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Washington-Baltimore Olympic Bid Eliminated By Committee

By Johanna Neuman


The U.S. Olympic Committee has rejected Washington, D.C.’s bid to host the 2012 Olympics because, Washington organizers of the effort say, the European-dominated International Olympic Committee would not smile on an application from a city planning an unpopular war against Iraq.

Once again, it seems, the foreign policy of the federal city has torpedoed the well-meaning, painstaking efforts of Washington to act like a normal town.

Through the civic smiles, it was hard to hide the disappointment.

“It’s difficult to reconcile the fact that we had such a strong technical bid with the decision not to move us forward,” said Dan Knise, one of the torch carriers for Washington’s six-year, $10 million Olympic campaign. ”We always knew that Washington had a unique position, pro and con. But we were somewhat blindsided at the end by this amorphous sense that Washington might not be the right place.”

In making its decision Tuesday, the U.S. Olympic Committee eliminated bids from Houston and the Washington-Baltimore region, leaving alive the hopes of San Francisco and New York to be the U.S. choice to host the 2012 event. Even at that, the U.S. choice faces stiff opposition from several European cities -- among them Paris, Rome and Moscow.

The committee will announce its final selection on Nov. 3.

Officially, the U.S. committee said only that the narrowing of the field was a consensus choice. Unofficially, according to leaders of the Washington-Baltimore team, there was sentiment among committee members that offering Washington as the U.S. choice might inflame the anti-American bias of Europeans distrustful of Bush’s drumbeating for ousting Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Some Washington observers were not surprised that the city -- with its diverse neighborhoods, its cultural wealth, its international flavor and its economic vibrancy -- was once again confused with the governmental policies of the “other” Washington, the seat of federal power.