Thursday, February 21, 2013

USOC Asks America About 2024 Olympic Bid

A couple of nights ago, Chicago Tribune Olympic reporter Philip Hersh posted Chicago's curt "no thanks" to the United States Olympic Committee's letters asking several large city mayors a question: Can we talk?

Severing tradition to set the stage for an Olympic bid battle on home soil, the U.S.O.C. is surveying the landscape for cities interested in hosting the 2024 Summer Olympic Games. Hersh posted the text of the U.S.O.C. letter.

Five minutes later I had an email in to Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed's office asking for his response. Atlanta interested?

Around The Rings was on this story quickly. It took 24 hours for Atlanta media to finally jump into the discussion. And though it took 36 hours for Mayor Reed's office to get back to me, they did, with the following statement:

Atlanta was thrilled to host the Centennial Olympic Games and welcome the world to our great city in 1996. The games fueled the city’s economic and population growth, enhanced our international reputation as a leading global city, and continues to be a source of pride after more than a decade. We are pleased to be on the short list of cities with which the U.S. Olympic Committee will have initial conversations. This opportunity is worthy of thoughtful consideration, and I plan to discuss it with the city’s civic and business community in the weeks and months ahead. -- Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed

I'll take that as a cautious "maybe" on Atlanta's interest.

This morning I spoke with Atlanta attorney Charles H. Battle, Jr. ("Charlie"), of counsel at Miller & Martin PLLC. After serving on the Atlanta Olympic Committee (AOC) for Atlanta's successful Olympic bid in 1990, Battle was managing director at the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games (ACOG), later counseling Beijing, Vancouver, Sochi and PyeongChang through winning bids (he also worked on New York's 2012 and Chicago's 2016 bids).

In other words, Battle knows a thing or two about Olympic bids. But what of Atlanta's prospects for 2024?

Battle quickly pointed out Atlanta would have serious work cut out for it to make a case for a bid. Paraphrasing Ambassador Andrew Young in an Around The Rings article, Battle said there's a "been there, done that" perception that would be tough to crack.

"The IOC is looking to go to new places," said Battle.  "So [for Atlanta], it's not realistic. There's not a new story to tell to come back to Atlanta."

Not even with a new stadium for the Atlanta Falcons.

I asked Battle about the trend in IOC selection of host cities that bid multiple times (Salt Lake, Athens, Beijing, Vancouver, Sochi and PyeongChang each one after multiple bids), and Chicago's prospects as a repeat bidder that already politely declined the option.

"Chicago had a very outstanding technical bid and might have had a great opportunity," said Battle. "But sadly Chicago and New York got tied up in the IOC/USOC revenue issue."

For Battle, New York (a.k.a. "the capital of the world") is the most compelling city -- stateside and worldwide -- yet to host the Olympics.
"New York could have a great story," said Battle.

Battle also mentioned some other players on the USOC's mayoral mailing list, including Olympic bid enthusiasts from Tulsa, Okla., and cities in western New York.

"The thing that is tough is that bidding is very expensive, and hosting is even more expensive," said Battle. "Atlanta, or any city, would be hard pressed with questions in the decision they make (to bid)."

And if Mayor Reed calls Battle to chat?

"I'd be happy to talk to them," said Battle when asked if Reed was in touch (as of 11 a.m. today, no calls received). "I just don't think this is something Atlanta would seriously consider."

For this Olympic blogger, I tend to agree that New York is the world's most prominent city missing from pantheon of Olympic host cities. Mapping out the potential Olympic host cities in my lifetime (the next 40 to 60 years), from my view, the USA may only host the summer Games one or maybe two more times now through 2072. New York and Chicago are, to me, the greatest prospects. And with Chicago already removing itself from consideration for 2024, well, that's disappointing.

Not yet sure how I'd feel about Atlanta giving it a go. But I do think the USOC should bid for 2024. Definitely. I heard somewhere that the important thing is not to win, but to take part.

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