stadium would be built on the riverfront, west of Paul Brown Stadium and the Brent Spence Bridge.
   • Various athletic events would take place at several local arenas — including Xavier's Cintas Center, Cincinnati Gardens, Paul Brown Stadium, the Reds' Great American Ball Park and UC's Shoemaker Center.
   • Beach volleyball competition would be at Sawyer Point.
   • Cincinnati's Olympic history — the city produced an athlete in the first modern Olympiad of 1896, and the first African-American gold medalist in 1924 — would complement the Games. So, too, would the city's history of art, hospitality and diversity.
   • The region's airports, roads and existing passenger rail are capable of moving the crowds — even without a new light rail system. Light rail, however, would make the bid stronger.
        But Cincinnati's organizers revel in the underdog role against the likes of New York, San Francisco, Houston, Dallas, Tampa/Orlando, Washington and Los Angeles.

        Nick Vehr, president of Cincinnati 2012, says the Queen City's bid represents all of Middle America. That representation — combined with the region's spirit, history of sport and facilities — make Cincinnati a legitimate Olympic contender, he said.

        There's a lot riding on today's announcement. Another chance at Olympic gold won't come around again for decades if Cincinnati is passed over.

        “I think if Cincinnati is not a finalist, the Olympic dream, at least during our lifetime, is over,” Mr. Vehr said. “Some American city will compete for 2012, then it will be 12 to 16 years after that before America gets back in the queue.”

        Today's announcement amounts to a U.S. Olympic primary election. Each of the eight cities submitted bids detailing how they would host and pay for the games. This summer each city entertained a group of USOC officials, who have since made a written recommendation to their executive committee ranking the candidates.

        From here, the finalist cities will spend the next year refining their bids and hosting a second round of visits from the USOC next summer.

        The USOC will make its final selection in October 2002. That city will compete against a field of international cities, with the International Olympic Committee picking a host in 2005.

        Cincinnati will be one of the selected few today, predicted Joe Hale, chairman of Cincinnati 2012 and president of the Cinergy Foundation. But the five-year, more than $4 million effort to land the Games will have been worthwhile even if the Queen City doesn't make the cut, he said.

        “The bid provides a wonderful opportunity for Cincinnati to use the material that's been developed and attract regional, national and international sporting events,” Mr. Hale said.

        To illustrate his point, he said he was recently in Indianapolis talking up Cincinnati's capability of hosting the NCAA basketball championship.

        Mr. Hale, who is here with Mr. Vehr for today's announcement, said waiting for the news makes him feel like an expectant father.

        “It feels like the morning before I got married, or the morning before my first child was born,” Mr. Hale said. “But I pretty much knew how that would turn out. There's an unknown with this.”

        So unknown that the USOC wouldn't drop any hints after meeting with the eight cities Thursday afternoon.

        The news will be delivered in a city that has changed radically as a result of the Olympic Games.

        Like Cincinnati, Salt Lake City is a midsized city of many neighborhoods.

        The city is conservative by most standards — it has laws prohibiting more than two bars on any city block and does not allow waiters to ask restaurant patrons if they want an alcoholic beverage before dinner.

        But to Salt Lake residents, the city is a liberal enclave in a conservative state. Its mayor, Rocky Anderson, plays in a rock band and was a former lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union.

        It is a beautiful city by any standard, sitting at the base of the Wasatch Range of the Rocky Mountains.

        Mitt Romney, president of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee, said the notion that bigger is better for an Olympic host city is simply wrong. Cincinnati, he said, is a viable contender.

        “There are advantages to being small,” Mr. Romney said. “Security is an easier task and the focus of the community can be entirely devoted to the Games. It makes the Games a real celebration for the whole community.”

        Although Salt Lake is a smaller city hosting the smaller Winter Games, it will get $240 million in security grants from the federal government. That compares with the $98 million it cost the federal government for the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta.

        And Salt Lake hasn't always celebrated the Games.

        A $1 billion reconstruction of Interstate 15 gave many residents a headache for each dollar spent. Sprucing up State Street, the main north-south drag through downtown, and the addition of a two-mile light rail connection from downtown to the University of Utah cost local businesses plenty.

        And the city was embarrassed by a scandal involving alleged bribery in the effort to get the Games.

        John Sittner, director of the city's Olympic Planning Department, said local spending on the Games can be separated into three categories:

        • Money that will be reimbursed. This is largely spending on police and security that will be reimbursed by the state and federal grants, along with the Salt Lake Organizing Committee. About $20 million.

        • Money spent then incorporated in the city's normal operations. This really represents a reorganizing of priorities of city staff. No cost.

        • Expenses beyond the city's normal budget brought on specifically by the Olympics. This includes things such as overtime and additional staff needed to plan for the Games. About $7 million.

        Mr. Sittner said the change in the city is dramatic. The list of improvements includes roads, telecommunications, new sports venues and other facilities such as student housing which will be home for Olympic athletes from Feb. 8-24.

        “I don't think the federal government, the state or the city has made any improvements we would not otherwise have made over a longer period of time,” Mr. Sittner said. “But having the Olympics brought focus of all those groups on the things that should be done should be done now, for the Games.”

        Today, Cincinnati and representatives from seven other cities are gathered in this Olympic town to hear if they, too, still have a shot at Olympic glory.

        “This is what we've worked five years for,” Mr. Vehr said. “For the opportunity to proudly go forward as a representative of Middle America. This is what we're playing for.”

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