SBJ/November 5 - 11, 2001/Olympics

2012 survivors face next test

U.S. Olympic officials are making it clear: Houston, New York, San Francisco and Washington are not in a popularity contest as they campaign for the right to enter the global race to host the 2012 Summer Games.

The one advancing a year from now as the American choice will earn that opportunity based solely on its ability to compete against leading 2012 bid candidates around the world. Every effort is in place to discourage the U.S. Olympic Committee screening process from factoring in emotions, aesthetics, entitlement or geographic bias.

Cincinnati, Dallas, Los Angeles and Tampa were eliminated from that process Oct. 26 when the USOC executive committee, meeting in Salt Lake City, unanimously approved recommendations from an evaluation committee.

The next major hurdle for three of the remaining four is submission by Nov. 30 of a financial contingency guarantee to cover budget shortfalls. Houston was the only city satisfying that requirement in advance of the candidate roster cut-down. It has established the framework for a $100 million trust fund based on sales tax revenue generated by the Games should Houston become the 2012 host, according to bid group president Susan Bandy.

New York's guarantee — a $250 million safety net — was approved Oct. 25 by the state Legislature, but it was not received by the USOC panel until after its meetings concluded.

Washington's $200 million financial guarantee is awaiting the mechanics of formal passage, said the bid group's president, Dan Knise. Because Washington 2012 is a coalition combining Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia, the guarantee was held up awaiting sign-off by three legislative bodies.

San Francisco's bid director Bob Stiles said he doesn't know when the city's financial guarantee will be submitted, only that "it's going to happen before Nov. 30." Unlike the other three, the Bay area bid will be backed by a third-party insurance policy. It would cover a shortfall of at least $250 million.

USOC 2012 evaluation panel chairman Charles Moore said that if for any reason San Francisco or Washington miss the Nov. 30 deadline, there is no plan to replace them with one of the four markets that have been cut.

The USOC's final four have a three-month window to respond to the next phase of the process, which will include fulfilling even more specific financial requirements by Moore's panel. A candidate for the international race will be named by the USOC evaluation panel in late 2002.

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