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North Carolina Competing to Win 2007 Pan American Games

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WINNIPEG, MANITOBA — After the success of the1999 Special Olympics World Summer Games, the Triangle hopes to become the center of the sports universe once again -- by hosting the 2007 Pan American Games.

Members of the North Carolina Bid Committee are in Winnipeg observing the 1999 Games. They are acting as ambassadors from the Tar Heel state and getting a behind-the-scenes look at what it will take to host the Games.

The first obstacle: the Triangle must get past other cities who also want to host the Games.

The Big Sell: A group from the Triangle are working hard to bring the Pan American Games to North Carolina in 2007.

"We're with the North Carolina Bid Committee. We're trying to recruit the 2007 Pan Am Games, so will you support us, will you?"

Former ACC football coach Bill Dooley knows how to work a crowd. He is handing out hundreds of fans with the North Carolina Bid Committee logo to spectators at the Pan Am Games.

Some people in Winnipeg have never heard of North Carolina. Dooley is working to put our state on the worldwide sports map by bringing the 2007 Games to the Triangle.

Bid committee member Yasmin Metivier owns a professional interpretation business in Cary. She is doing her part to educate people about the Tar Heel state.

"Some of them, they didn't know where North Carolina was. But as soon as I said 'Michael Jordan,' they all knew and from there we just started talking," she says.

Bid committee member Nolo Martinez is working a different crowd. Half the countries who compete in the Pan Am Games are Spanish-speaking. As Governor Hunt's Latino affairs advisor, Martinez knows speaking the language is crucial to landing the Games.

Metivier and Martinez are among the North Carolina Bid Committee members who are in Winnipeg, hoping to convince voting members -- likeInternational Olympic CommitteePresident Juan Antonio Samaranch -- to choose North Carolina over Miami and San Antonio.

"Of all the countries that will come and visit our state, we will have a representative of those countries living in our state that could either host, volunteer, or participate by 2007," says Martinez.

Competition to become the United States candidate city is fierce. The 1999 Games are worth $140 million to the city of Winnipeg. The prestige the Games lend to a host city is priceless.

"It's lobbying. Obviously we're here to meet as many people as we can and extol the virtues of North Carolina and the Triangle, in particular," says bid committee member Rick French.

While members of the North Carolina Bid Committee lobby for votes, their competition is just a few feet away. Delegates from Miami and San Antonio are in the same room, shaking the same hands, and making their sales pitches to the United States Olympic Committee.

"Everyone feels the same way, I think. It's theirs to lose," says a member of the San Antonio bid committee. "So you just have to do what you can do, be yourself and hope you get selected."

The bid cities will do more than just hope. Over the next few months they will pull out all the stops. In this competition, there is no second place.

In Full Force: Winkie LaForce is on a mission: learn everything there is to know about the Pan American Games. LaForce is the president of committee that hopes to bring the Games to the Triangle in 2007.

"It is very important for us to take our plans and what we have on paper and notice, in the reality of things, can it work or not work," says LaForce.

LaForce is visiting every floor of the operations center in Winnipeg, talking to people like Carol Morris, who is coordinating transportation for this year's Games.

"We're using a lot of bus drivers from the school districts who know this town like the back of their hand. I think that's been a real bonus for us," says Morris.

Right now in Winnipeg, 2,500 people are working to pull off the Pan Am Games. They are experts at everything from transportation to security to coordinating volunteers. The North Carolina Bid Committee wants to meet as many of them as they can to find out what is working, what is not and how North Carolina might do it better.

The Winnipeg Pan Am staff has years of planning under their belts. They are the best source of advice for North Carolina's bid committee.

Yasmin Metivier will help coordinate language services if North Carolina lands the Pan Am Games. Metivier met with Leeanne Penner, who has spent three years training interpreters in Winnipeg.

Penner's advice will help Metivier take some of the guesswork out of planning for the Games.

"We might be falling a bit short. I think there are more Spanish-speaking athletes and media than we were prepared for," says Penner.

Members of the North Carolina bid committee are also visiting each of the 41 Pan Am sports. They will study how the Games are run and how easy it is for spectators to find them.

Local experts, like track and field legend George Williams, will cast a critical eye over each venue.

"Wallace Wade is a good track facility," he says. "It's large. It can hold over 60,000. This one only holds about 30,000 people."

Those observations will help North Carolina make its final pitch to the United States Olympic Committee in October. The USOC will choose a U.S. candidate city on October 23.

Many people believe the U.S. candidate city will be awarded the 2007 Games.

If the Triangle gets the Games, it will also help them plan the most prestigious sporting event North Carolina has ever seen.

About the Games: The Pan American Games are held every four years preceding the Olympic Games. The Games consists of all Summer Olympic sports, plus some non-Olympic sports, since they serve as an Olympic-qualifying event for many sports.

In terms of the number of sports and athletes, the Pan American Games are second in size only to the Olympics.

The Pan Am Games have not been held in the U.S. since Indianapolis hosted them in 1987.