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Orlando, Tampa Bid for ’12 Olympics

June 17, 1998

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) _ The tourism mecca of Orlando joined Tampa on Wednesday in a bid to bring the 2012 Olympics to central Florida.

The two-city combination improves Florida’s chances of landing the international games, officials said during a news conference at the Florida Citrus Bowl.

``I don’t think any region in the United States has more than we have. We came from a city that was wishfully thinking to a region that’s a powerhouse,″ Hillsborough County Commissioner Ed Turanchik said.

The bid would have venues stretching along Interstate 4 from Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg to Tropicana Field in Tampa to the Orlando Convention Center.

The two metro areas have two international airports and will have close to 200,000 hotel rooms by 2012.

Under the arrangement, Tampa would be the center of an Olympics festival and Orlando its junior partner. Orlando area venues, such as the Citrus Bowl, Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex and the Orlando Arena, could play host to such competitions as soccer and basketball.

Nine other cities are bidding to be the United States representative, which will be chosen by the U.S. Olympic Committee in 2002. Those cities are Arlington, Texas; Baltimore; Cincinnati; Houston; Los Angeles; New York; San Francisco; Seattle and Washington.

The International Olympic Committee will chose a final site in 2005.

Support for Tampa’s Olympic bid marks an about-face for Orlando and Orange County officials who only last year decided to pass on making their own bid for the sports competition.

Orlando Mayor Glenda Hood said she changed her mind because of the regional approach and because no public money from Orlando would be spent to build new venues. Existing venues mainly will be used.

While some new facilities will have to be built, it won’t approach the $514 million that Atlanta spent on the 1996 Summer Olympics, officials said.

Objections were also raised last year by Orlando’s tourism industry, which feared an Olympics would displace visitors during summertime, one of the busiest times of the year.

However, the Olympics would be held in June, the slowest part of the summer, and the Orlando area would launch a marketing campaign to convince tourists that the area won’t shut down for the Olympics, said Bill Peeper, executive director of the Orlando-Orange County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

As for the Florida heat, officials said, it won’t be any hotter than Atlanta was in 1996.

It’s unlikely that any Olympic visitors would displace Orlando’s traditional tourist, but, even if they did, the area would still benefit since the Olympic visitors tends to spend more money, said Abraham Pizam, professor of tourism management at the University of Central Florida.

Tampa, so far, has put up $150,000 to enter the bidding. The cost of an Olympic bid campaign could eventually cost between $4 million and $6 million paid by the private sector and some tourist tax dollars, Turanchik said.