World-class regions hold world-class events. So in many ways, the San Francisco Bay Area is the perfect choice to host the 2024 Summer Olympics.
Washington, D.C. carries too much baggage for the rest of the world to stomach. Los Angeles has done it twice. Neither L.A. nor Boston can match the combination of San Francisco’s iconic beauty and Silicon Valley’s capacity for innovation at a time when the International Olympics Committee is desperate to re-brand the event as more efficient and cost-effective.
The questions are what will be the total bill for producing the Games, and can the region afford to pay its share? Hosting cost Beijing $40 billion and Sochi $51 billion. No way the Bay Area — or any of the U.S. candidates — can do that.
Definitive answers to the cost questions must be provided before the United States Olympics Committee decides in January on which U.S. city it will put into the international field of contenders. Competition will be fierce. The IOC loves to be courted with expensive perks, and it’s expecting serious bids from Rome, Paris and Berlin, among other fabulous destinations.
The San Francisco bid promises to be privately funded, with individual donors, corporate sponsorships and revenues from the Games themselves footing the bill. But cities in the region need a guarantee that taxpayers won’t get stuck with cost overruns.
California Sens. Kevin De Leon and and Mark Leno have offered a bill to insure up to $250 million from the state in the case of budget deficits, but will that be anywhere close to enough? Security costs alone for the London Games ran about $800 million.
The Bay Area can’t skimp on security. Remember Atlanta? And the tragic 1972 Games in Munich? Some terrorist fears these days may be exaggerated, but there’s no denying that the Olympics are a huge target.
Silicon Valley’s big corporate contributors stand to gain from being associated with the golden glow of the Olympics, but they should go in with eyes open. San Francisco, and not the South Bay or East Bay, will host all the glamour events. Levi’s Stadium and the Earthquakes new Avaya Stadium would get soccer, but remember the men’s tournament is essentially a U-24 event with a sprinkling of world-class pros. The SAP Center would host indoor volleyball, some basketball would go to Haas Pavilion and San Pablo Reservoir would host rowing. But all the major television events — gymnastics, swimming, track and field and the basketball medal games — would be in San Francisco or Brisbane.
The Bay Area’s projected bid is about $5 billion, which is raising eyebrows, since the total cost of the 2012 London Summer Games stretched to $10.4 billion, and Brazil’s expected budget for the 2016 Summer Olympics is $18 billion. The thinking is that the Bay Area can substantially reduce costs because it already has many of the costly venues in place.
A temporary structure budgeted at $360 million would have to be built in Brisbane to house the opening and closing ceremonies and track and field events, and an Olympic Village would be constructed near the current Candlestick Park. That means transportation may pose the biggest challenge — transportation. Anyone who has tried to get in and out of Candlestick Park area shudders at the nightmare of trying to shuttle athletes to and from events an Olympic Village near Hunters Point. San Francisco may need to up its transportation budget to win a bid.
The Silicon Valley Leadership Group is on board, and CEO Carl Guardino believes the Games would spur support for infrastructure the Valley needs to build anyway, including completion of BART and electrification of CalTrain.
A Bay Area Olympics could be exciting, the 21st century equivalent of the Golden Gate International Exposition held at Treasure Island in 1939 and 1940. But cities such as San Jose and Santa Clara can’t shoulder huge security costs — especially when most of the economic benefits of the games will accrue to San Francisco.