For 18 months, many residents of the Washington region shared an enormous — some might say Olympic-size — dream: to bring the 2024 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games to the nation’s capital.
For the District, the Olympics would have meant an opportunity to breathe economic life into some of the region’s most underserved neighborhoods and inspire a generation of young athletes to invest in themselves and their futures. And on a global scale, it would have allowed a place that is so often tainted with the dysfunctional reputation of the federal government to reintroduce itself to the world as a dynamic, diverse, growing and economically successful metropolis.
The region’s leaders came together behind that goal: the Greater Washington Board of Trade, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, the Federal City Council, the Northern Virginia Technology Council, every member of the D.C. Council, the National Capital Region’s congressional delegation and virtually every elected official from surrounding local governments supported the effort. Planning on this scale presented a unique and tremendous opportunity to look 10, 20, 30 years and more into the future, working backward to accomplish concrete and lasting positive change.
Unfortunately, the District will not host the 2024 Games. But the work of our communities’ best minds on the District’s bid has started a process to achieve many of the long-term goals shared by our leaders.
The plans for a 2024 Washington Games sought to capitalize on where the city was already going and accelerate important projects throughout the region. For instance, the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative to transform the banks of the Anacostia River along wards 7 and 8; the inevitable redevelopment of the RFK Stadium site and Hill East to create jobs, new affordable housing units and other benefits to that neighborhood; the repurposing of the decommissioned Pepco site on Benning Road NE to an environmentally conscious facility that adds jobs and value to the area; the continued success of the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area, which finds new ways for the region’s 13 universities to work together; and the close cooperation of the National Park Service and the District to maximize economic opportunities.
The bid also enhanced regional collaborations that directly affect economies along the East Coast. New investment in transportation on a macro level, such as high-speed rail or developments related to current construction to expand the capacity of the Panama Canal, will modernize industry and make regional cooperation play an even more critical role looking ahead.
These important initiatives and goals remain crucial to the region’s future as one of our country’s fastest-growing places to live. While hosting the Olympic Games certainly would have provided a central point for regional leaders to rally around, the incredible unity and goodwill achieved through our bid process can provide the right momentum toward accomplishing these objectives. It is my hope our leaders can build off Washington 2024’s work to continue dreaming big and finding innovative ways to make the District and our region shine for the world to see.
The writer is chairman and chief executive of Washington 2024, the nonprofit organized to bid on the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.