Everett may get Olympic tie-in

EVERETT – Beginning in summer 2005, Olympic athletes could be speed skating or playing volleyball at the Everett Events Center.

Everett’s arena at 2000 Hewitt Ave. would be one of a handful of venues regionwide to host international athletes in a Goodwill Games-style competition.

The event, to be called the USA-China Invitational, is being planned as part the “Road to Beijing,” the warm-up for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

The Seattle Organizing Committee is planning the games, which could run for three consecutive summers, with events scheduled from Tacoma to Everett.

The sports would range from basketball to badminton and could draw Olympic teams from China, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

The festival could include as many as 1,000 athletes, organizers said, and could feature both summer and winter games.

Many details of the event are still up in the air, and official announcement of the games won’t come until July, said Kim Bedier, general manager for the Everett Events Center.

Seattle sports promoter Bob Walsh, who helped bring three NCAA Final Four basketball tournaments and the 1990 Goodwill Games to the area, spearheaded the effort to organize the competition by speaking to the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Letters of commitment to participate have been sent by both the U.S. Olympic Committee and the Chinese Olympic Committee to the Seattle Organizing Committee.

Walsh could not be reached for comment, nor could Bill Carney of the Seattle Organizing Committee.

“They’ve been chatting with us about several possible events, one being short-track speed skating and the other being volleyball,” Bedier said.

The events center ice rink would need to be expanded from National Hockey League to Olympic-sized ice, but Bedier said the events center could find a way to make it work.

“I think it’s fabulous on a number of levels,” she said. “It gives us Olympic involvement.”

Mark Funk, a spokesman for County Executive Aaron Reardon, said organizers of the games approached Snohomish County and Everett leaders in March.

“I know that the organizing committee is very serious about Everett,” Funk said. “We’re very excited about this. We think this is a wonderful opportunity to get Everett connected to what we believe is going to be an ongoing international event.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Reporter Jennifer Warnick: 425-339-3429 or jwarnick@heraldnet.com.

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