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Bay Area Unites in Bid for Olympics

Sports: San Francisco would be the host city for the 2012 Summer Games, but events would be scattered across the region.


PALO ALTO — The bid to bring the 2012 Summer Olympics to California has San Francisco's name all over it. Glossy brochures feature photos of the Golden Gate Bridge and tout the city's international flair and moderate summer climate as ideal conditions for competition.

But the San Francisco proposal is really a regionwide bid. The most high-profile events would take place elsewhere in the Bay Area, and holding the Olympics here would require unprecedented cooperation of cities and counties on everything from security and transportation to funding and bragging rights.

If selected, San Francisco would be able to show off its picturesque bay views in such events as the sailing and triathlon competitions. Its gleaming new waterfront ballpark would be home to baseball games.

But there would be no Golden Gate Bridge shining in the background during opening and closing ceremonies, which would be held at Stanford University, about 30 miles to the south in Palo Alto. So would competition in 10 sports, including track and field, swimming, diving and the pentathlon. Included in the proposed budget is $150 million to renovate the private university's Stanford Stadium.

The athletes would be housed in Mountain View--even farther south than Palo Alto. An Olympic village is envisioned at the site of Moffett Field, a former naval air station now under the auspices of NASA and the Army Corps of Engineers. Plans call for the construction of 2,500 residential units on the government-owned property, which organizers hope would ultimately be turned into private housing in partnership with a real estate developer.

Originally the bid was supposed to be for a Bay Area Olympics, but San Francisco won the title because the International Olympic Committee requires that just one city be designated as host.

"One reason we felt the bid was so strong was, it offers San Francisco and Silicon Valley, the marriage of the two," said Anne Cribbs, chief executive of the Bay Area Sports Organizing Committee, the Palo Alto-based group that is spearheading the bid.

On Nov. 3, the U.S. Olympic Committee will select San Francisco or New York as the U.S. candidate to be host of the Games a decade from now. The International Olympic Committee won't make a final selection until 2005.

An American city is widely considered a long shot, however, considering that the U.S. has been host to four Games in the last 22 years. Winter Games were held in Lake Placid, N.Y., in 1980 and Salt Lake City this year. Summer Games were in Los Angeles in 1984 and Atlanta in 1996.

A North American city may face even longer odds if Vancouver, British Columbia, is chosen as host for the 2010 Winter Games. It was announced Wednesday that the western Canadian city was among the four finalists.

If Vancouver is selected, many believe the International Olympic Committee would be unlikely to select another North American city just two years later. The other candidates for 2010 are Salzburg, Austria; Bern, Switzerland; and Pyeongchang, South Korea.

But the odds haven't dampened the optimism of San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, who said he was "ecstatic" to learn that his city is a finalist among U.S. cities.

"We believe we offer the best conditions for the athletes and the most financially responsible bid," Brown said. "I am confident that San Francisco will be chosen as the American candidate for the 2012 Games."

Plans call for 10 sporting events within the San Francisco city limits, including the triathlon, table tennis, taekwondo, boxing and fencing and preliminary soccer and handball matches. Other competitions would be in San Jose, Santa Clara, Oakland and Berkeley, and some as far away as Monterey, Napa Valley and Sacramento.

Organizers say it is this decentralized model, drawing heavily on existing facilities around the Bay Area, that makes the plan financially attractive. In addition to Stanford, events would be at UC Berkeley, San Jose State University and Santa Clara University, and at professional sports stadiums, including the Oakland Coliseum Arena, Network Associates Coliseum, 3Com Park and Pacific Bell Ballpark.

To shuttle spectators to various events, planners are counting on the completion of some long-planned improvements in the region's existing public transportation. The most ambitious of these is a major extension of BART, the Bay Area Rapid Transit subway system, from San Francisco to San Jose. The line now doesn't go far enough south to reach the San Francisco Airport.

About 80% of the necessary funding for a BART extension has been secured from state and local sources, but the region must compete for the federal funds necessary to complete the project. Local transportation officials hope that landing an Olympic bid would help them beat other cities for those transportation dollars.

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