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    Rivals dispute Olympics figures

    Organizers trying to bring the 2012 Games to Tampa say they would bring in a $670-million surplus.

    By CHRISTOPHER GOFFARD

    © St. Petersburg Times, published March 23, 2001


    TAMPA -- The numbers are dazzling.

    It's tough to look at the $670-million surplus and $3.16-billion in total revenue projected by the group trying to land the 2012 Olympics for Tampa without whistling.

    The projected surplus is considerably more than the $193-million reported from last year's Sydney Games. The revenue estimates far surpass those of any other U.S. city vying for the games.

    Florida 2012, the local group formed to bring Olympics to Tampa, calls the estimate conservative.

    Its competitors call it something else.

    "That sounds like a huge number," said Dan Knise, president and CEO of Washington/Baltimore 2012. "I don't know what their basis is."

    "No one's come near to that" in ticket revenue at previous Olympics, said Susan Bandy, executive director of the group bidding for the 2012 games for Houston. "Whether it's realistic, I don't know. It sounds high. It sounds real high."

    The world of Olympic economics can vexing and complicated.

    The complications begin with the variables competing cities consider in drafting estimates, which include how many tickets might be sold, stadium capacity and what athletic venues will cost to build. Tweak any of those factors, and the projected dollars can soar or plunge by hundreds of millions.

    That helps explain why dollar estimates vary so widely among the seven U.S. cities vying for the Games.

    Florida 2012, for example, projects $907-million in ticket sales. Bandy declined to release Houston's estimates but pointed out that the 1996 Atlanta Games sold $425-million in tickets.

    Cincinnati, Dallas and Baltimore-Washington, D.C., each project total revenue of $2.7-billion. For Cincinnati, it means an estimated surplus of $145-million, and for Dallas, $200-million. Knise of the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., group, did not have a projected surplus but said "our ticket sales are at least a couple hundred million dollars below (Tampa's)."

    Other American cities bidding for the games are San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York. Their projections could not be obtained this week.

    While many cities have released estimates for the Games, the U.S. Olympic Committee forbids them from divulging full budgets.

    Ed Turanchik, president of Florida 2012, has proposed a 110,000-seat Olympic stadium at a cost of $270-million. More seats, the group hopes, equals more ticket revenue. Dan Knise said the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., bid proposes stadium capacity of 80,000 to 85,000.

    Philip Porter, a professor at the University of South Florida who specializes in sports economics, said he doesn't trust Turanchik's numbers, especially when the budget can't be scrutinized.

    "I don't see how he can tell you this Olympics is going to generate more revenue than ever," Porter said. "Until he reveals the books, until he gives you every line item in the book, I'd be awfully leery."

    Turanchik could not be reached for comment Thursday.

    The Olympics don't always turn a profit. For Montreal in 1976 and Barcelona in 1992, the Games produced more than $1-billion in debt. While the 1984 Los Angeles Games generated a $233-million surplus, the 1996 Atlanta Games appear a trickier matter. Depending on whom you ask, they made money or broke even.

    A report from the Atlanta Olympic Organizing Committee says they broke even. Turanchik has said they had a $7-million surplus, though he could not be reached to supply his source for the number. Whatever the reality, the city did acquire a new stadium from the Games.

    Florida 2012 is banking on the area's reputation as a tourist magnet to fill seats. The group projects 80 percent of the 11-million available tickets will be sold.

    "We already enjoy a very large visitor base," said Joe Schwartz, director of legacy programs for Florida 2012. "We're going to sell a lot of merchandise and take advantage of a lot of visitors."

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