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County could benefit if 2012 Olympics held in metro area

December 01, 1999|By BRENDAN KIRBY

Washington County could enjoy packed hotel rooms and cultural benefits if the Washington-Baltimore region lands the 2012 Summer Olympics, an organizer of the effort said Wednesday morning.

Speaking to a Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce group at the Ramada Inn, Dan Knise said the 1996 Olympics pumped $5 billion into the Atlanta and Georgia economies and generated $165 million in tax revenue.

Although Washington County would be outside the core area, it would share in the gains along with the entire region.

"It's the single-biggest economic development opportunity in the world," said Knise, president and CEO of the Washington/Baltimore 2012 Coalition.

The year 2012 may seem far away, but the organization already has been at work for 18 months, merging separate efforts by Baltimore and Washington.

Knise said the coalition faces a great deal of work over the next two years.

Next year, it must submit a 550-page proposal detailing everything from a site for every event to the location of the opening and closing ceremonies to the transportation plan.

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The U.S. Olympics Committee will select the American candidate by 2002 and the host city will be chosen in 2005.

Knise estimated the cost of the bid at between $9 million and $10 million.

If the coalition is successful, Knise predicted every hotel within 200 miles of the Washington-Baltimore corridor will be filled for 20 days or more.

"You would clearly see an uptick in visitors to the county during that period," he said.

That would be good news for Washington County businesses, said Timothy G. Henry, who organized the "Eggs & Issues" discussion for the Chamber.

"I think we have a real opportunity here," he said.

Western Maryland also has a chance to participate in the games. Knise said the Savage River in Garrett County is a natural site for canoe and kayak events.

Although Washington County probably would not host an event, Knise said it could host one or more of the practice facilities, which would be scattered throughout Maryland, Virginia and the District.

Hagerstown Community College could serve as a practice facility for an international team, Knise said. He added that minor league baseball stadiums are ideal for women's softball.

Knise said Washington County would benefit in other ways. It would be part of cultural exchange and youth programs, and would be along the route of the Olympic torch run, he said.

"We'd love to have you along for the ride," Knise told the business leaders.

The Washington/Baltimore group is competing against seven other U.S. cities, including three that Knise believes are the toughest competition: Dallas, San Francisco and New York.

Knise said he thinks his group is the front-runner because of its appeal as the national capital and its existing stadiums and athletic facilities.

"We can win. This is real," he said.

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