Washington doesn’t have an Olympic ring to it


The Olympic flame burns in the cauldron in front of a large video screen displaying the Olympic rings during the London 2012 Olympic Games. (KAI PFAFFENBACH/REUTERS)

Welcome! Bienvenidos! Willkommen! Oh, and Bienvenue! You can’t forget French because French is, of course, the official language of the Olympics, which could be coming to Washington in 2024.

Except, of course, that there’s no way the Olympics come to Washington in 2024. It’s just not going to happen. The DC 2024 bid committee has a snowball’s chance in Sochi of bringing the Games here.

How much of a chance is that? Well, Sochi is the Russian city with a humid subtropical climate that will host the 2014 Winter Games. Its average temperature during the day: 52 degrees. At night, it drops to a chilly 39. Pack a sweater!

The fact that Sochi was given the Olympics speaks volumes about the ridiculous process, which has all the standards and fairness of a beauty pageant, and the International Olympic Committee, which makes no decision that does not benefit the International Olympic Committee. Period. Ever.

Example: The mostly rich, mostly old, mostly white men who make up the IOC like Russia, and they want to go to a resort. Sochi is a resort in Russia. Yahtzee! (It’s chilly, boys. Make those sweaters cashmere.)

The USOC 2024 nominee will be important because there hasn’t been a USOC nominee since four years ago, when the IOC eliminated Chicago from 2016 consideration in the first round — the Olympic equivalent of a pie in the face.

That marked the most public evidence of the rift between the IOC and USOC. Well, “rift” may be too soft a description. “Hatfields and McCoys” without gunplay, maybe. The two organizations had a falling out over a lot of issues, including drug testing but especially money, and money makes the Olympics go ’round.

The two organizations got into a fight over NBC’s rights fees — specifically, the IOC felt that the USOC was getting too big a piece of the NBC pie, despite the fact that NBC is a U.S. network last time I looked, and that TV revenues are the major way the USOC funds itself, rather than feeding off its government’s (very sore) teat, as Olympic teams do in the rest of the world.

The USOC hasn’t put forward a bid since Chicago’s smackdown, and because a bid without USOC support will go nowhere, that means no U.S. bids.

But now everyone seems to be getting along. USOC head Larry Probst was recently nominated for a seat on the IOC, and if he wins next month — election is considered pro forma — he would become the fourth American on the IOC. But the United States still hasn’t got a seat at the big table: the executive board that makes all the major decisions. (Think “U.N. Security Council,” but with bigger expense accounts.)

So I’d be surprised if the USOC didn’t put forward a candidate this time around, but I’d also be surprised if Washington makes it past the first stage. As many as 10 cities are interested, and believe it or not, four years to put together an Olympic bid is not a very long time. The 2024 host will be chosen in 2017, giving the host city seven years to prepare — and by that, I mean raise and spend billions of dollars.

The 2024 Games are expected to cost the host city $3.5 billion to $6 billion, but Olympics are like home renovations: The final bill is usually higher. DC 2024 claims a lot of security and infrastructure is already in place, and that is partly true, but not completely. D.C. is missing a site for the Opening Ceremonies, and no, FedEx won’t cut it. The IOC would want a venue right in the heart of the Games, and having fans and athletes stuck on the Beltway when the Olympic flame is lit is not on the agenda.

In fact, that’s the one piece of this idea that would be great: a new D.C. stadium (as long as it’s not funded by taxpayer money). That could host the Opening Ceremonies and track and field, and when it’s over, Dan Snyder and his family could slap a fresh coat of burgundy and gold paint on it and move right in.

But otherwise, I’m afraid DC 2024 is a non-starter. Forget the traffic and the humidity and the fact that we’re already awash in tourists in August. Our federal government doesn’t fund its athletes, but it does serve as a national scold for sports, and sometimes, an international scold. The IOC got a talking-to on Capitol Hill after the Salt Lake City scandal, and its memory is long and vindictive. And the U.S. of A. is not beloved the world over, and a lot of that dislike is aimed right here, where the important, often unpopular, decisions are made.

So in the USOC competition, “We’re the nation’s capital!” is not going to be the winning slogan. “Most powerful city in the world” isn’t going to go down well in front of the IOC. Washington may want to join the list of some of the great world cities to host an Olympics — London, Rome, Paris, Tokyo, Moscow, Beijing, St. Louis — but it’s got too much political baggage. And when it comes to the Olympics, baggage doesn’t matter, but politics most definitely does.

For more by Tracee Hamilton, go to washingtonpost.com/hamilton.

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Russia 2 11 3 35
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