By Josh Kerns
A lot of people believe Seattle had a good shot at getting the 2012 Olympic Games that ended up in London. But despite some deep-pocketed backing, the City Council killed the effort before it got off the ground. Now, there’s talk the city could again be making a move to host the 2024 Summer games.
According to SportspressNW.com, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn’s office has asked the Seattle Sports Commission to enter into “informal” talks with the United States Olympic Committee about a possible bid. The move follows a generic inquiry sent by USOC to 35 major cities that had either previously expressed an interest in bidding or were among the 25 biggest U.S. markets.
“It’s not a bid, it’s just an opportunity for us to consider whether we want to be considered,” Ralph Morton, executive director of the SSC, told SportspressNW. “We’ll hear more. It’s discovery time for us. It’s an opportunity to learn more and find out what that means. There are no commitments involved.”
It won’t be an easy sell. In the past it has cost millions just to make a bid. USOC CEO Scott A. Blacknum told McGinn in a letter it cost New York and Chicago “upwards of $10 million” just to be designated a bid city.
“You’re asking a city to spend $10 million it doesn’t have just to basically pay for the application fee to become, if you’re lucky, the United States official nominee to the international process,” said KIRO Radio’s Luke Burbank in a discussion about the possibility of Seattle throwing its hat in the ring.
USOC is promising to streamline the process and lower the cost for interested cities. But that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the billions a city would have to be willing to commit for construction, operations and infrastructure. A price tag that gives KIRO Radio’s Tom Tangney pause even though he’s an admitted backer of both the Olympics and big civic projects in general.
“It would be nice, I suppose, but it cost London $15 billion to pull that sucker off. It would have to be economically within the realm of some kind of reasonable reality that we live with for me to actually go for it,” Tangney said.
Still Burbank argued it could be worth it.
“What would be great about it would be all of the infrastructure that would end up being created for this and some times that’s what you need,” he said.
“The Space Needle, the Monorail, most of the Seattle Center , a variety of other things in this town only exist because we were basically getting ready for the World’s Fair.”
Bob Walsh couldn’t agree more. The Seattle businessman who helped bring the Goodwill Games to town in 1990 and was part of the last Olympic bid effort said in an interview with KIRO Radio last summer the benefits far outweigh the costs.
“I’m one of those believers for economic development, for visibility, for so many different things that an event like that brings. It’s extremely important,” he said.
The Seattle City Council felt differently at the time (2006), voting 8-1 to prohibit Walsh and his committee from going forward, ending the effort.
“If we can raise the money for the bid without costing city I say go for it,” argued Burbank.
The SSC is now waiting to hear back from USOC about next steps and what it would take to become the U.S. bid city for the 2024 games. But Morton emphasized that in no way means the city will take any steps to be officially considered.
Los Angeles has already expressed an interest in bidding, and San Francisco, Dallas and Tulsa are all reportedly interested as well.
USOC reportedly hopes to narrow its list of candidates to two or three by early next year, with a decision made later in the year. The International Olympic Committee will choose from among five bid cities in 2017.