S.F. Olympic vision taking shape

As visions go, it’s an impressive one.

A decade from now, the eyes of the world could be on San Francisco as it prepares to host the 2016 Olympic Games. The transformed city would proudly unveil to the world its newest neighborhood growing around the Mission Bay biotech nexus and its new skyline on Rincon Hill. A new state-of-the-art stadium for the 49ers would host the opening and closing ceremonies of the games and would be viewed by people in every corner of the world.

And the thousands of athletes coming to our city to compete would be housed in a brand-new Olympic Village, which would become much-needed housing for San Franciscans at the games’ conclusion — housing with an international mystique that would be a legacy to The City from the greatest global event ever held within its borders.

The vision, while intriguing, must necessarily remain a broad-strokes picture for now, as San Francisco is only in the first steps of what would be a marathon. It is far from certain that The City, or any other American city among the five competing, will get the nod from the United States Olympic Committee to become the U.S. candidate for the games — that decision will be made in the coming months. And winning that honor would only pit San Francisco against other world cities in an international campaign that would finally be decided by the International Olympic Committee in 2009.

But now is the time for San Francisco to start proposing answers to the big, important questions, and on that score it is off to a good start.

Make no mistake: Many hurdles remain for both the Olympic Village concept and plans for a football stadium. The Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, where the village would be built, is riddled with toxins and undergoing a lengthy and complicated cleanup process as the U.S. Navy, which used the land for decades, turns it over, piece by piece, to The City. And getting a football stadium built is fraught with questions and potential pitfalls, including how much public money would be sought to pay for it.

But in both cases, The City’s needs dovetail nicely with the requirements for hosting the Olympics. Thousands of units of housing have been planned at Hunters Point for years as part of the shipyard’s redevelopment, and it has been a foregone conclusion since the mid-1990s that crumbling, city-owned Monster Park would have to be replaced eventually.

Mayor Gavin Newsom has been energetic in his advocacy for bringing the Olympics to San Francisco, and so far he has taken the right steps to position The City to have a real chance. The challenges ahead will be massive — for Newsom and for future San Francisco mayors, if The City advances further in the process. But hosting the Olympics is a goal worth striving for with all of The City’s collective will. — AP

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