Tampa’s Bid to Host the Olympics

Tampa’s bid to host the 2012 Olympics was the first time a Florida city entered a bid for an Olympiad. The story starts with a decision by FASTA,  the Future Air & Surface Transportation Alliance to go forward with a Florida global airport project. Future global airports will have foot prints larger by a factor of 15 than the typical international airport. Tampa International, for example, is less than 7 square miles, is land locked and is  air space limited.  It is a great “20th Century” airport.

Our typical international airports today provide excellent International and domestic air mobility but  are neither designed nor positioned for the future additional full-up Intrastate and urban air mobility. Since we knew a project like this would require the average transportation planner and others to think big, we decided to get Tampa into an Olympic bid, since few things are bigger than an Olympics.

Mayor Dick Greco

A phone call to the Olympic Committee in Colorado Springs triggered a letter that arrived in a few days.   The letter, dated September 30, 1997, had the requirements and instructions on how to submit Tampa’s bid as the host city for the 2012 Olympics. There were three requirements: a letter from then Mayor Greco, a check for $150,000, and the stipulation that both items had to arrive in Colorado Springs by Monday, October 20, 1997.

I sat on that letter until the morning of Friday, October 10, then faxed it to the chairmen of each of the six surrounding county commissions, the five major city mayors, and to Gene Gray, the manager of the Hillsborough County Tourist Development Council (TDC).  If the gaming and the timing was right, and we had a bit of luck, we would be in the bid, and we could then introduce the Global airport project.  The only follow-up call I made that day I was to Gene Gray, knowing that he’d be fired, if he did not take action to notify his boss. I also knew that there was a $500,000 TDC contingency fund and that the $150,000 was a good small investment to promote Florida, Hillsborough County and Tampa.

Unbeknownst to me, Commissioner Ed Turanchik was the acting Chair of the TDC that weekend while the County Chairperson, Dottie Berger MacKinnon was away. She returned Monday, October 13, from a trip to France.  I called Gene again on Monday and asked how things were going.  He said there would be an emergency meeting of the TDC at 2 p.m. the next day to approve withdrawing $150,000 from the contingency fund for the bid.

Dottie Berger MacKinnon

I attended that meeting and noted the time.  Dottie Berger came in at exactly 2 p.m. An attractive blonde with a professional, no nonsense way about her, she went directly to the head of the table to ask for a vote to withdraw the funds.  The vote was unanimous.  She then asked for a vote to adjourn.  Again, unanimous consent. I believe a record was set that day for the shortest government meeting in history. In less than a minute we were in the Olympic bidding process.

The letter was signed by the Mayor, the Board of County Commissioners approved the expenditure that Wednesday at their normal meeting, and in less than a week, Florida was in an Olympic bid for the first time.

[Unfortunately,  despite the speed record set in approving it, Tampa’s bid  was not successful.  Nor were the bids of several other major U.S. cities.  You can read more about that here.  So, what fortunate city was finally chosen as the host for the 2012 Olympics?  London, England. –Editor]

Cornelius “Neil” Cosentino became a US Air Force pilot in 1960, and went on to log over 6,000 hours in military, commercial and private flying. He flew the B-47, KC-135, and F-4CDE, while doing three tours in Vietnam. He was awarded nine Air Medals and the Distinguished Flying Cross.  Neil joined OLLI-USF in 2018. He has taken classes in writing, music, teaching, activism and online searches. Neil recently gave a well-received OLLI lecture about his current passion: Think Tanks. He is interested in forming a Think Tank Shared Interest Group (SIG).


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