S.F. to learn today if it makes Olympic cut

San Francisco is expected to find out today whether it made the final cut as a contender to be the American candidate city for the 2016 Summer Olympics.

The U.S. Olympic Committee is set to announce a pared-down list of candidates, from which it will choose the nation’s bid city to compete internationally to host the games.

San Francisco is in the running against Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston and Philadelphia. Mayor Gavin Newsom, along with mayors from four other cities, made a pitch to the USOC in La Jolla on June 23, highlighting San Francisco’s reputation as an international city, its ability to host a “green games” and the advantage of its existing infrastructure.

USOC spokesman Darryl Seibel said Tuesday that the committee has not yet determined whether the U.S. will even make an international bid for the 2016 games. Today's announcement, he said, will outline the committee’s next steps toward making that decision — including narrowing down the list of potential sites.

“We’re looking for a city that has a chance to be competitive in the international race,” Seibel said Tuesday. “The process for bidding for the international games is more competitive than it’s ever been.”

Seibel pointed out that, of the five finalists for the 2012 games, for which San Francisco bid unsuccessfully, all were what he called “world capitals.” New York, Paris, London, Moscow and Madrid competed for those games, which London finally won. New York spent more than $35 million for its international bid.

This time around, Seibel said, the USOC is trying to minimize costs to cities in the national race by not charging fees and discouraging the hiring of consultants. He said private dollars should fund the winning city’s international bid. That city would have to be able to put $20 million into an escrow account by March.

Gavin Newsom’s spokesman Peter Ragone said Tuesday that The City has not spent any taxpayer dollars on the current bid. All the money so far has come from private donations from “supporters of the Olympic movement who want to see San Francisco become the bid city,” he said. Seibel said the USOC based its decision on technical analysis of information submitted by the candidate cities and on the results of international polls. He said the committee is looking at “factors such as existing infrastructure, games vision, games legacy and governmental support at the local and regional levels.”

San Francisco’s “green games” angle and its traditionally leftist politics will help its bid, Bay Area Council spokesman John Grubb said. “One would expect that some of the political views of the Bay Area region might be more in line with a lot of members of the international community,” he said Tuesday.

Altogether, Grubb said, Olympic games bring an average of $7 billion to their host city in the form of tourist dollars, construction and advertising. “Another benefit is that you have 4 billion viewers from 200 countries focusing on the Bay Area for 16 days straight,” he said. Grubb called that exposure “priceless.”

amartin@examiner.com

Bay Area NewsLocal

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