A five-person contingent will present a case to the 16-member U.S. Olympic Committee board of directors Tuesday morning for why the nation’s capital deserves to host the 2024 Summer Games.
By the time the D.C. representatives return from Redwood City, Calif., they could know whether the USOC has chosen their bid over those of fellow finalists Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston, to move forward to the International Olympic Committee.
“We’re preparing for [a decision] to come as early as Tuesday,” said Russ Ramsey, chairman and CEO of the Washington 2024 group. “We’re also preparing for it to be pushed back to mid-January. We have not gotten any [firm timetable] from the board.”
Ramsey, a businessman who has been hustling support for the D.C. bid since its official launch in September, will be D.C.’s lead presenter at the USOC board meeting and will be joined by vice chairman Ted Leonsis, the owner of the Washington Wizards and Capitals.
With a maximum of five representatives allowed per bidding city, the D.C. group filled out its roster with D.C. Mayor-Elect Muriel Bowser, former NFL Commissioner (and DC2024 board member) Paul Tagliabue and Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer (and Bethesda native) Katie Ledecky.
The USOC has scheduled a news conference for 4 p.m. Pacific time on Tuesday, at which it is expected to announce that it will, in fact, submit a U.S. bid to the IOC — which was not a given, as the U.S. passed on bidding for the 2020 Games.
“The odds are good” the U.S. will put forth a bid, USOC Chairman Larry Probst told reporters following an IOC meeting in Monaco earlier this month.
But the timing for naming the U.S. bid city is unclear. Most of the USOC board members will be hearing details of the four cities’ bids for the first time Tuesday, and while there is some sentiment for picking a winner by the end of year — because four board members’ terms expire Dec. 31 — it is possible the decision won’t come until well after the new year.
The IOC will name the host city for the 2024 Summer Games in September 2017 in Lima, Peru.
Handicapping these Olympic bid derbies is difficult, but DC2024 officials say they are optimistic about their bid, which has received little in the way of public opposition — unlike Boston, where anti-Olympics organizers have already mounted a well-organized opposition movement. Both California cities are appealing, but Los Angeles hosted a Summer Games as recently as 1984, and San Francisco was forced to drop out of the bidding for the 2016 Games because of political fighting over stadium sites.
A new IOC directive allowing countries to present multi-city bids could benefit the California cities: Even if their bid is not officially a joint one, Los Angeles could propose staging some events in San Francisco — or vice versa — to reduce the costs associated with building new venues. Budget restraint is another point of emphasis by the IOC, after runaway budgets plagued the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing and the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
A potential 2024 Summer Games in Washington would use existing venues scattered throughout the District, Maryland and Virginia, with a new Olympic stadium to be built on the site of RFK Stadium and an athletes’ village on an adjoining federal reservation.
The USOC’s two most recent bids — for New York City in 2012 and Chicago in 2016 — were unceremoniously rejected by the IOC. Partly because of that, and partly because of what would be, by 2024, a 28-year gap since the last Summer Games in the U.S. — Atlanta 1996 — the U.S. would be seen in some circles as an immediate front-runner if it decides to bid this time.
“We’re not in it to come in fourth, third or second,” Probst told reporters in Monaco.
Among other countries expected to bid are Italy, Germany and France, but a potential South African bid could upset the pecking order. The continent of Africa has never hosted an Olympic Games, and the South African bid would be seen as a chance for the IOC to make history, much in the same way Rio de Janeiro’s successful 2016 bid rallied support as the first Olympics host city in South America.
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