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Wednesday, July 28, 2004 - Page updated at 08:21 A.M.

In 2005, Seattle will host Pacific Rim sports "summit"

By Bob Sherwin
Seattle Times staff reporter

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The road to the 2008 Beijing Olympics will begin in Seattle.

The USA-China Sports Summit, planned for June 8-12, 2005, at venues in Seattle, Everett and Tacoma, was announced yesterday by U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) and area officials, including Bob Walsh, who was a force behind bringing the 1990 Goodwill Games to Seattle.

City officials hope to forge a partnership with China, a burgeoning world power in sports, science and economics, with the privately financed, five-day event here next summer.

It will involve Olympic sports and athletes from a number of Pacific Rim nations as well as cultural, health and scientific seminars.

"We can use this as a platform not only for sports but in trade, economic development, arts, culture and volunteerism," said Walsh, president of the Seattle Organizing Committee (SOC).

This event will be on a much smaller scale than the 50-nation, 2,500-athlete Goodwill Games held here 14 years ago. Some 500 athletes in sports such as track, gymnastics, basketball, swimming and short-track speedskating — perhaps featuring Seattle gold medalist Apolo Ohno — could participate.

Athletes from the United States and China, as well as Pacific Rim countries such as Russia, Canada, South Korea, Japan and Australia will be invited.

USA-China Sports Summit


What: A new international sports competition in Seattle, Everett and Tacoma in 2005, 2006 and 2007, leading up to the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008. Ancillary events such as sports science and technology seminars, a health-care summit, an arts and cultural festival and a U.S.-China economic conference also are being developed. Estimated cost at $12 million, to be privately financed.

When: June 8-12, 2005.

Where: Projected venues include Qwest Field, KeyArena, the Tacoma Dome, Everett Events Center, the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatics Center and other venues in and around Seattle not yet negotiated.

Who: As many as 500 athletes from the United States, China and Pacific Rim countries, competing in sports such as track and field, gymnastics, swimming and diving, figure skating, volleyball, archery, softball, basketball, and short-track speedskating (possibly highlighting local gold-medalist Apolo Ohno). Paralympics sports also are being considered.

"The Goodwill Games cost more than $200 million, and this will cost about $12 million," Walsh said. "So you can see there is a major difference. The Goodwill Games security was about $30 million alone.

This will be much, much less, obviously, with fewer athletes and fewer countries. There will be no local public funding involved whatsoever," said Walsh, who has been working for more than a year on the event, which first came to light a month ago. "We're not asking money from the city, county or state. It will be paid for by sponsorships, by ticket sales, by merchandise and the possibility of some federal funding in such areas as security."

What makes this unique is that alongside the sports will be events such as the Pacific Rim Health Summit, plus commerce and cultural events. The health summit could draw more than 300 physicians, medical researchers and health-care specialists from the Pacific Rim countries.

Dr. Lee Hartwell of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center will organize the summit, which will focus on early detection and prevention of disease.

"This developed when Bob Walsh and Lee Hartwell accidentally ran into each other," said Jarlath Hume, who will coordinate most of the nonsports activities. "It was Dr. Hartwell's vision to bring the top leadership in Pacific health areas together on a regular basis to see how science and technology advances can help the delivery system. The discussions started from there."

Among the other activities envisioned that week will be a U.S.-China economic conference, perhaps focused on Seattle-China trade, as well as an arts celebration that will join U.S. and Asian talent in various themes: hip-hop culture, contemporary music, poetry, film, classical dance and comedy.

"We looked at ways in which sports, arts and culture fit together in a mosaic," Hume added.

The sports competition will be sanctioned by the USOC. Jim Scherr, the USOC's chief executive based in Colorado Springs, attended the news conference in Seattle yesterday, saying "we hope to form a partnership that's lasting and meaningful."

There are also plans to extend it for similar competitions in the Seattle area in 2006 and 2007, although China has the option of hosting the 2006 event, possibly as a warm-up to the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

Scherr expects the country's best athletes to participate. "It will involve the top athletes in those sports during that time period," he said.

Several things are yet to be decided, such as which sports and where they will be contested. Promoters want to include track and field, gymnastics, swimming and diving, figure skating, short-track speedskating, volleyball, archery, softball, basketball and Paralympics sports.

Basketball will be a marquee event. One key is whether China's 7-foot-5 star, Yao Ming, who plays for the Houston Rockets, would be available and agree to play (if not still involved in the NBA playoffs). If he were to play, that could prompt other top players to participate.

Track and field, held at Husky Stadium during the Goodwill Games, does not yet have a home. The University of Washington holds its spring graduation ceremonies during that time, which precludes a competitive event on the track. The Southwest Athletic Complex on the Chief Sealth High School campus is a possibility.

"We're looking at different options," said Bill Carney, the Seattle Organizing Committee's chief operating officer. "We may improve an existing facility, or maybe we might build a brand new facility."

He said a new facility would not be a major expense. The SOC could lease a piece of land and erect temporary bleachers to hold about 20,000 fans.

"We have some great venues here," Walsh said. "That's one of the reasons why the USOC is excited about this. The Federal Way (Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatics Center) pool still is one of the finest in the world. We'll need to have upgrades on some other venues."

Gymnastics will be in the Tacoma Dome. Archery will be at Redmond's Marymoor Park. Skating events will be in the Everett Events Center. KeyArena has been reserved but may not be available if the Sonics or Storm are using it. Qwest Field will host the opening ceremonies.

Safeco Field and Cheney Stadium will not be involved because the event will fall during baseball season.

"We want to partner with the neighborhoods," Carney said. "We're not stymied by the Olympic format. If we include basketball, we could have, say, a round-robin tournament and play games in Highline Community College, Bellevue Community College and Shoreline Community College."

The event could provide an economic boost for the region, perhaps on a par with baseball's All-Star Game or NCAA's Final Four.

"It's really hard to throw out a number, because it hasn't been done," Walsh said. "It's pretty much a fact that a Final Four will bring in about $60 million to the community. I'm hoping it will be in that area. It's not going to be a Goodwill Games, which an independent survey said brought in $319 million."

Bob Sherwin: 206-464-8286 or bsherwin@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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