Friday, July 15, 2005

Handicapping the 2016 Summer Olympics

So 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...


At 1:48 PM, July 15, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a very political decision, as you suggest. I agree that San Francisco has a lot of the goods that the IOC wants: tourist destination, nice weather, extensive transit system, and good reputation.

Even though Houston may have the best technical venue, we can't win the soft item category.

In my view, we should not waste any money and the time of our political officials on a bid that will surely lose.

At 5:16 PM, July 15, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

there were no 'soft items' that Atlanta had for their successful bid that we don't have. Difference is they have never had that darn inferiority complex that simmers beneath our boosterism and keeps us from making ourselves great.

But maybe it's time for the IOC to choose an olympics that will funnel 1st world contributions as an investment into an african city to support having the games there. And not places like J-burg or Cairo either, but some sub-saharan underdeveloped locale.

At 5:56 PM, July 15, 2005, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

That's a novel concept: the Olympics funnels money to a city that needs to develop rather than extracting every last dollar out of them.

On a different note, it seems one criteria the USOC should consider is "Which bid city would benefit the most from the high profile global publicity?" Atlanta is a great example there - it really boosted them into a "name" city globally. New York is not. London is not. It is not possible for either New York or London to have a higher global profile.

At 2:19 PM, August 01, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I recall the 2012 bid details well enough, it seemed we were hurt most by the fact that Lee Brown was in the midst of cramming 12 years of street construction into 3 years, which led to the host committee being driven up 59 having to "imagine" how great it would look like once completed. That seemed to overwhelm the fact that our venue availability kicked every other town's rear-end.

Heat and transit are going to be an issue no matter what. But they call them the Summer Olympics everywhere they play em ... so unless they have it south of the equator, it's gonna be hot. In the end, I don't think those items are deal-breakers. You can soup up transit to fit the temporary nature of the event.

Now, that said, beating out New York City is going to be tough no matter what. Plus, as the Salt Lake City scandal fades into memory, look for a partial comeback of the traditional forms of bribery that cities offer the host committee. I think that hampers us only to the extent that we're pretty new to the Olympic bidding game. We made a good showing for 2012 that I think any Houstonian can be proud of - and I'm among those that looks pretty harshly on using city/state funds to peddle sporting events. It's just rather hard to see how we might gain ground on our showing even though much of the construction will be done by the time we have a host committee return here.

At 9:28 PM, May 10, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Houston has an excellent chance at the 2016 games. Given the short timeframe, if the USOC decides to submit a bid they will select a city that has the package together. Houston has it. Here in San Francisco, an early favorite, there are several venues that will need to be built over several juristictions, not to mention the high cost of living, traffic and spotty mass transit system.

One thing that Houston should do to win the bid is not to push the package, but the perks. When I lived in Houston the 2012 bid concentrated on selling Houston as an international city. Houston is an international city, what gets the Olympics is a rich cultural heritage. If Houston focuses on the city's unique cultural qualities such as Rodeo, Cowboys, and Country Music for 2016 it will set the city apart from the competition.

Houston has to sell the vision not the city.

At 6:58 PM, May 19, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is a given all ready Los Angeles will be given the Olympics again.

At 12:28 AM, February 28, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about New Orleans

At 9:14 AM, October 04, 2009, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

After Rio just got picked over Chicago for 2016: I think the USOC will have to patch up relations with the IOC over a few years, then maybe submit SF for 2024 or 2028 - after Asia and maybe Europe get another turn.


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