• 59°

Olympics in Cincinnati not so far-fetched

The International Olympic Committee decided in July that Beijing will host the 2008 Olympic Games.

Thursday, August 16, 2001

The International Olympic Committee decided in July that Beijing will host the 2008 Olympic Games. Now, that decision has some Ohioans thinking about their role in future games. Having the games outside of America again in 2008 improves the odds that they will come back to the U.S. in 2012, said the man leading Cincinnati’s bid for the 2012 Games.

”It certainly improves the chances of an American city in 2012. Our task at hand is to make sure that we’re the American city picked,” said Nick Vehr, president of Cincinnati 2012 Inc.

”The selection of Beijing kind of reaffirms the notion that the Olympic Games are about so much more than 17 days of sport. In the case of Beijing, they sold this as a way to open up the nation,” said Vehr, a former Cincinnati city councilman.

Cincinnati is competing against Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Tampa and Washington-Baltimore – to become the U.S. candidate, which will then compete internationally. The U.S. Olympic Committee will pick the 2012 candidate city in the fall of 2002.

If picked, Cincinnati’s fame – and fortune – could extend to hundreds of miles around, including into Lawrence County through which many would travel or find lodging, experts said last month.

"Most of the people who do come to the visitor’s center are going that way now," said Viviane Khounlavong, director of the Lawrence County Covention and Visitor’s Bureau in the Chamber of Commerce office.

U.S. 52 is one of the most scenic routes to travel, and it provides excellent access to Cincinnati from many points east, Khounlavong said.

"Most people who stop here are stopping to stay It’s more peaceful and cheaper than the bigger cities," she said, adding that having the Olympics only two hours a way would only increase that type of traffic.

It would more than likely have a positive economic effect on Lawrence County, she said.

Last week, Cincinnati 2012 Inc. received its first infusion of public money – a total of $750,000. Officials said Ohio is contributing $500,000 and Kentucky $200,000 through tourism funds, and the Northern Kentucky Convention and Visitors Bureau has pledged $50,000.

Cincinnati 2012 officials said the pledges raise to $6 million the total amount pledged so far in support of the city’s Olympics bid. Cincinnati and surrounding Hamilton County, however, have declined to help finance the bid.

Local support for the Olympics bid is a key element considered in which city gets chosen, officials have said.

A Cincinnati Olympics would mean venues spread over cities in Ohio and Kentucky, including Dayton, Columbus, Lexington and Louisville.

U.S. Olympic Committee officials are visiting the competing U.S. cities. Cincinnati’s visit is scheduled July 23-26, as fourth of the eight cities on the tour.

Houston’s bid organizers are banking on their city, the fourth-largest city in the United States, because it’s the most air-conditioned city in the world. And a majority of the Olympic events could be held in buildings cooled to springlike temperatures.

”All the perception is of heat,” said George DeMontrond III, chairman of the Houston 2012 Foundation. ”But when you analyze it, everyone has that. We have the solution.

”That’s a significant issue we need to get across to the evaluation committee and the public. It’s one of the bigger issues and we’ve solved it.”

The U.S. Olympic Committee already visited Washington and Dallas as part of an eight-city tour to select a host city for the 2012 Games. Houston’s visit will come just before Cincinnati’s.

The USOC will make its selection in March 2003 and the International Olympic Committee will name the winner in September 2005.

<I>The Associated Press contributed to this story.