SBJ/Sept. 16-22, 2013/Olympics

With 2024 choice ahead, is time right for U.S. bid?

The moment Tokyo was selected to host the 2020 Olympics, International Olympic Committee members and bid consultants began looking ahead to the campaign for the 2024 Summer Games and, in particular, whether the United States would mount a bid.

Many, including influential Kuwaiti IOC member Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, who supported Tokyo’s winning Olympic bid, and Michael Payne, who worked on Istanbul’s bid, said the time was right for the U.S. to put forward a host city again. Though several cities, including Dallas and Washington, D.C., have announced their interest in hosting the 2024 Games, the U.S. Olympic Committee hasn’t committed to putting a city forward.

Speaking last week, USOC Chairman Larry Probst said that the organization plans to discuss the matter at its board meeting in December. He added that it will discuss whether to move forward and how it will select a city.

A city would need to be selected in 2014, and the bid process would begin in 2015.

“We appreciate [the sheikh’s] enthusiasm for a bid from the United States, but that’s something we’ve got to be very thoughtful about,” Probst said. “If we do decide to move forward with a 2024 bid, we’ll try to put ourselves in the best position possible to be successful … with a great technical bid and a great bid leader.”

Mike Lee, chairman of Vero Communications and a consultant on Rio 2016’s bid, said that all of the moves the USOC has made since Chicago’s losing bid in 2009 to host the 2016 Games put the U.S. in good position for a successful bid. Chicago’s failed effort came on heels of New York City losing a bid in 2005 to host the 2012 Games.

Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, who backed Tokyo’s bid, says the U.S. should mount a bid for 2024.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
Over the last three years, the organization has stabilized its leadership and completed a new revenue-sharing agreement with the IOC that will see it contribute more money to the cost of the Olympic Games in the future. That’s helped the USOC improve its standing and the perception of the U.S. in the IOC.

But Lee said that Tokyo’s selection means the USOC will face strong competition for 2024. Had Madrid won, that would have taken European cities like Paris and Rome out of play, and an Istanbul win might have taken both European and Middle Eastern cities out of the picture.

“It’s going to be an interesting and strong field,” Lee said. “With the decision to go to Tokyo, you can see at least one challenge possibly from a strong European city. There’s also been an indication a bid will come from the Middle East, specifically Doha.”

Probst said Tokyo’s selection won’t affect the USOC’s decision. He said the USOC will create criteria to select a U.S. bid city.

“We have to put ourselves in the best possible position to win, and realistically, that’s not a huge number of cities,” he said. “It’s got to be a city that is compelling to people around the world, that resonates with all the IOC membership. You’ve got to have a story that’s, ‘Why America, why that particular city?’ If we’re going to bid, we want to win the bid.”

Payne agreed, saying, “If they put one up, it’s got to win. The U.S. can’t afford to put up a city that doesn’t absolutely nail it this time.”

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