Bela Karolyi didn't need to sell.
Not on this clear sunny day at Downtown Disney in Anaheim, with music playing and faces representing the past, present and future of gymnastics on hand.
But Karolyi, the biggest name in the sport, turned his attention to the little girls seated near the stage. Earlier Tuesday they had put on an impressive short tumbling exhibition, but now he was looking for something else.
"I want to see if you have voices," he said. "Big voices. You have voice? Yes. All right? Do you want gymnastics?"
The pixies responded in unison: "Yes!"
The man was doing an excellent job of whipping up enthusiasm for an event almost a year and a half away. This was the official announcement that the 2017 P&G Gymnastics Championships will be held Aug. 17-20, at Honda Center. Karolyi and Carly Patterson, the 2004 Olympic all-around gold medalist, had been on hand at the Ducks-Washington Capitals game on Monday night for a series of promotional appearances.
It is considerably easier to generate passion in an Olympic year with the Summer Games in Brazil a few months away. Plus, there is a history of high-level gymnastics being held in Anaheim, most notably the 2003 world championships and the 2004 U.S. Olympic trials, both held at Honda Center, then called the Arrowhead Pond.
Steve Penny, president of USA Gymnastics, said it took only three phone calls, starting with Tim Ryan, the president and chief executive of Anaheim Arena Management, to pull the deal together. Their talks coincided with Los Angeles in September being named the U.S. bid city for the 2024 Summer Olympics.
"You want to seize the moment," Penny said. "It just made sense. When the decision was made, it was an easy thing for me to pick up the phone and say, 'OK, we're coming this way.'"
Follow Lisa Dillman on Twitter @reallisa