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 contest.
The fund-raising has accelerated in recent months as bid organizers, working on several fronts to assemble a complex Olympic bid, have lured Marriott International, Discovery Communications, T. Rowe Price and other major companies to join the cause. The bid, 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 to generate support for the Olympic movement 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. And next month, more than 300 swimmers will compete at the FINA/USA Swimming World Cup meet at the University of Maryland at College Park, including some Olympic-caliber athletes from Germany, China, Brazil and the United States, among other countries. Organizers say some world records could be broken during the two-day event.
"The Olympics are starting to come to life in the area," said Dan Knise, the coalition's president and chief executive. "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 bid is competing against those from seven other U.S. cities for the country's nomination to host the 2012 Summer Games. Cities such as San Francisco, New York and Dallas are mounting strong efforts for the games, which organizers portray as a possible boon to a region's economic development and civic spirit if successful.
Competing cities must submit bids--hefty, complicated documents covering cultural, safety and logistical issues--to the U.S. Olympic Committee by December 2000. Two years later, the committee selects the U.S. 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, 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 in Maryland, Washington and Northern Virginia as potential host venues for track and field, soccer, archery and dozens of other Olympic events.
"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."
The Washington-Baltimore bid is an unusual cooperative effort between cities for the right to host the 17-day Olympics, and it has had to surmount a simmering regional rivalry to do so. Two bid committees merged to form the coalition, leaving some original Washington organizers out in the cold. Because good public relations is essential to any successful bid, organizers have tried hard to bridge regional differences and move beyond those early growing pains.
For example, Knise said the coalition is considering an unusual opening ceremony--the showcase event in the eyes of the image-conscious international committee--that would take place simultaneously in Washington and Baltimore. Olympic rules require all athletes to be in one location for the event, but Knise said there may be a way to do that and include both cities in the games' centerpiece.
Knise acknowledges that the bid is still "below most people's radar screens." But he said he expects that to change with the number of events the coalition hopes to bring to the area in the coming months and as he increases his promotional speaking and lobbying to the broader 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 University in January. He said the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, now less than a year away, also could give a boost to efforts to bring the games here.
But for the region to catch Olympic fever, Knise said, most of the promotional work will have to be done close to the community.
For example, Knise said that he hopes to begin more programs such as "Olympic Kids," an educational effort sponsored by the U.S. Olympic Committee 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 a core of support for the effort. He said he would broaden that lobbying in the coming months--shifting from chambers of commerce to community groups, among others--as the bid document begins to take shape and he adds another person or two to the five-member paid staff.
"We don't want to overstretch ourselves, because from this point on out, we have to do every event we bring here exactly right," Knise said.