Bob Sweeney, president of the Greater Washington Sports Alliance, which is leading the initiative, said he felt the nation’s capital enters the process as “a front-runner.”
“I think great cities honestly think great thoughts and think big-picture,” Sweeney said in a telephone interview. “It doesn’t get any bigger than this.”
The Greater Washington Sports Alliance isn’t the same group that attempted to win the 2012 Summer Olympics, which went to London. It was formed in the wake of that effort to continue nurturing Washington’s international sporting profile. Among the events it has staged or had a hand in procuring, Sweeney said, are the Army-Navy football game at FedEx Field, the NCAA Frozen Four ice hockey championship at Verizon Center and the National Marathon.
Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder and Washington Wizards and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis publicly backed the bid Tuesday. Sweeney said he has also gotten supportive feedback from the office of Mayor Vincent Gray.
Although the International Olympic Committee won’t select the host of the 2024 Summer Games until 2017, Washington is fairly late in announcing its interest.
According to Blackmun, 10 cities signaled their interest by April, within two months of receiving the USOC’s letter. Boston, Dallas, Los Angeles and San Francisco are among those that have launched efforts to cultivate financial and political support.
The USOC is expected to decide by next year whether to submit a bid. If it proceeds, it will make a preliminary cut to two or three cities by December 2014 and will choose the city to put forward in 2015.
The costs of staging the Olympics are staggering.
In his February letter to the 35 U.S mayors, Blackmun said cities could expect an operating budget of $3 billion, which doesn’t include construction costs for venues, an athletes’ village or essential infrastructure that’s not already in place.
Sweeney said he projects the true expense at $4 billion to $6 billion.
“The cost is enormous but very doable,” he said, noting that it didn’t necessarily reflect “new dollars” but could include money already designated for capital improvements in the region.
Blackmun’s letter also cited specific requirements each prospective host city would have to meet. Among them, the provision of 45,000 hotel rooms, an Olympic Village to house 16,500 athletes, workspace for 15,000 journalists and an extensive public-transportation system.