REPORT says Philly might be Olympic contender by 2020

Saturday, July 14th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

(Philadelphia-AP) -- The soonest Philadelphia could make a realistic Olympic bid is 2020, according to a study released by a professor of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

And that timetable is ``if Philadelphia systematically becomes a bigger player in the international sports world than it currently is,'' said Kenneth L. Shropshire, chairman of the legal studies department at Wharton. His findings were distributed Thursday at meeting of the Philadelphia Sports Congress, which hired Shropshire to do the study.

``Further out in time is probably even more viable,'' he added.

If Philadelphia were to bid to become the 2012 U.S. Olympic host city, it would rank somewhere in the middle of the eight cities competing.

The city's biggest selling point is the number of hospitals (68) and hospital beds (18,383). Its weakest point is too few hotels (110) and hotel rooms (21,108).

``If you don't have some broader (urban) development scheme, it's not worth pursuing,'' Shropshire said.

The next move is to tap the business community for reaction, and money.

``We launched this project to see what's at stake,'' said A. Bruce Crawley, chairman of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, which oversees the Sports Congress. ``Now we know what we don't know.''

Crawley said an effort would be made to find a ``local good fairy'' to make an initial investment of about $400,000 so Philadelphia can continue to explore the idea.

Support from the business community is key because corporate contributions would most likely pay for any Olympic bid, an expense of about $10 million.

Meanwhile, Shropshire recommended in his study that the city should, at a minimum, make sure that any new sports facilities meet Olympic specifications.

For now, the study suggested getting answers to three key questions: whether the region is willing to pay $10 million to finance the bidding process, whether the region's business and political leadership is willing ready to play a leading role, and whether Philadelphia is willing to make the games a part of a broader development plan.

``Long-term-development goals seem to be the most appropriate reason for Philadelphia to consider seeking the Olympic Games,'' the study said.

The city could transcend some of its shortcomings _ such as too few hotel rooms to house the 21,000 journalists and half million spectators _ by making its effort a regional one. That would mean teaming up with New Jersey and Delaware, Shropshire said.

But there is at least one thing that should not be worrisome, according to the study. That is the state of Philadelphia's current facilities, such as Franklin Field or even the new Eagles stadium to be built.

``Many of them will be obsolete by the time Philadelphia becomes a true player in bidding for the Olympic Games,'' Shropshire said.