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U.S. panel to pick Olympic bid in 2002

It will be five years before the people leading Tampa Bay's Olympic bid know whether they have a shot at bringing the games to Florida.

The board of directors of the United States Olympic Committee, closing its two-day meeting Sunday at the Omni Rosen Hotel, unanimously supported a selection process for the 2012 Olympic Summer Games host bid and set the official timeline for its candidate cities.

Representatives from the 10 cities, including Tampa, will learn more about the selection process at the bid seminar Wednesday and Thursday at the Peabody Hotel.

They then will move according to the deadlines on the now-firm timeline. The 10 cities must submit their final bids by the spring of 2000. One of them will be selected at the USOC board of directors meeting in the fall of 2002 _ two years later than originally anticipated.

"We told all the interested bid cities in advance . . . that the timetables outlined were tentative and subject to change by the board of directors," USOC executive director Dick Schultz said. "Some of them may have jumped out too quickly. I feel bad if some of the cities are discomforted by the timeline changes, but I don't see any way this could have been done by 2000."

Part of the reason for the delay is that the USOC wants to complete the selection process for the 2007 Pan American Games host bid first. Houston; San Antonio, Texas; Raleigh, N.C.; and Dade County must submit final bids by September 1998, and the USOC will select one in spring 1999.

The delay is also so that the USOC can prepare for Salt Lake City in 2002 and use those Winter Games as a launch point for the 2012 bid.

"Salt Lake City needs our full attention and focus," USOC president Bill Hybl said.

The International Olympic Committee requires that all bids for the 2012 Games be submitted by early 2003. The IOC then will select the 2012 host city in the fall of 2005.

The 10 cities vying to become the U.S. host candidate for 2012 are Arlington, Texas; Baltimore; Cincinnati; Houston; Los Angeles; New York City; San Francisco; Seattle; Tampa; and Washington, D.C.

The Tampa bid got a minor boost with the USOC's reclassification of USA Triathlon from an affiliated sport to full Olympic status, which makes it eligible for increased funding.

The USOC will determine its 2012 candidate partly based on a city's ability to host major and international competitions. USA Triathlon, moving its new headquarters to Clermont, will hold its national championships in Orlando in June. The sport makes its medal debut at the games in Sydney, Australia, in 2000.

To Randy Johnson, executive director of the Orlando Area Sports Commission, USA Triathlon's arrival adds another line to Central Florida's sports resume.

"What is especially exciting about where we are today as opposed to where we were yesterday," Johnson said, "is that these folks (national governing bodies) are coming up to us wanting to talk about business."

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