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  • Popularity Contest Decides U.S. 2024 Olympic Bid -- Op Ed


    01/08/15

    A U.S. 2024 decision will be made Thursday at Denver International Airport. (Getty Images)
    (ATR) In just a few hours, the U.S. Olympic Committee board of directors gathers in a meeting room at the Denver International Airport to choose a city to bid for the 2024 Olympic Games.

    Boston; Los Angeles; San Francisco and Washington, D.C. are the candidates, finalists in a process begun in 2013 to deliberately select a city that would succeed. New York City lost its race for 2012 and Chicago was eliminated in the first round of the IOC vote for 2016.

    A quick review of the field of four cities reveals strengths in each one that could make it a winner internationally. Boston brings history. Washington, a world capital. Los Angeles is the Olympic veteran. San Francisco is the dream of every IOC member. All four seem to have the infrastructure and other resources needed for the foundation of a bid. No doubt the USOC has a group of cities that can stand up to competition that would likely include Paris, Rome and a German bid from Hamburg or Berlin.

    That the USOC has reached this point in selecting a city to bid again for the Olympics is the result of conversations with IOC members and Olympic movement opinion makers. They have told USOC chair Larry Probst that the time is right for the U.S. to bid again. Relations between the IOC and USOC are much improved since the time of the failed recent bids. And plenty of time will have passed since 1996, the last time the U.S. hosted the Summer Games.

    The last U.S. Summer Olympics was Atlanta 1996. (Getty Images)
    Given the quality of the cities being considered and the political situation of the IOC, the US bid might seem like a sure thing. But a new dynamic has entered the bid process for the Olympics: public support. The USOC is no longer judging a beauty contest among the four cities as to which has the shiniest venues and best infrastructure. It’s deciding a popularity contest.

    The timing of the decision comes in the midst of the debacle of the race for the 2022 Winter Olympics now underway. One by one, since 2013, a half dozen cities have had to abandon 2022 Olympic dreams after failing to win government or public support. Just two cities remain -- Almaty and Beijing -- not the lineup expected a year ago.

    To keep down costs and avoid overt campaigning by U.S. cities, the USOC has staged a very low profile evaluation of the cities. No fanfare. No press conferences. No written reports.

    But flying under the radar has created suspicions in at least one of the cities, Boston, where opponents have organized themselves. Opposition may not have been formally mounted in the other cities, but the low-key style of the selection process has meant no public review that might trigger outcryin any of the cities.

    The USOC board finds itself in a tricky position to move ahead without knowing whether the city it selects will self-destruct as a bidder months from now. In addition to the demise of the cities that were bidding for 2022, there is also the case of Denver handing back the 1976 Winter Olympics after a referendum rejected spending on the Games.

    It would seem that as part of its due diligence the USOC has commissioned what it hopes is infallibly accurate polling in each city so that it does not fly blindly into a bid disaster.

    ATR believes Los Angeles is ticketed for the U.S. bid. (Getty Images)
    Our gut feeling: Los Angeles will get the nod. As a two-time host of the Games, the Olympics are part of the culture and history of Southern California. The weather is great. The attractions are many. Existing facilities are plentiful. And we have heard nary a peep of dissent so far about bringing back the Games.

    San Francisco might come in second, but its fractious politics could spill over into an Olympic bid. The city by the Bay is truly a favorite of IOC members.

    Boston is probably out due to its nascent opposition.

    Washington could be a dark horse, but maybe too close a symbol of the U.S. government.

    The popularity contest ends in a few hours.

    Written by Ed Hula

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