When officials from Manatee and Sarasota counties begin arriving this weekend in Chungju, South Korea, for the 2013 World Rowing Championships, they won't just be there to enjoy the festivities.
They'll count down the days to Sept. 2, when the International Rowing Federation, or FISA, makes the long-anticipated decision about whether to award Sarasota the 2017 championship.
They'll see what it takes to host the titanic event. And they'll try to convince the decision makers that the area has what it takes to pull it off.
Two Sarasota County dignitaries -- Paul Blackketter, president of Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Associates, the group in charge of organized rowing in Sarasota-Manatee, and Donn Patchen, the county's director of communications -- arrived Thursday so they could witness the entire championship, including the opening ceremonies.
The rest of the Sarasota group will arrive Thursday, including Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota County; Randall Reid, county administrator; and Joe Barbetta, county commissioner.
Travel expenses for Sarasota County officials are being paid by Visit Sarasota County, said Nicole Rissler, the organization's director of sports.
Manatee County's batch of representatives will arrive Wednesday: Larry Bustle, Manatee County Commission chairman; Ed Hunzeker, county administrator; Dan Schlandt, deputy county administrator; and Elliott Falcione, Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau director.
"Funding for this trip and other trips associated with the bid to land the 2017 World Rowing Championships will be paid for using Tourist Development taxes," Nick Azzara, Manatee County spokesman, stated in an e-mail.
A measure approved by the Manatee County Commission earlier this year allowed the Tourist Development Council to collect "bed taxes" from visitors to pay for 2017 championship expenses.
Officials' main priority during their stay: Take in the entire atmosphere of a world rowing championship and build relationships with the federations that will decide who gets the 2017 bid, Rissler said. There's not much time for play.
"Our basic intent is to ... show the commitment of Sarasota County and Manatee County," Reid said. "It's very much a sales effort to show that we're committed to pulling this off and making it a world class event."
Reid said he and other officials will spend some time staffing a booth displaying information and brochures about what the Manatee-Sarasota area and the Nathan Benderson Park rowing venue have to offer. He'll also be attending social events and mingling in the grandstands.
All officials will return Sept. 3.
Sabrina Rocco, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @sabrinarocco.