Fewer than 60 days before its scheduled opening ceremony, Seattle's Pacific Rim Sports Summit is on life support, and most of its premiere...
Fewer than 60 days before its scheduled opening ceremony, Seattle’s Pacific Rim Sports Summit is on life support, and most of its premiere events will be axed by next week, barring a last-minute miracle.
The summit, originally billed as a major Olympic-level competition drawing 900 athletes from nine sports and nine nations around the Pacific, remains in danger of complete cancellation. And even in a best-case scenario, marquee events such as track and field, women’s softball, gymnastics and track cycling likely will be canceled, sources close to the matter confirmed yesterday.
That would leave the June 7-12 event, originally billed as the beginning of the “Road to Beijing” and its 2008 Summer Games, with only basketball, volleyball, synchronized swimming and diving.
The summit, originally a collaboration between promoter Bob Walsh’s Seattle Organizing Committee and the United States Olympic Committee, will be substantially scaled back — if a decision is made to go ahead, Darryl Seibel, the USOC’s chief communications officer, confirmed yesterday.
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And it appears likely that the USOC will take over the event from the Seattle group.
A small delegation of USOC officials spent the past two days in Seattle, meeting with event officials and trying to “assess the status of ongoing planning and preparation for the event,” Seibel said.
Final decisions on program changes are still being made and won’t be announced until next week, said Seibel, who declined to confirm which sports are being axed.
But Seibel and Steven Roush, the USOC’s chief of sport performance, acknowledged that the unexpected cost of bringing some Seattle-area venues up to snuff for international competition make it highly unlikely those sports will survive.
That points to the probable cancellation of track and field, which was to take place on a revamped city high-school track in West Seattle; track cycling, scheduled for Redmond’s Marymoor Park Velodrome, and women’s softball, also set for Marymoor Park. All three facilities would have needed expensive upgrades to competition surfaces, seating, lighting and other facilities.
Gymnastics, scheduled for the Tacoma Dome, now is believed to be a dubious prospect because of problems attracting top athletes. Archery, also scheduled for Marymoor, also is expected to be dropped.
Tickets for all nine sports have been on sale since Feb. 1. Sales were said to be strong for some events, notably women’s softball, which would have featured the juggernaut U.S. gold-medal team from the Athens Olympic Games.
No announcements have been made about ticket refunds. The Seattle Organizing Committee has not released sales figures for tickets, which as of yesterday were still being sold by Ticketmaster.
While some staffers might continue in their roles, it now appears likely that the Seattle committee itself is likely to disband as an entity managing the summit.
“For this event to happen the way it needs to happen, it will take greater involvement from the USOC,” Seibel said. That involvement is likely to take the form of financial support and the obvious strings that come with that — managerial control.
“I would say the Seattle Organizing Committee is still in charge of the event” as of yesterday, Seibel said. “But as we look how to go forward, in all likelihood you’ll see an increase in involvement from the USOC.”
Walsh, the organizer of Seattle’s 1990 Goodwill Games and a frequent advocate of a Seattle bid for the world’s biggest sports extravaganza — a Summer Olympic Games — was not available for comment yesterday. The Seattle Organizing Committee’s spokeswoman did not return calls from The Times.
The original budget for the event was set at about $12 million by Walsh, who said the money was secured through private sponsors. Major contributors for the Summit, which organizers hoped would move to Beijing next summer and return to Seattle in 2007, are Boeing and the Port of Seattle.
Seibel emphasized that this week’s meetings with sponsors, venue managers and others this week have been productive and said the USOC remains enthusiastic about the possibility of the event.
“There’s clearly tremendous enthusiasm in the community for the event,” Seibel said. “But with only 60 days to go, we have to make certain there’s a plan in place that will support a world-class event.”
If it appears the USOC can’t provide an event of the caliber it would expect for its own athletes overseas, then “we probably shouldn’t go forward,” Roush said.
Participating nations were to include the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China, Korea and Russia. It’s unclear how many of those nations would participate in a scaled-back summit.
Survival of the event seems far from a sure thing today. Any plans to have the USOC essentially take over and manage the event will require approval from the group’s governing body, which might be reluctant to devote intensive USOC staff time to the increasingly small-scale Seattle summit with the organization’s big-ticket item — the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy — only about 300 days away.
The summit’s companion arts and economics programs are not expected to be affected by changes to the sports program.
Cancellation or gutting of the sports events would be a significant embarrassment to Seattle’s international-level-sports promoters, who had hoped to use this event as a springboard to attract more Olympic-caliber events, Olympic trials, and perhaps even a Summer Games.
A small-scale Seattle event stands in danger, in fact, of being overshadowed by the biggest pieces of its own program unfolding at venues in other cities at the same time as a reduced Seattle competition. Because commitments already have been made to athletes from the United States and the other participating nations, events such as the track meet and softball competition might be moved to other U.S. cities during the same time frame, sources said this week.
Ron Judd: 206-464-8280 or at email@example.com.