Warning of costs, supervisor wants S.F. to vote on hosting Olympics

Hosting the 2016 Olympics would put San Francisco at a financial risk, warned one city supervisor, as he proposed putting the decision before voters.

Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval introduced a nonbinding ballot measure Tuesday that would ask city residents in November whether they support San Francisco becoming a host city, despite possible “negative” impacts. Sandoval is asking the Board of Supervisors to approve the measure at next Tuesday’s meeting.

San Francisco is on the short list of cities — that also includes Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia — under consideration by the U.S. Olympic Committee for a possible American bid for the 2016 summer games. Last month, USOC Chairman Peter Ueberroth said the group might narrow the field of five cities by mid-July.

Sandoval predicted that The City would incur a debt and housing prices would soar in the years before the event.

“The 1976 Montreal games was one of the largest financial loses for that city, costing $2 billion dollars, placing Quebec in debt for decades,” Sandoval said. “Sydney is still paying $32 million a year to maintain underused venues created for the Olympics.”

Mayor Gavin Newsom, when asked earlier in the week if San Francisco could afford to host the 2016 Olympics, said the Bay Area was at an advantage over other cities due to the fact that “83 percent of the venues are already built.”

Sandoval called for an economic impact report from the Controller’s Office detailing the costs and impacts of being a host city and also for public discussions before the Board of Supervisors.

“With the increased security and increase in overall operating costs, which we’ve seen through the years, we can only guess at this point what the 2016 games will cost,” Sandoval said.

A 2001 Controller’s Office review of the region’s unsuccessful bid for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, reported that $2.8 billion was budgeted to put on the international sporting event. Of that amount, a revenue estimate of $2.2 billion — from selling broadcast rights, sponsorship and official-supplier opportunities and ticket sales — was determined to be a “reasonable” estimate. The report did outline concerns about reimbursement for government services provided, including public transportation services, parking and traffic control, and recreation and park services. It also noted concerns about liability and “risk management costs” as well as the bid’s assumption that “other public and private entities will fund most of the capital expenditures necessary for new construction.”

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