S.F. and bid rivals to meet with U.S. Olympic officials next week

The latest round of competition between cities vying for a possible bid for the 2016 Summer Games will send San Francisco — along with Chicago and Los Angeles — down to Southern California next week for a two-day meeting with U.S. Olympic officials.

Competing for the right to host the prestigious sporting event is a time-intensive and expensive process. The U.S. Olympic Committee has repeatedly said there is a chance they will not make an international bid for the 2016 Summer Games if a U.S. city does not have the competitive edge to be chosen over cities from other countries competing for the honor.

In hopes of winning the 2012 games, New York reportedly spent more than $30 million on their international bid, but lost to London. San Francisco, a U.S. finalist for 2012, spent more than $4 million before seeing the domestic bid go to the Big Apple.

A decision on whether to submit an international bid is expected by the end of this year, with one U.S. city chosen by April 2007 to represent the nation, U.S. Olympic officials announced Wednesday.

The three finalist cities — San Francisco, Chicago and Los Angeles — have been working on their Olympic proposals for months, and last met with U.S. Olympic officials in August.

After that meeting, Mayor Gavin Newsom spoke candidly about the Bay Area’s ability to win the games, noting that Olympic officials had concerns related to The City’s ability to secure an appropriate venue for the opening and closing ceremonies.

Since then, officials from the San Francisco 49ers have announced that they are working with The City to design a new 68,000-seat football stadium that could be transformed into an Olympic-sized venue with temporary bleacher seating.

The ambitious plan, however, faces several obstacles, including an approval process that is unlikely to be completed in time to give Olympic officials 100 percent assurance that the stadium is a done deal.

“The 49ers could come forward and say ‘yes it’s feasible, and yes, we’re able to privately finance it, and yes, it meets the needs of our fans and the community,’ but this is not all our decision,” 49ers spokeswoman Lisa Lang said. “It involves an extensive public approval process and that’s not something the 49ers or The City has control over.”

Chicago is also struggling to find an Olympic-size stadium, with its most recent plan proposing to build a temporary stadium in the Windy City’s South Side that would be dismantled afterward.

“We’re in the same boat as Chicago in that respect and L.A. has its own issues,” Mayor Gavin Newsom said on Thursday. “So it doesn’t mean we’re at a disadvantage per se, but obviously all three of the bids have issues that need to be resolved.”

Los Angeles, which has boasted that it has all of the necessary venues, since it hosted the 1984 Olympics, is also considering building a new stadium in hopes of luring an NFL team to its region, according to recent news reports.

Next week’s meeting will bring all three cities to Irvine to meet together, as well as separately, with U.S. Olympic officials.

After that, the next step will be for the cities to provide a detailed plan, called a bid book, for hosting the Olympics, by January. Cities must also prove their financial mettle to Olympic officials by having $20 million in an escrow account by March. Recently, Chicago officials announced that they were more than halfway to that goal.

Newsom said he wasn’t ready to discuss The City’s fundraising efforts.

“The money’s going to come,” Newsom said. “I’m not worried about the money, not at all, quite the contrary.”

Other cities worldwide that have expressed interest in hosting the 2016 Olympics include Rome, Madrid, Spain, Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

beslinger@examiner.comBay Area NewsLocal

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