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D.C. presents 2012 Olympics bid

(Published June 18, 2001)


Staff Writer

The U.S. Olympic Committee finished its two-day inspection of the area’s key venues in Washington-Baltimore’s bid to host the 2012 Summer Olympics and made transportation one of the site selection committee’s largest questions about the region’s ability to host the Olympics.

Despite record ridership and overcrowding complaints since Metro opened its Green Line into Prince George’s County earlier this year, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) says it will be ready to handle Olympics visitors by 2012.

Rick Stevens, WMATA’s director of business and planning development, said Metro would treat the Olympics just like any other major event.

"We would treat the Olympics the same way we have treated the Fourth of July, the Million Man March and the 1993 presidential inauguration," Stevens said, naming events that resulted in some of Metro’s highest ridership days. "Not every event is happening at the same time and that gives us plenty of capacity."

The USOC visitors rode Metro and MARC trains, one of the Washington-to-Baltimore commuter lines, during their whirlwind inspection tour. While expressing concern about transportation between the proposed Olympic venues, at least one committee member also expressed some confidence that the region would be able to handle the prolonged throngs of additional visitors.

"The transportation system is good now," said Evie Dennis, former USOC vice president. "But what it is going to look like in 2012 is a different question. I believe transportation in this area is very good, and with the resources in this area you should be OK."

Washington was the first stop on a tour of eight cities, all competing for the committee to submit its bid to the International Olympic Committee next summer.

"When we look at the depths of venues with the backdrops of Annapolis, Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, Northern Virginia and Washington, a city that daily hosts the globe, I look at [this] bid as a great partnership and leadership and proven ability to host huge events," said Charles Moore of the USOC 2012 Task Force.

Moore’s team mostly avoided answering specific questions at a June 11 news conference but thanked the city for the way officials carried out the tours of the local venues and their presentations on the region’s finances, sports experience, accommodations, infrastructure and international appeal.

Over the next three months, the USOC team will visit Cincinnati, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Tampa-Orlando as they compete against the Washington-Baltimore region to gain the U.S. bid. Seattle dropped out of the bidding earlier this year. The USOC is expected to narrow the field this fall, then select a U.S. city by July 2002. The International Olympic Committee expects to then make its selection for the 2012 Olympics host city by 2005.

After the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and the horrible traffic that resulted from lack of multiple public transportation systems, USOC officials say a good public transportation system is a "top priority."

Metro has also been given a federal grant to extend the Blue Line out to Largo, Md., which would support the large volume of traffic that would attend the several of the events proposed for Prince George’s County, including soccer. Metro is also expected to complete an extension to Dulles International Airport in Loudon County, Va., by 2010.

The proposed local venues for the games include Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, which would host track and field. It is also an alternate site proposed for the opening ceremonies. Other venues include FedEx Field, Prince George’s Stadium, University of Maryland-College Park, George Mason University, PSI Net Stadium and Orioles Park at Camden Yards.

The local committee bidding for the Olympics, which includes leaders of the Federal City Council, also has proposed conducting the opening and closing ceremonies simultaneously on the National Mall and at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

"From our perspective, an opportunity to be creative at the Mall would be a very interesting approach," Moore said.

Copyright 2001, The Common Denominator