Seattle's grand new summer Olympic sports showcase appears on the verge of becoming less grand. The June 7-12 Pacific Rim Sports Summit...
Seattle’s grand new summer Olympic sports showcase appears on the verge of becoming less grand.
The June 7-12 Pacific Rim Sports Summit, billed by promoters as the first athletic step on the road to the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China, is likely to be significantly scaled back in coming days, sources say.
The event, originally billed as a contest of 900 top athletes from nine nations to compete in nine sports, could turn out to be much smaller.
Officials with the Seattle Organizing Committee, led by local sports promoter and former Seattle Olympic-bid backer Bob Walsh, wouldn’t comment on the scale of the rumored rollback yesterday. But they and the U.S. Olympic Committee acknowledged pending “adjustments to the format and structure” of the event.
More details were expected today or tomorrow.
“We would like to emphasize that the Summit has not been canceled,” said committee spokeswoman Karen Russell. “We fully intend to proceed with a multi-sport, international event in Seattle this summer.”
The group felt obligated to acknowledge pending changes because “there’s a lot of rumors out there,” Russell said.
An accompanying medical summit and arts festival, featuring Japan’s Grand Kabuki Theatre, should not be affected, she added.
USOC spokesman Darryl Seibel declined to comment on details of the sports schedule change, or speculate on which sports might be affected.
“We’re committed to making certain the event is a success — most importantly for all the athletes,” he said. “Our focus is squarely on that.”
Tickets have been on sale since Feb. 1 for a five-day slate of archery, volleyball, diving, synchronized swimming, track and field, gymnastics, track cycling, basketball and softball.
From the beginning, Seattle organizers struggled to find venues for some sports, notably track and field, which was set to take place at a high-school facility, the Southwest Athletic Complex in West Seattle, where major seating additions and other improvements would be needed.
Other venues tabbed for some high-profile events, such as gymnastics and a men’s under-19 basketball competition, are high-rent buildings such as the Tacoma Dome and KeyArena. Officials also pledged to update and improve several outdoor venues.
Because University of Washington dormitories were unavailable, organizers also faced the expensive prospect of housing all the athletes, as well as coaches, officials and others, in downtown hotels.
Officials wouldn’t say whether any pending changes to the event were caused by a lack of financing or lagging ticket sales. Boeing is the lead sponsor for the event, which had a budget originally estimated at about $12 million, all of which was expected to be raised privately. Walsh and others also had been hoping for federal assistance with security.
No announcement was made on the status of ticket sales, or any potential refunds.
A major rollback of the Sports Summit could be an embarrassing blow for the Seattle Organizing Committee’s bid to reestablish Seattle as a major-event sports city, a status largely lost when the demolition of the Kingdome left it without major events such as the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
Walsh, the motivating force behind Seattle’s 1990 Goodwill Games, had worked with others to launch a Seattle bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics. That bid died in 1998, in the face of significant local opposition.
Walsh’s latest effort tapped into the USOC’s ongoing desire to show off Olympic athletes in non-Olympic years in several select mini-host cities around the U.S. Seattle’s Sports Summit, which was to include athletes from the U.S., China, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Russia, Japan and Korea, has been seen as a cornerstone of that effort.
Ron Judd: 206-464-8280 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.