Karolyi, Archbold, USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny and the Philadelphians most responsible for the city landing its first Olympic trials in a decade were at the Independence Mall museum to promote the June 2008 event and to sign - in Signers Hall, of course - a symbolic agreement finalizing the deal.
But Karolyi, the man who coached Mary Lou Retton, Kerri Strug and numerous other U.S. Olympic medalists as well as Romania's legendary Nadia Comaneci, made everyone else look like those bronze statues of the Constitution signers that surrounded them during the ceremony.
"Bela's the only person I've seen who's able to give Pat Croce a run for his money in terms of energy," said Joseph Torsella, the center's president and the cochair of the Olympic and International Sports Project of the Philadelphia Sports Congress.
What had Karolyi so excited was the prospect of intense competition among the nation's estimated five million gymnasts for those 12 Olympic spots - six women and six men - at the Beijing Olympics, particularly among the American women he and his wife guide.
"I promise - and this is not a cheap promise - that these will be the best Olympic trials ever," he said. "It will be a great showdown. Why? Well, we have never been so fortunate with our gymnasts.
"Our seniors are the world champions. And our juniors. No one knows about our juniors. They have been beating everyone in the world. And when the trials are here in 2008, they will be old enough [at age 16] to compete against the others.
"The two generations are going to clash and boom ... it will be amazing, spectacular, just amazing. Everyone likes to see the queen die and these youngsters will be trying to do that."
Penny predicted that the trials' clash of generations would be the equivalent of Rocky VII.
It was Karolyi and his wife who revived American gymnastics after the U.S. team was shut out at the Sydney Games in 2000. On the 17-hour flight back to America - and after "seven or eight gin and tonics" - he devised a plan.
Knowing U.S. parents would never permit their children to spend eight or nine years away from home, the Karolyis suggested that the best youngsters instead make periodic, but mandatory, visits to the several training camps they supervise.
"We now say just OK is not OK," he said.
It worked. The U.S. women, led by Martha Karolyi, had a sensational Athens Olympics and at the 2005 World Championships, the team that included Chelsea Memmel, Jana Bieger, Natasha Kelley and Nastia Liukin won a record-tying nine medals.
Now that generation of tiny tumblers will be challenged by even younger prodigies such as 14-year-old sensation Shawn Johnson, the reigning U.S. junior all-around champion.
"It will be the greatest Olympic team we ever had," he said. "And the trials will be here in Pennsylvania, where the interest in gymnastics is always boiling, where the crowds are the most knowledgeable."
As if to illustrate his point, tiny gymnasts from the Parkette National Training Center in Allentown and members of Temple's men's team tumbled, leaped and rolled around on equipment that had been set up at the center.
Philadelphia hopes to parlay success at the pre-Olympic event - June 19 to 22, 2008, at the Wachovia Center - into a greater role hosting other national and international sporting competitions.
"This is a great way for us to get our name out there," said Bob Levy, the Sports Congress' chairman. "It's a great first step."
According to Torsella, the trials will fill 10,000 hotel rooms and generate an economic impact to the region of $20 million.
"We're presenting ourselves to the world as an international and Olympic city," said Torsella, who also spearheaded the city's failed effort to land the 2016 Summer Games.
Contact staff writer Frank Fitzpatrick at 215-854-5068 or firstname.lastname@example.org.