Dan Knise, who led Washington-Baltimore's unsuccessful attempt to bid for the 2012 Olympics, met with more than a half-dozen of his former partners at a downtown District restaurant yesterday for what was intended to be a purely social lunch to chat about the selection of London to host the 2012 Games earlier in the morning.
The outing, however, morphed into something closer to a business meeting as the group pondered making a pitch for the 2016 Games. Just hours after New York met with a resounding defeat -- eliminated in the second round of voting by the International Olympic Committee in Singapore -- the U.S. Olympic Committee surprisingly announced it would soon open a new bidding process to determine its candidate for the 2016 Olympics by the end of next year.
New York officials have not said whether they will bid again. In any case, the USOC said, New York would have no advantage.
The dissolved but still-connected D.C.-Baltimore group, which three years ago finished behind New York and San Francisco after three years of campaigning, spent nearly two hours discussing the possibility of resuscitating the bid, Knise said.
"We're interested," Knise said. "The key is we have more to find out [from the USOC] and clearly more bases to touch within the community. . . . So far, the feedback I've gotten about this from a variety of sources is positive: Let's give this a try."
Washington Mayor Anthony Williams said yesterday, "If New York were no longer the U.S. city, then of course, I think we should renew our bid."
Knise said the Greater Washington Sports Alliance, a nonprofit group he helped found, would sponsor the bid if it were to go forward. He said officials at the luncheon agreed the region could put together a more compelling bid than the previous one given recent developments in the local sports landscape, such as planned stadiums for D.C. United and the Washington Nationals to be built along the Anacostia waterfront.
"We've got a better situation than we probably did three years ago," said Knise, who was joined yesterday by former D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission president Bobby Goldwater, former bid team communications director Kelley Mullaney, Maryland Sports Corp. head Barbara Bozzuto and others. "The harder part is figuring out what the USOC process is going to be and what's the lay of the land."
USOC Chairman Peter Ueberroth and CEO Jim Scherr said the 11-member USOC board would meet in the coming weeks to devise the terms of a selection process designed to move far more quickly than the one that whittled New York from a field of eight candidates.
"We'd have to have it solid, done, announced and moving forward certainly in the calendar of '06," Ueberroth said by phone from Singapore.
The USOC's quick shift from New York's failed bid to an almost eager announcement of an open selection process that gives New York no right-of-first-refusal caught Knise and other Olympic officials off-guard. The readiness to move forward with or without New York suggests either that USOC officials don't expect New York to bid again for 2016 or that they were frustrated by certain elements of New York's plan and would welcome a different approach.
New York's bid was undermined just a month ago when a state board failed to approve funding for the bid's central component, an Olympic stadium on the west side of Manhattan.
Though New York officials scrambled to put together a new stadium deal in the borough of Queens that they said showcased their ingenuity and resilience, the USOC apparently did not appreciate the last-minute slip-up. When asked if the next bid process would require more concrete construction guarantees, Ueberroth said "that's an assumption you can make."
Other elements of the selection process, Ueberroth said, would be determined by the board based on recommendations from Scherr and his staff.
"It will be fair, transparent and equal opportunity for those cities interested," Scherr said, also by phone from Singapore.
Anne Cribbs, the leader of San Francisco's bid group, said yesterday her team had interest in bidding again but would await further details from the USOC. Other cities likely to express interest include those who went through the USOC's previous selection process: Los Angeles, Tampa-Orlando, Houston, Cincinnati and Dallas.
Los Angeles could emerge as a major contender despite having gotten knocked out after the first round of the 2012 city selection (along with Cincinnati, Dallas and Tampa-Orlando). Ueberroth lives in Los Angeles and directed the 1984 Olympic Games there with such success that he was named Time magazine's man of the year. Two other board members, Anita DeFrantz and Bob Ctvrtlik, also have strong ties to Los Angeles, and DeFrantz was a vocal supporter of Los Angeles's failed 2012 candidacy.
Still, San Francisco would seem to have the most compelling claim to succeed New York. A 2003 vote of a USOC technical evaluation team to narrow the 2012 field to two finalists gave New York nine votes and San Francisco six. Washington finished with five and Houston none.
It is unclear when New York officials will announce their intentions for 2016. They expressed indecision about their bid's future yesterday, Scherr said, and bid founder Dan Doctoroff told The Post in February that a second bid seemed unlikely.
"Our bid today is a combination of a unique series of resources that I'm not sure are replicable," Doctoroff said then. "I do think this is a unique moment in time."
Staff writer Lori Montgomery contributed to this report.