City should make push for Olympics

It’s time for San Francisco to re-assert its place among the great cities of the world. It’s time for The City to host the Olympics.

San Francisco is currently one of five cities being considered by the United States Olympic Committee as a candidate for the 2016 summer games, along with Houston, Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles. USOC officials say they will decide by the end of the year whether they will put forth a candidate to compete against other international cities.

The disappointment of 2002, when San Francisco was edged out by New York as the U.S. contender for the 2012 Olympics, should not deter local officials from making a supreme effort to secure the U.S. nomination for 2016.

Great cities shouldn’t rest on their laurels. Although San Francisco has a nearly unmatched international mystique, owing to its fascinating history, its role as the center of major cultural changes and the breathtaking beauty of its vistas, it should continue to press its many advantages. The world’s tourism landscape is becoming increasingly competitive, and San Francisco cannot afford to take for granted that visitors — who represent our No. 1 industry — will keep coming even if we barely lift a finger to attract them. The global attention of the Olympic Games would represent a two-week, worldwide commercial for The City’s attractions.

More importantly, the Olympics would offer a once-in-a-lifetime chance for San Francisco to show the world that it is more than just pretty postcard images of cable cars and the Golden Gate Bridge. As wonderful as those images are, they can perpetuate the idea that we are a lovely but inconsequential city that is trapped in a nostalgic reverie.

In fact, San Francisco should be promoting the real story. We can show the world that we are at the forefront of technological advances such as stem cell research and biotechnology, and that it is the place to be for the world’s most innovative thinkers. We can show the world that we have thriving new neighborhoods, such as Mission Bay and the changing skyline of South of Market and Rincon Hill, to go along with Chinatown, North Beach and the Haight. Such images can join with our traditional attractions to create an enhanced global image of our city that will position us as a world business center for the next century.

The challenges are many. Creating a realistic vision for a new Olympic stadium is a virtual prerequisite for a successful bid. Even that is no guarantee of beating out the international competition in 2009, when the final decision will be made.

But the Olympics would be good for San Francisco and the Bay Area. We are encouraged that Mayor Gavin Newsom will be in San Diego on Friday as the San Francisco team makes its pitch to the USOC. We urge other civic leaders to make bringing the games here in 2016 a top priority.

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