Seattle's once-grand Pacific Rim Sports Summit is officially dead today, and lawyers already are circling to assign blame for what could be an expensive collapse.
Seattle’s once-grand Pacific Rim Sports Summit is officially dead today, and lawyers already are circling to assign blame for what could be an expensive collapse.
The U.S. Olympic Committee received notice this morning from its former management partner, the Seattle Organizing Committee, that the June 7-12, multi-sport Olympic event has been canceled, USOC officials said.
The Seattle group, led by former Goodwill Games organizer Bob Walsh, said it intends to dissolve itself and cancel the event, which originally was to include some 900 athletes from nine Pacific Rim nations.
The Summit, announced with great fanfare last summer, had been seen as key to putting Seattle back on the map for hosting major international sports events.
The USOC said it will begin working with leaders of affected sports to “create alternatives” to the event for its athletes. It is believed that some of the Summit’s marquee events – track and field and women’s softball, for example – will be moved to other U.S. cities during the same early June timeframe.
USOC officials also said they have asked Seattle organizers to assure that money held in escrow for ticket sales be reserved for customer refunds. It is unclear how many tickets were sold, or why tickets still were being sold as late as yesterday, even though many Summit events had for all practical purposes been canceled for days or even weeks.
Ticketholders should contact the Seattle Organizing Committee at 206-903-6850 to inquire about refunds, the USOC said.
The collapse of the Summit is a major embarrassment to Seattle sports officials, notably Walsh, CEO of the organizing committee and a longtime Seattle Olympic-bid proponent.
But the battle over who deserves the blame for the debacle may only have just begun. Leaders of both the USOC and the SOC have spent much of this week hunkered down with lawyers, exploring options to pull the plug on the event, pay off creditors – and perhaps keep the matter out of court.
The Seattle group 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. But sources say the USOC never was contractually committed to provide national sponsorship money.
Organizing committee sources insist the money was verbally promised, and 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.
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