A new effort to lure the Olympic Games to Washington and its environs kicked off Tuesday with a slick Web site, a professional-grade social media campaign and top-notch public relations and legal counsel. But the details on which regional interests are thus far backing the effort remain sketchy.
The face of DC 2024 is Bob Sweeney, the president and chief executive of the Greater Washington Sports Alliance, a group that seeks to attract and organize sporting events in the area in order to “foster economic development and civic pride.” The group had $1.6 million in revenues in 2011, the most recent year for which a tax return was available, and its board includes heavy hitters from the local business community.
So which heavy hitters are backing DC 2024, and how is the group paying for its efforts that, if successful, will require several billion dollars of public investment? That’s being kept close to the vest for the moment. Jackie Kahn, a spokeswoman for the group, declined to release a list of board members, saying that would come “at some point down the road.”
“We still want to talk to a few people,” Kahn said.
The group’s nonprofit incorporation papers, filed with the District in June, list no incorporators or directors — only a registered agent, litigator Anthony T. Pierce of the law firm Akin Gump. Otherwise, only a few other names have been publicly associated with the effort. Wizards/Capitals owner Ted Leonsis expressed support, as did Redskins owner Dan Snyder. Virginia businessman Dan Knise, who led the unsuccessful effort to lure the 2012 Games, is also known to be involved.
Pierce spoke to Capital Business reporter Catherine Ho about his involvement, saying Akin Gump would be counseling the group on “myriad other issues likely to come up as this organization does its fundraising, which is going to be all private money.” Pierce said he is on the DC 2024 board and said the Greater Washington Board of Trade also has a role in the group; board CEO Jim Dinegar could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
What is clear is that DC 2024’s outreach to local elected officials has been uneven at best. A Fairfax County supervisor, Pat Herrity, said in a Tuesday release that he is “working in conjunction with other local area groups” on the Olympic effort. But Mayor Vincent C. Gray said Tuesday his administration has no formal role in the effort and had not been briefed on the plans.
His comments otherwise were hardly boosterish: “I haven’t had any conversations with anybody,” he said. “If someone wants to present us an analysis or a proposal, we’ll be happy to look at it. But we have only finite resources to go around … so we if we got serious about it we’d have to really weigh, what is it we’re going to do with the Olympics that we won’t do otherwise in the city?”
Olympic bid efforts are large, complicated, expensive multi-year efforts that are typically driven by local business elites, so no surprise that Hizzoner isn’t driving the train here. But a successful bid will require an unprecedented amount of regional cooperation and political will, and with the United States Olympic Committee about 15 months from making its preliminary cut of bidders, DC 2014 will have to amass its private- and public-sector backers in very short order.