Organizers of the Washington-Baltimore bid for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games have raised $6 million from some of the region's largest corporations, more than half the amount the group expects to need to compete in the first phase of the process.
The fund-raising has accelerated in recent months as bid organizers, working on several fronts to assemble a complex Olympic bid, have persuaded Marriott International Inc., Discovery Communications Inc., T. Rowe Price Associates Inc. and other major companies to join the cause.
The Washington-Baltimore bid is an unusual cooperative effort between cities for the right to host the 17-day Olympic extravaganza, and organizers have had to surmount a simmering regional rivalry to create it.
Two bid committees were merged to form the coalition, leaving some original Washington organizers out in the cold.
Because good public relations are essential to any successful bid, organizers have tried hard to bridge regional differences and get beyond those early growing pains.
For instance, the coalition is considering unusual opening ceremonies--the showcase event in the eyes of the image-conscious IOC--that would take place simultaneously in Washington and Baltimore, said Dan Knise, the coalition's president and chief executive officer.
Olympic rules require all athletes to be in one location for the ceremonies, but Knise said there may be a way to do that and include both cities in the games' centerpiece.
The bid effort, known as the Washington Baltimore Regional 2012 Coalition, raised $1 million in July alone toward its $10 million goal.
But fund-raising is only one component to the emerging bid. The coalition's small staff has been stepping up community outreach efforts and bidding for other sporting contests to show that the region has what it takes to host world-class events.
Last month, the coalition hosted the U.S. Olympic Committee's National Coaching Recognition awards. Next month, more than 300 swimmers will compete at the FINA/USA Swimming World Cup meet at the University of Maryland in College Park, including some Olympic-caliber athletes. Organizers say some world records could fall during the two-day event.
"The Olympics are starting to come to life in the area," Knise said. "We're going flat out. It's probably busier than I expected, but some of that is because we are building momentum."
The Washington-Baltimore area's bid is competing against those from seven other American cities for the country's nomination to host the 2012 Summer Games. Such cities as San Francisco, New York and Dallas are mounting strong efforts for the games.
Competing cities must submit bids--hefty, complicated documents covering a range of cultural, safety and logistical issues--to the U.S. committee by December 2000. Two years later, the committee selects the American city it believes has the best chance against stiff international competition.
The International Olympic Committee, operating under more restrictive rules after the bribery scandal surrounding the Salt Lake City bid, will select the host city for the 2012 games in the fall of 2005.
A consortium of consulting firms is assembling the local bid document, and over the next three months the focus will be on the all-important site selection process. Knise said the coalition has identified 41 stadiums and arenas across Maryland, Washington and Northern Virginia as potential Olympic venues.
"We think we have a lot to work with, but we have a lot more work to do," said Knise, who is hoping to announce the selections early next year. "Once people start realizing where specific events will be held, that starts to generate a lot of excitement."
Knise acknowledges that the bid is still "below most people's radar screens." But he said he expects that to change with the events the coalition hopes to bring to the area in the coming months and as he steps up his promotional speaking and lobbying to the community.
The coalition is co-hosting the Freestyle Wrestling World Cup in February at the Patriot Center at George Mason University, a prestigious event featuring teams from Cuba, Iran, Russia and other countries. And Knise hopes to announce within two weeks that a major U.S. track and field event will be held at George Mason in January. He said the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, now less than a year away, also could boost efforts to bring the games here.
But for Olympic fever to spread here, Knise said, most of the promotional work will have to be done close to the community. He hopes to begin more programs such as "Olympic Kids," an educational effort sponsored by the USOC and the National Conference of Mayors that emphasizes fitness. The pilot program started last month in three District schools.
Since taking the job less than a year ago, Knise has spent most of his time meeting with business, corporate and political leaders to build support for the effort.
He said he will broaden that lobbying in the coming months--shifting from chambers of commerce to community groups--as the bid document begins to take shape and he adds another person or two to the coalition's five-member paid staff.
"We don't want to over-stretch ourselves, because from this point on out we have to do every event we bring here exactly right," Knise said.