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Competition for U.S. Olympic bid highlights complex challenges of hosting Games

Does Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Washington D.C. have the best chance at hosting the Games?

USOC CEO Scott Blackmun. (Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)
USOC CEO Scott Blackmun. (Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)

Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington D.C. are capitalizing on revisions to the Olympic bidding process to compete to host the 2024 Summer Games. These changes address issues of scale, sustainability and costs, and include increased leniency on venue choices.

Boston has more than enough hotels to host the Olympic athletes, officials and guests, but finding space for an 80,000-person stadium and 100-acre Olympic Village would be challenging because the International Olympic Committee recommends they be close to the city center.  A state-commissioned report said it would be a “monumental task” for Boston to host the 2024 Olympics and warned that Olympic-specific investments by past hosts have led to financial struggles after the Games. Boston mayor Marty Walsh believes the Olympics could help Boston’s infrastructure and public transit, but many critics are concerned about burdening taxpayers with a $10 billion to $20 billion bill.

Source: Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games
(Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games)

Los Angeles hosted the Olympics in 1932 and in 1984, two of the most profitable Games despite the fact that the city did not bear any financial obligations. Los Angeles is one of the most likely candidates for the 2024 Olympics with its expanded public transit system and plethora of hotels and stadiums. The plan for the Games is based on upgrading the L.A. Memorial Coliseum and Exposition Park as well as revitalizing the L.A. River for water sports. Eighty percent of attendees would be able to access proposed venues by public transit, further reducing potential costs.

(Steve Powell-Getty Images)
(Steve Powell-Getty Images)

Las Vegas oddsmakers put San Francisco’s chances of securing an Olympic bid below those of Boston and L.A. Its bid centers on a $350 million temporary stadium just north of San Francisco International Airport. The Bay Area already poses a number of new hi-tech stadiums, and has an estimated price tag of just $4 billion (compared to Beijing’s $50 billion) paid for by mostly private sources. However, many are concerned about costs, congestion and accessibility. For example, Levi’s Stadium, the home of the 49ers, is 50 miles away in Santa Clara.

(Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports)
(Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports)

Despite experience hosting several mega-events and its status as one of the most pedestrian-friendly cities in the U.S, Washington, D.C. is one of the few major world capitals yet to host an Olympics. The D.C. metropolitan area has over 129,000 hotel rooms and has hosted massive crowds such as the 1.8 million people that attended President Obama’s 2009 inauguration. However, a D.C. Olympics would be a bureaucratic nightmare with local, state and national government involved. The bid includes plans to use the Olympic Village to help the city’s housing needs as well as a new stadium for the opening and closing ceremonies that could also bring the Washington Redskins back into the city.

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