The carcass of Seattle's Pacific Rim Sports Summit isn't cold yet, but the lawyers already are circling. As befuddled athletes and ticket...
The carcass of Seattle’s Pacific Rim Sports Summit isn’t cold yet, but the lawyers already are circling.
As befuddled athletes and ticket holders await word of its fate, organizers still haven’t conceded that the June 7-12 event, originally billed as Seattle’s return to the world of major sports-event hosting, is dead.
What began as a major, nine-sport, nine-nation, 900-athlete event was unofficially pared to four sports last week. Now it’s apparently down to only two — volleyball and basketball.
Officials with the other two remaining sports, synchronized swimming and diving, told the U.S. Olympic Committee they were canceling their plans for the Summit, Seattle Organizing Committee CEO Bob Walsh told colleagues Tuesday in an e-mail obtained by The Times.
National governing bodies for both sports “have advised the USOC that they are pulling out of the Pacific Rim Sport Summit, which means two of the four events left are gone,” Walsh wrote. “That certainly will affect the decision to continue the event.”
The national offices for synchronized swimming and diving failed to return phone calls yesterday. Coaches, team directors and other officials with both sports referred all calls to the USOC, which ultimately will decide whether to continue with a reduced event or cancel it altogether. The USOC had no comment.
Meanwhile, the Summit’s management partners, Walsh’s Seattle Organizing Committee (SOC) and USOC staff members, are holed up and not talking — except to attorneys, mulling who is to blame and who might get stuck with unpaid bills.
The finger-pointing games already have begun.
The Seattle group this week accused the USOC of crippling the Summit by reneging on a promise to deliver $2 million to $2.5 million in national sponsorship money for the event, which had a total budget of about $12 million. It also accused the USOC of interfering with attempts to raise more money from local sponsors because of conflicts with its own national sponsors.
That constitutes a breach of a July 26 agreement between the two parties, SOC chairman Jim Dwyer charged in a letter to USOC executive director Jim Scherr on Tuesday.
“Not only has the USOC failed repeatedly to meet its obligations under the agreement, it has, by its own conduct and failure to perform in good faith, interfered with the SOC’s ability to achieve the purposes and intent of the agreement,” Dwyer wrote in the letter, obtained by The Times.
“In sum, alleged deficiencies by SOC, if any, were in fact caused by acts and omissions of the USOC,” Dwyer concluded.
The SOC board — in what might be a final, defiant act — scheduled a teleconference today to review legal options. Two attorneys from Seattle law firm Preston, Gates & Ellis sit on the SOC board.
Dwyer, president and CEO of Washington Dental Services, did not return messages left with his secretary yesterday.
His letter came in response to an April 11 letter from the USOC’s Scherr, who accused the Seattle group of reneging on its management responsibilities, sources say.
“I can assure you that the SOC emphatically denies your express and implied assertions” that the Seattle group failed to live up to its end of the deal, Dwyer told Scherr in the letter, which he asked be shared with the USOC board of directors.
It remains unclear how much money is owed to how many creditors, and whether the USOC ever was contractually committed to provide national sponsorship money. But organizing committee sources, who asked not to be identified, insist the USOC’s failure to deliver the cash was the death knell to the event.
When that money failed to materialize, they say, Walsh chose to scale back rather than renege on his promise that the Summit would not leave a legacy of debt.
“(There) is clear evidence that the USOC failed to deliver any national sponsorship money,” Dwyer’s letter asserts. “In fact, evidence suggests it made no sincere effort to that end.”
Last month, the Colorado Springs-based USOC did provide an undisclosed emergency cash infusion primarily to pay the salaries of SOC staff members, some of whom have been working without pay for weeks, sources say. But the larger sponsorship check never was delivered.
Tickets to all Summit events, even the ones that have been canceled, remained on sale through Ticketmaster yesterday. Neither the SOC nor the USOC has announced ticket-refund plans or explained why ticket sales have continued for events that likely were canceled days or even weeks ago.
The Pacific Rim Summit was to be a major, sub-Olympic sports festival at Puget Sound venues from Tacoma to Everett. Plans called for the event to move next summer to Beijing as a test event for the 2008 Summer Games, then return to Seattle in 2007. The Summit was announced with great fanfare last summer by USOC officials and Walsh, the former 1990 Goodwill Games organizer and frequent Seattle Olympic-bid proponent.
The Seattle Organizing Committee is an 18-member group that includes high-profile community leaders such as former Seattle Sonic Fred Brown, now a senior vice president at Bank of America; Seattle University president Steve Sundborg; Port of Seattle CEO Mic Dinsmore; and Richard Peterson, president and CEO of Swedish Medical Center.
Ron Judd: 206-464-8280 or firstname.lastname@example.org