Maryland's trouble with a state sports program cost the state a chance to host a U.S. Olympic Festival yesterday.

The U.S. Olympic Festival Committee announced yesterday that it had awarded the 1993, 1994 and 1995 festivals to San Antonio, St. Louis and Denver, respectively.

The state was among five finalists being considered to host one of the three national festivals, but a scandal involving its Olympic-style Maryland State Games program forced state officials to scramble to find a new team to head up the effort.

Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene originally sought the bid through its State Games project. The effort came to a halt when state auditors questioned more than $460,000 in expenditures by a foundation affiliated with the state sports program, prompting a criminal investigation by the state Attorney General's Office.

A new team was then created by Gov. William Donald Schaefer that included business leaders, athletes and members of the Department of Economic and Employment Development.

"The shifting of their organization at the last minute created some doubt," said Don Porter, the chairman of the USOC Festival selection committee. "It was very difficult to assess how those changes would affect the bid."

Porter also said the state's sports facilities "didn't really measure up" to those offered by the other cities competing for the festivals. Along with Maryland, a three-county area of south Florida also did not receive a bid.

"We are obviously disappointed at the news," said J. Randall Evans, who accompanied the Maryland bid team to Dallas, in a prepared statement.

Evans, who runs the state's Department of Economic and Employment Development, said Maryland would try again to attract a U.S. Olympic Festival to the state, possibly in 1997, 1998, 1999. The multisport national festival is held each non-Olympic year; Los Angeles will host this year's festival.

"We may not have been chosen this time, but we will not let this decision slow down Maryland's Olympic movement," Evans said.