May 8, 2014
For U.S. Cities, a 2024 Olympic Competition
The soonest that could happen is 2024; several American cities are pursuing bids.
Winning a bid to host the Games is not unlike a political campaign: Candidates must first conquer a primary. That preliminary competition is happening now among at least seven cities trying to convince the United States Olympic Committee that they should be the American nominee to host the 2024 Summer Games. By then, the United States will have endured a 22-year Olympics drought — and a 28-year hiatus from hosting the Summer Games.
The top contenders are Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Dallas, Washington, Philadelphia and Boston. That list will be cut to two or three cities by the end of May, and the U.S.O.C. hopes to have one city selected by the end of the year.
Recent American bids have been disasters. New York’s effort to host the 2012 Summer Games hardly resonated with the International Olympic Committee’s voters. Then, despite an appearance from President Obama at the I.O.C.’s voting session in Copenhagen, the Chicago 2016 bid also resulted in a humiliating defeat. The American committee did not even bother putting forth a nominee for the 2020 Games.
Predicting which cities might appeal to I.O.C. voters is about as easy as predicting who is going to win the gold medal in the hammer throw in 2024. But let us try.
LOS ANGELES Barry A. Sanders, the chairman of the Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games, makes it sound as if Los Angeles is ready to host the Games this weekend.
“We want to offer a safe but exciting choice,” Sanders said.
The opening and closing ceremonies would be held at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, as was the case when the city held the Games in 1932 and 1984. The Coliseum will undergo a $100 million revamping as part of its agreement with the University of Southern California. But only a quarter of the venues used in the 1984 Games would be recycled, Sanders said.
The most ambitious piece of the Los Angeles bid would be the creation of an athletes’ village downtown, a onetime residential wasteland that is becoming a hipster haven. “The Games would reflect the new L.A.,” Sanders said.
Then there is one of Los Angeles’s signature features: traffic. Sanders said expanded rail lines and designated lanes for Olympic transit would solve that problem.
Los Angeles does have access to something few other cities do. “Of course,” Sanders said, with a nod to nearby Hollywood, “we could find a director for opening and closing ceremonies.”
SAN FRANCISCO Tech money flows in the Bay Area, but the tight housing market and compact layout of the city might lead to Olympic headaches from locals.
In its previous bid to host, for the 2016 Games, San Francisco relied heavily on its international reputation, college campuses, BART rail system and a so-called ring of gold venue arrangement of distinct clusters in Santa Clara, Oakland, Berkeley, downtown San Francisco and an Olympic Village at Stanford. San Francisco has several sites, like AT&T Park and Harding Park, that could be converted into Olympic facilities, in addition to waterways fit for a kayak or canoe showdown.
“San Francisco has mounted several past Olympic bids and could be a spectacular host for a future Games,” Christine Falvey, a spokeswoman for the mayor, said, perhaps trying to remind I.O.C. voters that her city is not a newcomer. She declined to say more regarding San Francisco’s specific plans.
SAN DIEGO The original proposal to co-host with Tijuana, Mexico, was dismissed. Instead, San Diegans are trying to use the Olympics as a talking point for the area’s long-term urban planning goals.
The city has hosted the Super Bowl, golf’s United States Open and major equestrian events, and it has one of three Olympic training sites in nearby Chula Vista, said Vincent Mudd, the chairman of the San Diego Exploratory Committee. Organizers assert they have most of the needed venues, including a convention center that would be used as the operations space for more than 15,000 members of the news media.
Downtown would be home to rugby, gymnastics and night events.
The I.O.C. requires a Summer Games host city to have at least 45,000 hotel rooms; Mudd said San Diego had that many, not counting the cruise ship terminals used for lodging for the Super Bowl.
One missing piece is a track and field stadium, the centerpiece of a Summer Olympics. Another challenge is the stiff competition within California.
DALLAS London! Rio! Tokyo! Dallas? Even if the bid is broadened to be more Texas-focused, the romance of Dallas may be a tough sell to I.O.C. members, many of whom do not know Larry Hagman from Tom Landry.
Why 100 million? Why not 89 million or 99 million? Just picking figures out of the air? Oh My
The 277-acre Fair Park would be the Olympic hub, and the Cotton Bowl stadium would be revamped for track and field competitions and the opening and closing ceremonies. The Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center would host events like judo and taekwondo, and most major sites are connected by Dallas’s light rail system.
“This is a chance to showcase our city,” Matt Wood, a lawyer who is leading the Dallas Olympic efforts, said.
WASHINGTON In what is being promoted as the most patriotic offering, the Washington bid would involve a proposal to demolish RFK Stadium to construct an Olympic stadium and an athletes’ village. “It’s ready to be torn down,” Russ Ramsey, the chairman of Washington 2024, said.
Having the Games in the Eastern time zone, a potentially lucrative opportunity for NBC, is another one of Washington’s selling points, and the Games could spill over to Baltimore. The area is accustomed to staging high-security gatherings.
Amid a campaign-finance scandal, Washington’s mayor lost his bid for re-election, and it is unclear whether his successor will support the bid. And while D.C. is lovely in the spring, its summer weather can feel like a warm pool.
PHILADELPHIA While the city is home to the triumphant “Rocky” steps, a culture of rabid sports fans and a gaggle of Ben Franklin impersonators, Philadelphia’s Olympic bid is a long shot.
Yet organizers may bank on that underdog status to help propel the bid. Philadelphia has hosted Beyond Sport, collegiate championships in lacrosse and wrestling, and the United States championships in figure skating and gymnastics. But Lincoln Financial Field, the home of the Philadelphia Eagles, seats 68,000, short of the 80,000 that London’s stadium had in 2012. Franklin Field, the site of the Penn Relays, could be another option, though it would have to be expanded.
“City leadership has met with a number of stakeholders and experts in recent months and continues to gauge the feasibility of Philadelphia pursuing an Olympic bid in 2024 or in the future,” Mark S. McDonald, a spokesman for Mayor Michael Nutter, said.
BOSTON Like Philadelphia, Boston has a deep sports culture, but with Gillette Stadium far away in Foxborough, Mass., the city would need to build an Olympic stadium. And it is far too soon to tell what effect last year’s bombings at the Boston Marathon would have on I.O.C. voters concerned about security
One report on the feasibility of a Boston Games formed by the Massachusetts State Legislature and the governor found that the city would also need an aquatics center, an Olympic Village and a velodrome. Nor had research been conducted on what the local opinion would be on hosting the Games.
“New Englanders have a well-earned reputation for being slow to embrace new ideas,” the legislative report said. “But once they have done so, they are committed and resolute.”
John Fish, who is leading the Boston effort, said in a statement, “Boston is a world-class city and would serve as a wonderful host for the Summer Olympics in 2024.”