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Time Was Not on Orange County’s Side : Goodwill Games: Turner Broadcasting will stage 1998 event in Eastern or Central zones for programming purposes.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Orange County has been eliminated from consideration as a site for the 1998 Goodwill Games, in part because organizers of the international sports festival have decided to hold the event in the eastern half of the United States.

An Orange County-Long Beach alliance joined 17 other metropolitan areas this year in expressing interest in playing host to the Games, which had an estimated economic impact of $151 million in Seattle last year. But as the Nov. 1 deadline for formal bids approaches, Goodwill Games president Jack Kelly said that list has been reduced to 10 cities. The remaining contenders are Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, New Orleans, New York, Pittsburgh, Raleigh/Durham (N.C.), South Florida and St. Louis.

Kelly said concerns about televising the Games, which are organized and broadcast by Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., led to a decision that the event will be staged in either the Eastern or Central time zone.

“We promised cities if we came to any early conclusions, we’d let them know,” Kelly said. “As we looked at some of the issues relevant to televising the Games, we realized we ought to be on the East Coast or in the Central time zone. We also wanted to give different parts of the country a chance.”

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The Orange County-Long Beach group was headed by Richard Foster, an Irvine attorney who is president of U.S. Water Polo, that sport’s governing body.

“We ended up (basically) withdrawing from the bid process,” Foster said. “Basically, Turner Broadcasting told us they were really looking to have the event on the East Coast for programming purposes.

“It was a disappointment, because I don’t think any of the cities still on the list could match us in terms of venues, climate--the regular climate and the political climate--but they had the Goodwill Games on the West Coast last time.”

Kelly said the low attendance that plagued the U.S. Olympic Festival in Los Angeles this summer was not a factor.

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“It has nothing to do with that,” he said. “I think that was because (Los Angeles) has a record with the Olympic Games. I think international competition (as opposed to a national festival) would make a difference. And Orange County is certainly a different animal from Los Angeles.

“We talked with Rich Foster and had a number of discussions. We knew Rich was going to go out and put together a bid and do a good job. But with the number of cities, there was an issue of fairness. We told him, you know, you could go out and do a good bid and still not get the games. I don’t want to be dragging a city around, letting them go ahead and invest their time and effort when they didn’t have much of a chance.”

The Goodwill Games were held in the Soviet Union in 1986, and in Seattle last year. Despite losing more than $44 million on the 1990 Games, the board of directors of Turner Broadcasting System Inc. has given its support to the endeavor. The Games are slated to be held in St. Petersburg (formerly Leningrad) and Moscow in 1994.


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