Handicapping the 2016 Summer OlympicsSo now that London won the 2012 Olympics, speculation is moving on to who will get the 2016 games. The feeling is that North America, and specifically the US, is due for a games since it will have been 20 years since Atlanta '96. There is evidently sentiment at the IOC that Africa or South America should get a games soon, but the word is that the two leading contenders, Cape Town and Rio de Janeiro, are not ready to propose yet. The time frame is pretty tight too, since the USOC would probably need to pick its contender by 2007 for a 2009 IOC decision. So here are some contenders and comments:
- New York: Evidently exhausted by the failed 2012 bid, with many expiring agreements on facilities and land, plus lack of citizen support, they may not try for 2016. There is also sentiment that they let the USOC down by not getting together on the West Side Stadium - the the USOC saying 2016 is "wide open". Still, they have a pretty good shot if they can get it together. Doubtful.
- Toronto: Has taken itself out of the running, probably because of Vancouver's 2010 winter Olympics bid. Don't want to over-favor one country.
- San Diego/Tijuana: Interesting co-bid across the border might catch the eye of the IOC because it includes Mexico, and they certainly have the right weather for a summer Olympics. Cross-border transporation could be a nightmare, especially when combined with massive anti-terrorism security efforts. The tiny one-runway airport also seems pretty inadequate - are they gonna bus people down from LAX? Innovative but risky, and I don't think the USOC/IOC is up for any additional risk.
- Philadelphia: Wild-card, but seems unlikely. No organization yet with a tight time-frame, and they'd have to get a whole lot of political unity across two states and dozens of counties and cities in the metro area.
- Chicago: Another wild-card. No movement yet, but if they get it together, it could be a really strong bid.
- LA: Already had two Olympics, and if they can't get political unity behind an NFL stadium and franchise, what chance do they have with an Olympics bid?
- DC: Again, after New York, the USOC may shy away from metros with political unity problems like the ones that came out around DC's new baseball stadium for the Nationals. Complex joint bid with Baltimore also makes a bit of a sprawling mess. Unlikely.
- Houston: We've got a great technical bid, with a really compact venue plan and strong political unity and citizen support. But I'm not sure I could inflict our heat on the athletes (not that Mexico City, Athens and Atlanta weren't hot). And we're hurt by the bad impression of Atlanta's Olympics (I think people see us as almost twin cities), and not really being a tourist city. Oddsmakers have us at 33 to 1.
- San Francisco: They came a close second to New York for the 2012 USOC bid. Gorgeous bay area with perfect weather (well, except maybe for the fog). Popular tourist town. None of the athletes, officials or reporters will have to afford a house there. What's not to like?
Oddsmakers are betting on New York. My prediction? I think the USOC will use Houston and others to put pressure on San Francisco to up the stakes and push their bid to the limit, then they will give it to San Francisco. In my mind, it's San Francisco's to lose, which they certainly could do if they have political unity problems or weak citizen support. The SF Bay Area is a lot of different counties and cities that may have trouble coming together, and California as a state is just about broke. But Schwarzenegger is a powerful charm machine to have on their side. So, putting my neck out there very early with thin information to go on: first the USOC, then the IOC, will pick San Francisco for the 2016 Olympics.
Am I being disloyal to Houston? No, just realistic. And as I've posted before, an Olympics would be a big drain on the money and energy of our city that could go into more important long-term problems. I just hope we don't waste too much energy being a straw man for the USOC to get more out of San Francisco. If, by some miracle, we do win it, I will certainly be a major supporter and booster - and I think we will do a great job just like the Super Bowl. It's kinda like light rail: once it's a done-deal sunk cost, we might as well get everything possible out of it...