Friday, June 16, 2000

Olympics advice: We'll need billions

'Deep pockets' crucial, Atlantan says

By Robert Anglen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Organizers of an effort to bring the Olympics to Cincinnati in 2012 say they must focus on the legacy of civic and recreation improvements the Queen City will be left with long after the Games have ended.

        While that's a noble goal, it isn't very realistic, said the former chief operating officer of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games.

        “I got sick of the word "legacy' before it was over,” said A.D. Frazier, who led fund-raising efforts for Atlanta's bid for the 1996 Olympics. “If you start out by talking about leaving a legacy, I hope you've got deep pockets.”

        And there's no way the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will consider a city that doesn't have billions in financial backing from state and local agencies, he said.

        “The IOC is not going to let the Olympics be financed the way Atlanta was,” Mr. Frazier said Thursday in a phone interview.

        “We were right up to the wire,” he said, noting the reliance on private money as opposed to public. “I just

        shake my head .... The city fathers over there (Cincinnati) are going to have to put up $1.5 to $2 billion in public money just to have the Games, much less leave a legacy.”

        Nick Vehr, president of Cincinnati 2012 Inc., outlined a plan Thursday that would rely primarily on corporate donations to build new venues and make lasting improvements from Cleveland to Louisville.

        Among those: a new stadium along a restored western Cincinnati riverfront; a new aquatics center at the University of Cincinnati; a cycling track in Loveland; a women's softball facility in Moraine; and a canoe/kayak landing in Paramount's Kings Island.

        “This could be a very exciting legacy,” Mr. Vehr said.

        Mr. Frazier, president of Invesco Inc. in Atlanta, says the legacy is an expensive byproduct of the Games, not their intent.

        “We were happy just to raise enough money to get the Games put on,” he said.

        While there was much criticism about the commercialization of the Atlanta games, Mr. Frazier said there was no alternative because corporate sponsors effectively paid for the Games.

        “And we didn't leave a lot of cash behind,” he said.

        He said the Atlanta region did benefit from several new facilities, including a major league baseball stadium for the Atlanta Braves and improvements at several local colleges.

        Mr. Frazier said other Olympics host cities have had to commit billions of dollars in infrastructure repairs to get the Games. He said it cost Barcelona, Spain, about $9 billion “over and above what the Olympic guys spent.”

        That's not to say he's sorry to have been involved in the Games, or that Cincinnati should not try to win the Olympics. But he said the city needs to know what it is facing.

        “By 2012, it could cost $3 billion,” he said. “Do your sums before you decide to do it.”

        Mr. Vehr acknowledged the Games would be expensive, even within “the scope and scale” of Atlanta's games at $1.7 billion. But he noted the economic impact in host cities years after the Games are over.

        “There are two reasons a city goes after (the Olympics),” he said, “to establish yourself as a world city and for the economic impact.”

        Mr. Vehr said the bid committee is hosting nine public meetings in the next month. The first is Tuesday from 7 to 9 p.m. in Room BEP200 at Northern Kentucky University.

        “I can't emphasize the importance of this being a community bid,” Mr. Vehr said. He hopes residents will raise questions that can be incorporated into a final proposal due to the U.S. Olympic Committee by Dec. 15.

        Seven other U.S. cities — Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Tampa, Fla., and the Washington-Baltimore region — are vying for the Olympics. One entrant will be selected to compete against international cities.


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