Newsom: Olympic queries could jeopardize S.F. bid

Mayor Gavin Newsom came out of The City's meeting with U.S. Olympic officials Thursday morning with a pragmatic attitude, noting that if questions about some key venues for the international sporting event couldn't be answered within the organization’s timeline, San Francisco might have to walk away from a possible bid for the 2016 summer games.

The City — along with Chicago and Los Angeles — is on the short list of contenders to be the nation’s choice to compete with other cities worldwide for the honor of hosting the Olympic Games.

Other cities worldwide that have expressed interest in hosting the 2016 games include Rome and Milan in Italy; Madrid, Spain; Hamburg, Germany; and the Japanese cities of Tokyo and Fukuoka.

Newsom has previously stated that The City, along with the Bay Area, was in a good position to compete for the Olympics because the region already had 83 percent of the necessary venues to host the sporting event in place.

On Thursday, he conceded that “83 percent is not 100 percent.”

Newsom called the no-frills meeting, held within two hours in an office at the San Francisco Ferry Building, “a very honest and open discussion.”

San Francisco’s next step is to complete the U.S. Olympic Committee’s domestic applicant questionnaire by the third weekin September.

“I believe we’ll have real clarity in the next month on whether we can deliver on their expectations,” Newsom said.

The U.S. Olympic Committee had concerns related to The City’s ability to secure an appropriate venue for the opening and closing ceremonies, Newsom said. In a previous unsuccessful bid for the 2012 Olympics, the Bay Area’s Olympic bid committee proposed hosting the highlight events at Stanford University, an idea that many thought was less desirable than having the ceremonies within San Francisco’s city limits. Also, a venue for the popular track and field events, among others, has not been confirmed, Newsom said.

There has been discussion about whether a new 49ers stadium proposed for Candlestick Point would meet the Olympic need, but, Newsom said, “There’s an increasingly strong argument that NFL stadiums aren't necessarily the best opening and closing venues.”

Chicago officials are also struggling with the issue of finding an Olympic-sized stadium that can hold at least 75,000 people; city officials have proposed constructing a temporary stadium near an existing waterfront football stadium, an idea that has received some resistance, according to reports.

New York, which won the domestic bid for the 2012 Olympics, may have lost out in the international competition to London due to its problems over funding and building a stadium, according to the bid leader for the East Coast city.

Although 2016 is 10 years away, Newsom said it was the USOC’s timeline that might force a decision for The City to bow out of the competition. The national organization has said that it will decide by the end of March if it will choose a city to compete internationally for the 2016 games.

“I don't want to lead the USOC on, that San Francisco can deliver a games if we feel there's some risk,” he said.

beslinger@examiner.com

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