If the U.S. Olympic Committee does in fact choose Washington next year to be nation’s official bid city for the 2024 summer games, Mayor Vincent C. Gray won’t be around to call any shots — so take his comments Wednesday on the news that the USOC has shortlisted D.C. with due caution.
That said, in saying he is “very excited” about the possibility, Gray (D) made what is pretty much the best possible case for taking on the complicated, disruptive, expensive responsibility of hosting an Olympics.
“The idea is, and we’ve had these discussions with [the local D.C. 2024 committee], is to make sure that what is done has an enduring quality about it, that it isn’t just a two-week event and then people can’t figure out what the heck to do with these facilities in the aftermath,” Gray said. “The transportation infrastructure would have value for the city in the future. The housing infrastructure would have value for the city in the future. … Whatever investments are made will be there for years and years to come.”
But the mayor said there has been no discussion of what dollar amount of investment might be needed from D.C. taxpayers and a local government that has reached the limit of its statutory borrowing capacity for at least the next five years. Gray discussed only limited interactions with the D.C. 2024 committee, headed by businessmen Russ Ramsey and Ted Leonsis.
“The things that they’ve asked us to do, we’ve stepped up and done those things,” Gray said, noting that a letter of support was drafted and some preliminary discussions had. “If this gets past the stage of where it is now, the city will obviously have participation in the transportation issues that are associated with this, housing issues.”
Gray also expressed hope that the Olympics could be a catalyst for the development of what he likes to call the “east end” of the city: “There’s been a lot of discussion about having some of the sites around the Anacostia River, for example, and having some of the housing sites further east in the city.” Building Olympic sites there, such as athlete housing that could become affordable housing for families, “could have a tremendous effect,” he said.
That echoes the case Leonsis made on his own blog this week: “I toured many of the Olympic Games sites [in London] and have seen first hand the transformational powers to a community an Olympic Games can have – for young people, the disadvantaged and for all.”