What Homophobic Reputation?

Anyone who's listened to Nick Vehr, president of the privately funded 75-member group working on Cincinnati's 2012 Olympic Games bid, knows that he and his fellow Olympic hopefuls have put a great d

Jul 13, 2000 at 2:06 pm

Anyone who's listened to Nick Vehr, president of the privately funded 75-member group working on Cincinnati's 2012 Olympic Games bid, knows that he and his fellow Olympic hopefuls have put a great deal of thought and effort into their work since beginning research on the idea in 1996.

For starters, Cincinnati 2012, the local bid committee, has:

· Arranged an independent economic impact study by a University of Cincinnati research group detailing the $5.2 billion (in 2000 dollars) the event could generate in Ohio and Kentucky;

· Identified many of the potential venues, ranging from basketball at Rupp Arena, boxing in Louisville and wrestling at Ohio State University to gymnastics at UC and Xavier University, with most of the competitions in southwest Ohio;

· And established a rough operating budget of $1.97 billion, which covers staff, transportation, staging, venue construction, medical services, communications and so on. One third of this budget is expected to each come from ticket sales, TV revenues and corporate sponsorships.

Vehr and company, armed with color poster boards and computer slides, have spent the past couple of weeks holding public meetings around the Tristate to talk about the bid, due to the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) on Dec. 15. In 2002, the USOC will choose a U.S. city to compete internationally for the 2012 Olympics. Eight other U.S. cities are competing with Cincinnati for that spot.

But there remains one key question about the Olympic bid Vehr and company don't have an answer for — at least not yet.

That's Issue 3, the city charter amendment passed by 63 percent of the city's voters in 1993. It prohibits the city from adopting laws or policies allowing "any claim of minority or protected status, quota preference or other preferential treatment" based on sexual orientation. It basically means Cincinnati City Council cannot pass laws or rules benefiting gay people, although it can for blacks, women, disabled people and other minority groups.

In 1996, under pressure from gay rights groups, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) moved the swimming competition and rerouted the Olympic torch run out of Cobb County, Ga., near Atlanta, site of that year's Olympic Games.

Local county commissioners had passed an ordinance saying the homosexual lifestyle wasn't compatible with community standards.

So is Issue 3 going to affect Cincinnati's 2012 bid?

Doreen Cudnik, executive director of Stonewall Cincinnati, a local gay rights group, asked Vehr to address this "elephant in the living room" at a June 10 meeting at the Urban League of Greater Cincinnati headquarters in Avondale. Cudnik, pointing out pictures of gay athletes on the Urban League's wall, said there are a lot of gay Olympics athletes who would object to competing in Cincinnati because of Issue 3.

Vehr answered that he wasn't sure exactly what how Issue 3 might affect the bid because it, unlike the Cobb County ordinance, was passed by voters and appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case, letting the law stand.

"But I will admit it's an element of controversy that may be harmful to the bid," Vehr said. "But it also may not be."

Vehr clarified later that he wasn't sure if the IOC moved the 1996 events to avoid controversy or because of a genuine concern about the county's ordinance.

Cudnik, who said she'd like to see the Olympics in Cincinnati, offered to work with Vehr on the issue, which Vehr said hasn't been discussed by the Cincinnati 2012 board. He added that the committee doesn't expect to do much research on the Issue 3 topic before the Dec. 15 deadline but might afterwards, assuming Cincinnati makes the cut.

When Cudnik asked what Cincinnati 2012 could do with regard to Issue 3, Vehr said, "I'm not sure," because the law was passed by a majority of voters.

After the meeting, Cudnik seemed less than impressed with Vehr's responses to her questions.

"This does pose an obstacle," Cudnik said. "They can say it doesn't as long as they like."

For more information about the Cincinnati 2012 bid, visit www.Cincinnati2012.com or attend one of the last two public meetings: 7-9 p.m. Monday at College of Mount St. Joseph, 5701 Delhi Road; and 7-9 p.m. Wednesday at the Institute of Advanced Manufacturing Sciences, 1111 Edison Drive, Carthage.