Entrepreneur, Sports Executive, Humanitarian and Business Executive Will Be Honored
SEATTLE – March 3, 2017 – PRLog — A Celebration of Life for Seattle-based business consultant, sports executive, humanitarian and social entrepreneur Bob Walsh will be held on Saturday, March 11, from 2-4PM at the Impact HUB in downtown Seattle.
Walsh, 76, who passed away January 23 from a respiratory illness in Istanbul, Turkey, was one of the area’s most prominent and successful producers, with nearly 100 sports events to his credit, including the Goodwill Games in 1990, three men’s NCAA Final Fours, two women’s Final Fours and multiple NCAA basketball regional tournaments. He was also a visionary citizen diplomat who helped open up the country of Georgia to US investors and created the first student exchanges with the Middle East after 9/11 through his work at OneWorld Now!.
Walsh had been in Tblisi, Georgia, consulting on a business project with the Georgian government, as well as to receive his credentials as an honorary ambassador to the former Soviet republic when he took ill. After a few days, when his condition did not improve, he was airlifted to Istanbul for intensive care. His son, Tim, was with him when he died.
Born in Winthrop, MA, Walsh graduated from Marietta (OH) College, then returned to the Boston area where he went to work as a radio and television producer at WMAC, the first station in the U.S. to feature an exclusively all-talk format. Walsh then moved to KABC in Los Angeles as the station’s program director.
One of Walsh’s first KABC hires was former NBA great Bill Russell as a drive-time host. When Russell resigned that position in 1973 to become head coach and general manager of the Seattle SuperSonics, he hired Walsh as his assistant general manager. During his tenure with the Sonics, Walsh negotiated to bring the 1974 NBA All Star Game to Seattle.
When Russell left the Sonics in 1977, Walsh also departed the franchise and became a sports agent, representing some of the early icons in Seahawks history, including Jim Zorn and Steve Largent.
Walsh eventually grew weary of sports agentry and morphed into an events promoter, scoring his first major achievement when he brought the 1984 NCAA Final Four to the Kingdome. Largely through the promotional efforts of Walsh and his company, Bob Walsh and Associates, the phrase “March Madness” was created. Two more Final Fours, in 1989 and 1995, followed.
In the late 1980s, the Seattle Visitor and Convention Bureau held a contest to re-brand Seattle, then the “Queen City,” into something more hip. The Bureau then ran the public contest seeking new names. The winning entry was “Emerald City.”
After that moniker flopped locally (the Seattle Post-Intelligencer ran editorials opposing it), the Bureau hired Walsh and Associates to turn around public opinion.
Walsh sought out contacts in the National Football League and at Sports Illustrated and convinced them to always refer to Seattle as “Emerald City” on their broadcasts and in print, which they did. Then Walsh created what became the hugely popular Emerald City Marathon footrace, and that sealed the deal. Seattle has been the “Emerald City” ever since.
Among other events, Bob Walsh and Associates also brought the 1987 NBA All Star Game to the Kingdome and the NCAA Women’s Final Fours to Tacoma in 1988 and 1989. In all, Walsh and Associates hosted more than 90 national and international events in Seattle during the 1980s and 1990s, topped by the 1990 Goodwill Games, a sports and cultural festival that attracted athletes from 54 nations competing in 23 sports.
Through the Goodwill Games, Seattle received its first exposure to the famed Bolshoi Ballet and Moscow Circus. Seattle’s largest-ever art exhibit, The Treasures of Moscow, also ran concurrently with the Games.
Following the Goodwill Games, Walsh turned his attention to the former Soviet Union, where he had made numerous business contacts while organizing the Games, originally held in Moscow in 1986. Eventually, the focus of those international efforts focused on Tblisi, the capital of the Republic of Georgia, which sought Western investment.
Walsh and Associates partnered with the Georgian government on a variety of tourism and real estate projects, including hotel construction, and also created Georgia’s first pharmaceutical company, specializing in the manufacture and distribution of vitamins.
In the run-up to the Goodwill Games, Walsh and Associates played a role in organizing relief efforts for the 1988 earthquake in Armenia that killed 25,000. That same year, it orchestrated marathon swimmer Lynn Cox’s historic crossing of the Bering Strait. In 1990, Walsh cleared the way diplomatically so that famed Seattle mountain climber Jim Whittaker, along with teams from China and the Soviet Union, could scale Mount Everest. Never before had the USA, China and the Soviet Union collaborated on anything.
Walsh brought to Seattle numerous Georgians who required specialized medical care not available in Tblisi or anywhere in the Caucasus region, only one of the reasons Georgia was about to honor him with an honorary ambassadorship.
Walsh was also responsible for what the New York Times described as “one of the great publicity stunts of the 20th century,” the November 1992 launch of a Soyuz rocket from the Republic of Kazakhstan (central Asia) that circled the earth 111 times before plopping into the Pacific Ocean some 30 miles off the coast of Washington state. The rocket’s capsule today is on display at Boeing’s Museum of Flight.
Except for occasional consulting work, Walsh had been semi-retired in recent years. He was inducted into the State of Washington Sports Hall of Fame in 2013 and the Marietta College Hall of Fame in 2014.
Even in his semi-retirement, he remained an active founding board member of OneWorldNow!, supporting low-income and minority U.S. high school students to study Arabic, Chinese, Russian and Korean languages and sending them on scholarships to study abroad.
Space for the March 11 celebration is limited, and those who wish to attend are asked to RSVP on Eventbrite.com. In lieu of flowers, donations to the Bob Walsh Memorial Fund may be made on GoFundMe.com