The local business community has been reluctant to help sponsor the effort to bring part of the 1994 World Cup soccer tournament to Washington, the head of the D.C. organizing committee said.
John Koskinen, chairman of World Cup Washington, D.C., Region 1994, said he has received commitments from government and civic groups to submit a bid for the city to play host to a portion of the world's most-viewed sporting event.
However, he said he's surprised that more businesses have not expressed interest in the quadrennial soccer tournament, which will be staged by the United States for the first time.
Washington is vying to play host to as many as seven games during the month-long summer event, including the opening ceremonies and championship game.
"We appreciate the interest from companies who have given us reasonably enthusiastic general responses, but we're disappointed with the specific responses," he said. "Our biggest problem is getting people to understand this is a humongous event that will have a major economic impact."
A study by Economic Research Associates of Los Angeles estimated that five games in a city of Washington's size would generate about $50 million. Also, an estimated television audience of 1 billion watched last summer's final from Rome.
Four local companies have made a commitment to support the local bid, project manager Emilio Pozzi said, but "we need more of the business community to demonstrate an interest."
The D.C. group needs to raise $300,000, most of which is refundable depending on what games Washington might be awarded by FIFA, world soccer's governing body. The group also is interested in hosting FIFA Congress meetings prior to the competition, the international media center and a number of games prior to the final.
The host nation's capital city traditionally is one of the central venues, but no sites are guaranteed.
"Most companies look at it as a contribution, like to the Boy Scouts," Koskinen said. "We're trying to convince them of what the potential holds."
The D.C. Armory Board is expected to approve $100,000 for the bid, General Manager Jim Dalrymple said yesterday. RFK Stadium, which is operated by the board, would be the local venue unless Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke builds a new stadium that meets FIFA specifications.
Although the bid deadline for the 32 cities that have expressed interest in hosting Cup games recently was extended from Dec. 14, 1990, to May 1, 1991, the Washington group wants to meet the original date because, Koskinen said, "it will make a major statement if we can submit early."
The bid document almost is finalized and "we would be in very good shape if we had the money," he added. "The organizing is not the problem."
Local committees will make oral presentations in late May and FIFA representatives will begin an inspection tour next fall. The World Cup '94 Organizing Committee then will make recommendations to FIFA, which will name eight to 12 sites in December 1991.
"I've operated on the Zen theory that if we couldn't organize the money to make the bid, we didn't deserve the games," said Koskinen, co-owner of the American Soccer League's Maryland Bays and president of the Palmieri Co., which manages large companies that have financial difficulties.