USOC decides to bid for 2024; city still undecided

Eric Risberg/AP File Photo
Larry Baer
facebooktwittergoogle_plusmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusmail

The U.S. Olympic Committee will try to land the 2024 Olympics and end a 28-year drought without the Summer Games.

Which city will it pick? Stay tuned.

After hearing presentations from the four candidates Tuesday — Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington — USOC board members voted to join the race, but not until they have a chance to mull over the candidates during the holidays.

“It's a four-way tie,” CEO Scott Blackmun said, not diverging from the federation's closed-lip policy on this yearlong selection process. “We had great presentations, now we have an opportunity to explore how everyone felt about the presentations. We'll reflect, come back after the holidays and see what's in the best interest for the United States.”

This was the expected move from a federation that lost badly the last two times it bid for the Games — New York for 2012 and Chicago for 2016 — and hasn't played host to the Summer Olympics since the Atlanta Games in 1996.

The 2016 Olympics are set for Rio de Janeiro. The 2020 Games, which the United States did not bid for, will be in Tokyo.

America's chosen city for 2024 will be up against Rome and either Hamburg or Berlin. There will be others in the mix, as well, possibly including Paris, which is expected to announce its intention soon. The Games will be awarded in 2017.

“There are some real good cities lining up,” said Steve Penny, president of USA Gymnastics. “It's going to be a tough race. It's important to take the time to make the right decision, to find a city that represents a very bold message.”

Blackmun said there were no major changes in the decision-making process that stemmed from the International Olympic Committee's Agenda 2020 — an attempt to streamline the bidding process and make the Olympics less expensive. He and chairman Larry Probst said there was no move to have two cities combine on a bid — a possibility raised in Agenda 2020.

All the cities had their mayors or mayor-elects there, along with the bids' power players. They included Giants owner Larry Baer for San Francisco, agent and media mogul Casey Wasserman for Los Angeles, construction magnate John Fish for Boston and Wizards and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis for Washington.

“We're not going to leave a bill for future generations,” Boston Mayor Marty Walsh told The Associated Press, hammering home a theme of cost-effectiveness that the USOC has insisted on from the start of this process.

Also represented was the group No Boston Olympics, the most organized protest group in the four cities, which unfurled a banner outside the meeting place in Redwood City, California. The group cited polling data that showed tepid support, along with the secretive process of the domestic selection process, as among the reasons to reject the Olympics.

Blackmun said the protest groups won't scare the USOC.

“Once we pick a city and the city has more freedom (to outline details of its bid), I think you'll see opposition decline,” he said. “You'll see that each bid is fiscally responsible.”

The cities all came in with projected operating budgets of between $4 billion and $5 billion, though that cost almost always skyrockets, and doesn't include the infrastructure and other Olympic-related improvements cities make.

Blackmun said the cities had to show how an Olympics would fit into their long-term plans — an element the IOC also thinks is important as it tries to end the days of billion-dollar roads, stadiums and airports that are only partially used once the Olympics leave town.

Also important to the U.S. bid is the USOC's reputation overseas. Blackmun and Probst have spent more than four years traveling the world to repair frayed relations that played into the country's last two losses.

“They've done a tremendous job,” said Max Siegel, CEO of USA Track and Field. “They've been consistent, deliberate, invested in building meaningful relationships. Where we operate, I think people are noticing there's a genuine effort to be a contributing member.”

In Other News