Boon or Big Headache, Goodwill Games are Biggest Washington Event in Years
Jul. 14, 1990
SEATTLE (AP) _ For Washington State residents, the Goodwill Games will be either a boon or a big headache, depending on their perspective.
In a few days 2,500 athletes, an estimated 60,000 out-of-state visitors and camera crews enough to beam the Olympics-style event into hundreds of millions of homes worldwide will converge here for opening ceremonies.
The ceremonies at the University of Washington's Husky Stadium next Saturday will kick off nearly three weeks of competition and hoopla expected to draw more than $300 million to the state economy.
For Seattle Organizing Committee President Bob Walsh, who drew up the original plans for the games on a cocktail napkin with Turner Broadcasting Chairman Ted Turner, the games have represented a battle for credibility.
Through four years of planning, Walsh has overcome initially skeptical sponsors, a battle with Seattle city officials over security costs and ticket cancellations by two major tour packagers to bring the games off on schedule and so far within budget.
''We had an awful lot of problems to get over. We didn't have $400 million dollars like the Olympics do from TV revenue, but we have to put out the same kind of event,'' Walsh said in his office this past week, surrounded by a buzz of Seattle and Soviet workers armed with cellular phones and rushing to fit the last pieces in place.
''I think we're right on target,'' he said.
For Gov. Booth Gardner, the July 20 to Aug. 5 games represent a chance ''to move us up in terms of where we stand in the minds of people all over the world.''
He has predicted the games ''will do phenomenal wonders for the state of Washington.''
But to police in Seattle, Spokane and other event cities, the games mean longer hours, increased work loads and the threat of international terrorism.
In Spokane, where three events will be held, police vacations have been suspended from July 10-30, and officers are working six days a week, 12 hours a day. Seattle officers are on similar shifts.
Washington State has dedicated $12 million for games protection and other costs, and estimates have local police and the federal government spending up to $20 million more to protect athletes, spectators and dignitaries.
Former President Ronald Reagan was an 11th hour addition for the July 21 opening ceremonies.
For Reagan, the games are a way to ''bring the world closer.''
''The qualities of good sportsmanship, which events such as these develop, will be a force for good in the world,'' he said in a statement.
For hotel operators the games are already a disappointment. Organizers initially reserved 600 of the posh Seattle Westin's 875 rooms for 17 days, starting July 20. But they canceled five percent of those rooms in February and another 10 percent in June, leaving the hotel with vacancies at a time when solid bookings had been predicted.
''In some cases rooms have been released because no one knew exactly what to anticipate,'' said Steve Morris, president of the Convention Bureau in Seattle. ''Everyone was crystal-balling it and the crystal ball was a little hazy.''
The Seattle committee was distributing last week a flyer urging locals to buy event tickets and ''Help put the Goodwill Games over the top.''
''Several high-visibility Goodwill Games events, including boxing and men's basketball have not yet sold out. It is our goal to fill the stands - for the athletes and the international TV cameras,'' the flyer said.
Just over 700,000 tickets had been sold of 1.1 million as of Wednesday, said Seattle games spokesman Dan Sheeran.
He said the organizing committee needed to sell $17 million worth of tickets to break even on the $65 million event. About $11 million in tickets had been sold by late last week, Sheeran said.
Turner Broadcasting expected initially to lose about $10 million from the games, but officials of the Atlanta-based cable TV corporation acknowledge that figure has climbed to as much as $13 million.
''The mood is not gloomy,'' Turner spokesman Donn Bernstein stressed last week after arriving in Seattle. ''Nobody likes to lose, but at least going in everybody knew,'' there would be losses, he said.
Turner lost $26 million on the 1986 Goodwill Games in Moscow.
Some of Washington's largest commercial entities, including Boeing and the ports of Seattle and Tacoma, have paid $25,000 for the chance to showcase themselves to more than 150 foreign buyers from 40 nations in the Goodwill Games International Trade Exhibition, Aug. 1-3.
A group of Soviet and American physicians will use the games to promote their anti-nuclear stance at a Tacoma conference beginning July 24.
The Washington games feature 21 events in Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane, Kennewick, Enumclaw, Redmond and Federal Way.
With opening ceremonies and 17 events in King County, officials are advising commuters to acquaint themselves with mass transit.
Taxi driver Patrick Sutton said Seattle cabbies have mixed feelings about the games.
''I will make more money. But it's going to be hard to serve the customers because traffic is normally so bad and it's going to be that much worse,'' he said.
For air travelers the games will mean hair-trigger security at Seattle- Tacoma International Airport. Security planners have not forgotten the 1972 Olympics in Munich, where 11 Israeli athletes were killed by Arab terrorists, said Seattle Police Capt. John Holman.
The athletes will be segregated from other flyers as they arrive, and be processed through customs at the guarded, fenced off building formerly housing Pan American airways.
And for fear of bombs in the arrival and departure lanes outside the terminal, ''If someone even parks a car and walks away for any amount of time a dog will be there to sniff it and a tow truck will tow it,'' Holman said.
Fencing and guards also surround the athlete's village at the University of Washington, and university students and employees are being routed around the complex.
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