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    Olympics group to tour area in August

    Olympics organizers will send a team to Central Florida to meet leaders and judge the area's infrastructure.

    By BRIAN LANDMAN

    © St. Petersburg Times, published May 4, 2001


    TAMPA -- The United States Olympic Committee will send a site evaluation team to Tampa in August for something akin to a test drive of the area, said Ed Turanchik, president and CEO of Florida 2012.

    "It's hard for people to grasp how things fit together, no matter how good the bid document is," Turanchik said Thursday after the visit was announced. "This is an opportunity to go beyond what's on paper. Kick the tires, if you will."

    But will the USOC then buy Tampa Bay and Central Florida as its candidate to host the 2012 Olympic Games?

    Much will hinge on what the eight members of the evaluation team see and hear during their spin around the area Aug. 2-5.

    "This is not ceremonial or a protocol visit," USOC spokesman Mike Moran said. "All these people (on the evaluation team) are sharp-eyed, intelligent individuals who know what to look for and know how to look past the hype. They're going to ask specific questions and will want to see specific things."

    In addition to touring venues, the evaluation team will meet local organizers, business and political leaders and attend presentations on 10 key topics including housing, transportation, finances, government support, sports infrastructure and public opinion.

    It will also experience first-hand what it's like driving from Orlando to Tampa and St. Petersburg as well as the heat and humidity of a Central Florida summer. The proposed dates if the Games are held here in 2012 are June 15 to July 1.

    The same USOC team, led by chairman Charles H. Moore, will visit the other seven bidding communities this summer: Washington/Baltimore (June 10-13); Dallas (June 18-21); Houston (July 16-19); Cincinnati (July 23-26); New York (July 30-Aug. 2); San Francisco (Aug. 20-23) and Los Angeles (Aug. 23-26).

    "This is exactly where we wanted to be," Turanchik said of the tour schedule. "We wanted to be toward the back end because we think we're going to stack up really well against the competition."

    By the end of the year, the USOC will have a short list of no more than four possibilities. The U.S. candidate city will be announced in October 2002. The International Olympic Committee would then choose a host for the XXXth Olympiad in September 2005.

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