SBJ/June 4 - 10, 2001/2012 Games The Final Bids

CINCINNATI: Light-rail line, civil unrest pose new wrinkles to bid

The final document may be slightly smaller and technically tweaked, but the essential song behind the bid of Cincinnati 2012 Inc. to snag the 2012 Summer Olympics remains the same.

The initiative still relies on a regional approach, touting Midwestern values and heavily reliant on cash from the private sector. Any modifications were slight and technical in nature, said Nick Vehr, president of the local bid organizing group.

"We received input back on some very technical issues, in terms of the data and information that we have been providing," he said. "We've taken that as an opportunity to strengthen the bid, especially along the lines of environmental and transportation issues."

Vehr declined to comment in detail on the alterations, but one area the U.S. Olympic Committee's site evaluation team is sure to investigate on its scheduled July 23-26 trip to the area is the possibility of a light-rail system. A preliminary design plots a 30-mile trek that begins at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, stops at a major intermodal transportation hub still on the drawing board for downtown Cincinnati, and proceeds throughout northeast Cincinnati into Warren County, one of the region's hot spots for residential and commercial development.

At issue, like the bid of Cincinnati 2012, are how much public funding to commit to such a transportation system and the source of those dollars, according to officials with the lead agency to supervise the light-rail plan, the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments. The group has held public meetings and conducted studies for years but still has not released any type of official groundbreaking for the system.

The USOC site visit also will be a chance for the national group to assess whether the local bid has the type of government, private and corporate support necessary to win the Games. So far, financial support from the government sector has been nonexistent, as the city of Cincinnati, Hamilton County and the states of Ohio and Kentucky have offered only statements of support.

Still, Vehr remains undeterred in his campaign that not only will no public dollars be spent to host the Games, but also that the net impact of the Games will be a positive effect on the local economy and the lives of local workers.

At least one Cincinnati City Council member, however, said the area's push for the 2012 Games was dealt a fatal blow this spring, when Cincinnati made international headlines for rioting and outrage by the city's African-American community, citing numerous acts of alleged police brutality, racial profiling and the police shooting of an unarmed teen-ager wanted on misdemeanor warrants.

"I can't see supporting anything having to do with the Olympics until we deal with what we've got in front of us now," said City Councilman Paul Booth.

Vehr said two of the three chairmen named by Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken to lead a task force investigating the riots and their causes are board members of Cincinnati 2012: the Rev. Damon Lynch III and Ross Love. The third, Tom Cody, works for Federated Department Stores Inc., which has pledged its support and a financial contribution toward the local Olympic effort.

Whether the strife and civil unrest will have any effect on the local Games effort, Vehr said, depends on how people react once the various legal proceedings conclude and fiery rhetoric is put aside.

"There's so much history, so much support for the Olympics as a solution to social injustice, that after we get out of this intense period of raw emotions over what happened here a few months ago, people will come together," he said.   

Andy Hemmer writes for the Business Courier in Cincinnati.

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