The bid to bring the 2024 Summer Olympics to Washington has been one of the more stealth lobbying campaigns based in the nation’s capital these past months.
In deliberately low-key style, as U.S. Olympic Committee officials have directed, a group of the region’s deep-pocketed, well-connected business leaders has been trying to convince the organization to name Washington as the country’s nominee to host the 2024 Games.
DC2024, as the effort is called, represents a regional bid that incorporates the clout and sporting venues of Washington, as well as northern Virginia and Maryland. It is led by Russ Ramsey, a Virginia based financier and philanthropist. Vice chairman is Ted Leonsis, Washington Wizards and Capitals owner and a former AOL executive and venture capitalist.
Washington is among six cities believed to be in the running. The others: Boston, Dallas, Los Angeles (host of the 1932 and 1984 Olympics), San Diego and San Francisco. The mayors of New York and Philadelphia announced last month that their cities, initially interested, were bowing out.
On Tuesday, the USOC’s 15-member board of directors will meet behind closed doors to pare that list to two or three cities, although USOC Chairman Larry Probst has said the panel does not intend to make its decision public.
The USOC hopes to choose the city to nominate by the end of the year. That would give the USOC and city leaders roughly nine months to bolster the bid and fine-tune their strategy before formally submitting it to the International Olympic Committee in September 2015. The IOC is expected to name the 2024 host in 2017, providing the customary seven-year window for preparation.
Washington has been rejected before in the USOC’s domestic selection process, passed over in favor of New York in pursuit of the 2012 Summer Games, which went to London.
The USOC bounced back four years later to put forward Chicago as its candidate to host the 2016 Games. But that bid was the first one rejected by the IOC in the 2009 voting, in what amounted to a public humiliation, despite a personal pitch from President Obama. Rio de Janeiro emerged as the winner, and its lack of readiness two years out has been cause for alarm.
After sitting out the 2020 bidding process, USOC officials feel the time is right to try again. Once-frosty relations with the IOC appear to have thawed, thanks to a compromise in a long-running revenue-sharing dispute and the $7.75 billion that NBC Universal pledged this spring to broadcast six Olympic Games through 2032. The United States’ representation on the IOC recently expanded, with Probst named as the country’s fourth delegate of the 104-member body.
Under the leadership of Probst and Scott Blackmun, who was named USOC CEO in 2010, the organization has attempted to rein in cities’ spending on the bidding process. In past Olympic cycles, some cities spent as much as $10 million to burnish their case.
Like the other cities in the running for 2024, the Washington area has been visited more than once by a USOC working group that has been evaluating potential bid cities.
A Washington-area bid would incorporate the region’s inventory of sporting venues within a compact geographical area, with only an Olympic stadium and athletes’ village required to be built.
Much like the successful London 2012 Games, it would focus on integrating the competition with existing facilities and locating the hub of new construction — the Olympic stadium and village — in a region that needs redevelopment and reinvestment. One site under consideration is the area around RFK Stadium.
Finally, a DC2024 bid would stress the region’s experience and readiness in public safety and securing high-profile events; its network of public transportation; and its multicultural population.
By the time 2024 arrives, it will have been 28 years since the United States hosted a Summer Olympics, the 1996 Atlanta Games.
The process started in February 2013, when the USOC sent letters to mayors of 35 cities gauging their interest in hosting the 2024 Summer Games. That letter stated that cities would be required to provide 45,000 hotel rooms, an Olympic village to house 16,500 athletes, work space for 15,000 journalists, an extensive public-transport system, a work force of 200,000 and should expect an operations budget of $3 billion.
Russia reportedly spent a record $50 billion to host the recent Sochi Winter Games, despite the fact that Winter Olympics are shorter and involve fewer sports and athletes than Summer Olympics.