REDWOOD CITY, Calif. — The United States Olympic Committee’s board of directors voted unanimously Tuesday to put forth a U.S. bid to host the 2024 Summer Games, but it tabled the tougher decision — whether to choose Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco or Boston as its bid city — until after the new year.
“It’s a four-way tie,” Scott Blackmun, the USOC’s CEO, said at a news conference late Tuesday afternoon, following presentations from the four finalist cities. “We had great presentations. What we didn’t have was an opportunity to explore how we really felt, what the strengths and weaknesses of each city were.”
The USOC board is expected to meet again in early January to decide on a host city for its bid.
“We applaud the decision of the USOC to put forth” a bid, Washington 2024 Chairman and CEO Russ Ramsey said in a statement Tuesday night. “Bringing the Games back to America, after a 28-year absence, will allow our next generation to witness firsthand the power of sport and embrace the values of the Olympic Movement.”
Wearing matching lapel pins featuring the multi-colored, W-shaped “unity” logo, the five-person delegation representing the Washington bid batted second in the four-city lineup of presentations Tuesday at the headquarters of Electronic Arts, the video game giant halfway between San Francisco and San Jose whose chairman, Larry Probst, is the USOC president. Each roughly hour-long session included a 30-40 minute presentation and 20-30 minute question-and-answer period.
According to Ramsey, all five members of the D.C. contingent — himself; Wizards and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis; D.C. mayor-elect Muriel Bowser (D); former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue; and Olympic swimming champion (and Bethesda native) Katie Ledecky — played an active role in the bid presentation.
“I couldn’t have been happier with our presentation or our team,” said Ramsey, singling out Bowser as someone who connected with the board, which, he said, found her “sincere, knowledgeable and enthusiastic.” Each of the other three bidding cities had its sitting mayor as part of its contingent.
The board “seemed very interested in what we were saying,” said Bowser, who will be inaugurated next month. “We know [the board has] a tough decision to make, but we do think we stand above the other cities because of the existing infrastructure and our ability to host major international events.”
The United States has not hosted a Summer Olympics since Atlanta 1996, and following the rejections of New York and Chicago for the 2012 and 2016 Games, respectively, decided not to bid for 2020. Probst said the board was motivated to make a bid for 2024 after discussions with IOC members at a meeting in Monaco last week.
“We’ve gotten lot of encouragement from the highest levels of the IOC [to make a bid], and we think it’s our time to move forward with a bid,” Probst said. “. . . There are 105 IOC members, and there are multiple opinions as to which city we should put forward. [But] we’re going to pick the city that we think has the best chance of winning the bid.”
The IOC will reduce the field to three or four finalists by spring 2016 and will select a winner at its September 2017 session in Lima, Peru. Among the other cities expected to bid are Rome, which announced its bid Monday; Paris; Istanbul; Berlin or Hamburg, Germany; Dubai; Doha, Qatar; Melbourne; and Johannesburg or Durban, South Africa. The United States is widely viewed as the leading candidate for the 2024 Games, although a potential South African bid would generate support as the first Olympics on African soil.
In a new set of guidelines adopted at its special session in Monaco, the IOC has stressed cost containment as a priority for future Olympics, with an emphasis on sustainability and utilizing existing venues. This comes in the wake of massive cost overruns at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, which topped out at an estimated $51 billion, and a disastrous bid process for the 2022 Winter Games in which four of the six candidates dropped out.
All the bids submitted Tuesday proposed budgets in the $4 billion-$5 billion range, although those do not take into consideration associated transportation and other infrastructure costs.
Although the D.C. 2024 bid leans heavily on existing venues, its proposal calls for a new, permanent Olympic stadium to be constructed on the current site of RFK Stadium. The proposals for San Francisco and Boston also call for newly constructed, but temporary, Olympic stadiums, while Los Angeles would use the existing Coliseum, which hosted the 1932 and 1984 Olympics.
“Each of these bids,” Blackmun said Tuesday, “is very fiscally responsible and is something that is not going to be a burden on those cities financially.”