LAKEWOOD RANCH -- In an effort to rally Manatee County government and business leaders less than 45 days before the 2014 Modern Pentathlon World Cup Finals, former congresswoman Katherine Harris spoke Tuesday morning to nearly 50 people at the Manatee Chamber of Commerce in Lakewood Ranch.
Harris, executive chairwoman for the Pentathlon, touted Sarasota-Manatee's commitment in wooing the games to the region and stressed the importance of welcoming the hundreds of athletes, coaches and visitors who will descend on the area for the games June 5-8.
"We want to do it perfectly and have everyone have a good time, starting with the athletes from the moment they get off the plane," Harris said. "Their experience has to be perfect or they won't want to come back, and they don't have to come back."
After the finals in June, Sarasota-Manatee will host the 2015 Modern Pentathlon World Cup first round, the 2015 U.S. Olympic Team Trials and the 2016 Modern Pentathlon World Cup Finals.
"Even though we won those games, we have to prove that we can do this and do a very good job," Harris said.
The 2014 Modern Pentathlon at the Sarasota Polo Club in Lakewood Ranch and the Selby Aquatic Center in Sarasota is expected to draw between 5,000 and 10,000 spectators, Harris said.
NBC Universal will broadcast the event to 25 million U.S. households, and the Union International de Pentathlon Moderne, the governing body for the sport, is working on a deal to air the event to 125 million households worldwide.
"I think one of the reasons (the UIPM) chose us is because they didn't think anyone could do as good a job as two counties coming together to make this happen," Harris said. Sarasota-Manatee won the bid over Rome, Cairo and Budapest.
The World Cup Final will showcase the top 36 male and 36 female pentathletes from around the world striving to qualify for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil. The pentathlon features five events: swimming, equestrian show-jumping, fencing, running and pistol shooting.
Opening night will take place June 5 at the Ringling Museum. Harris said the women's competition will be held Friday, June 6, with the men's competition the day after and the mixed relay competition on the last day.
Competition will begin at Selby Aquatic Center with fencing and swimming. Around noon, the games will move to the polo fields where the fencing final will be held along with the equestrian portion and the run-and-shoot competition.
Joe Martin, managing partner of the Mexicali Border Cafe on State Road 70 in East Manatee, said he wants to organize a group of employees to volunteer at the games.
"This is another way of Mexicali getting out into the community, one way of letting the community know that we're here for them," Martin said.
Commissioner Carol Whitmore said Manatee County is growing more familiar with the pentathlon.
"Right now we're getting our first brush, but I think it's good that she (Harris) is getting both counties involved with this. It's in Sarasota, but we're right across the street," Whitmore said.
Sabrina Rocco, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @sabrinarocco.