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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Wednesday, June 05, 2002

An Olympic effort An Olympic effort (June 05, 2002)

Years of work go into shot at Olympics, resident says

by Kim Carlisle

How much do you remember?

Twenty years ago, the Soviets occupied Afghanistan. Twenty years ago, I -- after earning a berth on the 1980 U.S. Olympic Swimming Team -- stayed home, along with thousands of my U.S. teammates, while the Games went on in Moscow.

Twenty years ago, the Olympic Games were nearly dead, the boycott throwing a debilitating blow to an already financially and politically troubled tradition.

But then came Los Angeles and the vision of Peter Ueberroth. Though the Eastern bloc retaliated for the U.S.-led boycott of the Moscow Games -- leaving the 1984 Olympic Games about as competitive as a Pan American contest in many sports -- Ueberroth and his team staged a Games that utilized regional, existing venues and attracted unprecedented levels of corporate sponsorship.

That combination yielded a legacy of revitalized competition sites for future generations to enjoy and a giant cash surplus that continues to fund youth athletics today, a model that serves as the basis for the Bay Area Sports Organizing Committee's (BASOC) bid for the 2012 Olympic Games.

And that is as it should be. The Olympic Games is an event large enough in scope, compelling enough in mission that it can catalyze a community to work together and overcome previously insurmountable barriers.

The Games compose a vision clear enough to allow disparate views on issues like transportation, security, politics and the environment to find common dialogue. And for all the effort, the Games yield exponential emotional return and tangible physical gains to the hosting cities and millions of visitors alike.

The Bay Area is already benefiting from BASOC's quest to bring the 2012 Summer Games here. Folks from Sacramento to Monterey, from Olympians to business men and women, from developers to environmentalists, from law enforcement experts to marketers, and more than a thousand volunteers have worked on the bid. They have brought their diverse experience, perspectives and communities together to work toward this one giant, visible goal.

They have, in their planning, found new solutions to old problems, taken the first steps toward creation of a handful of new venues, and generated a deeper sense of pride in our regions' people and their accomplishments.

The bidding process for the Games is an Olympian effort in itself. It tests our stamina, our flexibility, our vision, and our faith against the odds. If San Francisco is successful in winning its bid to host the 2012 Summer Games, 14 years of negotiating, politicking, planning and staging will have transpired. And, of course, there is no guarantee of outcome. Unforeseen events and political whims can undo years of work in an instant.

Salt Lake City Olympic organizers know this all too well. They nearly lost the time -- and dollars -- invested in their dream to a breach of ethics among their organizing ranks. The events of Sept. 11 also cast a shadow on the Games. But with new leadership and resolve, the committee prevailed to stage an Olympic Games that were a celebration of the human spirit, a testament to the resilience of their community and our nation, and captured the imagination of those who witnessed them in a time when such inspiration was desperately needed.

For me, Salt Lake provided the opportunity to witness my first Olympic ceremony (the Closing) in person, a deeply moving and reaffirming experience of all that is good and right in our world.

Despite its obvious warts -- drug use, politics, terrorist target -- what other event on the planet commands more attention and brings together more nations than the Olympic Games? A war, perhaps, but which would you rather fight for?

A Stanford graduate and member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic Swimming Team, Kim Carlisle is a freelance writer, photographer and mother of two who lives in Menlo Park.


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