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Anchorage Olympic organizers, shrugging off their failed bid to...

By JEFF BERLINER

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Anchorage Olympic organizers, shrugging off their failed bid to host the 1994 Winter Games, Wednesday voted to compete for the right to stage the 1998 Games.

Anchorage twice has been rejected by the International Olympic Committee, and before the city's third attempt, the U.S. Olympic Committee must decide whether it wants to stick with Anchorage or throw its allegiance to another city.

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Salt Lake City, Reno-Lake Tahoe, Nev., Portland, Ore., and Denver all have been mentioned as possible host cities, and others may try to supplant Anchorage. The USOC is expected to choose an site next year, giving the winner two years to prepare a bid.

Anchorage first sought the 1992 Winter Games. When the IOC decided to stagger Summer and Winter Games in different years, the United States again backed Anchorage for 1994. Three European cities also vied for the Games, and Sept. 15 at Seoul, Lillehammer, Norway was chosen by the IOC.

The Anchorage Organizing Committee board of directors, meeting for the first time since the IOC rejection, voted unanimously and enthusiastically to seek endorsement from the USOC to go after the 1998 Winter Games.

Anchorage has spent seven years and more than $6 million in its unsuccessful attempts to bring the Olympics to the state.

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The Alaska city has another hurdle to clear. Voters twice approved the city's bid, but the most recent ballot measure asked if voters wanted the 1994 Games, so Anchorage citizens must vote again on hosting the 1998 Games. The Anchorage Organizing Committee is a private group, funded through donations, but the election is necessary because the city must sign a financial guarantee to cover possible losses.

There were some very uncertain times for Anchorage Olympics boosters before they won a 2-1 mandate in last month's election.

Now, with Anchorage having to convince the USOC it remains America's best choice, Anchorage Olympics board member Bob Penney suggested every American city seeking to host the games hold a public referendum.

Board members Wednesday endorsed Penney's suggestion and plan to recommend the USOC have each American contending city vote on whether residents want the Games and are willing to make the financial guarantees required by the IOC.

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