This month, the board of directors of the US Olympic Committee approved America's bid for the summer Olympics in 2024—the first step in the long process of competing for the right to host the games. And it named four cities as the final bidders: LA, San Francisco, Boston, and D.C.
The games are still a decade out, but these cities are already rallying to fund them to the tune of $4 to $5 billion (£2.5 billion-£3.2 billion). That's an extraordinarily unrealistic sum if history tells us anything—London pegged its budget at £2.8 billion and spent nearly £7 billion, to say nothing of other recent big spenders like Sochi. And there are already vocal critics of the bids in each city, and in some cases, active organisations campaigning against them.
Still, it's pretty interesting to see exactly how each city is selling itself as a prospective host. Boston says it'll use all those summer-empty college campuses to avoid building new venues. DC says it'll use the games to spur development in poor neighbourhoods. LA says it's already hosted the most sustainable games in recent memory, and it can do it again. The final bid city will be chosen early next year, so we don't have long to wait. But in the meantime, hop into the comments and tell us what you think. [Team USA]
San Francisco's bid centres around budget—it doesn't want to repeat the mistakes of Sochi. According to SF Gate, the biggest addition would be a temporary stadium near the bay in Brisbane, while the city would rent "2,000 units of housing already approved as the fourth phase of development at the Hunters Point shipyard, which Olympic organisers would rent from developer Lennar Urban." There are other reuse-oriented details in the plan, like a volleyball venue that would become a park after the games, and SF Gate says that "23 of the 26 venues" either already exist, are being built, or would be temporary.
But it's easy to imagine the downsides of a San Francisco games, ranging from its reputation for gnarly traffic to the fact that its summers can be rainy and cool.
In Mercury News, vehement critic of the plan Mark Purdy argues that a SF games just doesn't make sense for a more broadly urban reason: The city is simply too spread-out, with 80 per cent of people in the Bay Area living outside of it, to comfortably host Olympic-level activities.
Meanwhile, California's second bidding city has a very strong case for 2024. After all, LA hosted arguably the most successful American Olympics—especially from a financial perspective—30 years ago, in 1984. Those Olympics were so successful because the city didn't build any new venues for the games; instead, it retrofitted and improved on existing structures.
So LA already has a tried-and-true approach to the Olympics, and for its 2024 bid, it plans to attempt a repeat. According to Inside the Games, the bid would use the existing Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum as a focal point, and then create a series of venue "clusters" around existing structures and roads in the city—ranging from the Nokia Theater (fencing!) to Rodeo Drive, which would be part of the. The official bid plan has been taken offline, but Curbed LA reports the idea is to "deliver 80 per cent" of the spectators via public transit, too.
How about D.C.? It's not hard to imagine the city as a host—its bid focuses on its role as a focal point for the international community, as well as is fantastic connectivity to the rest of the country thanks to its train and airport hubs (plus, all those hotel rooms!). Meanwhile, the planning committee is doing its best to sell a plan that would engender development in less fortunate areas of the city, including building the Olympic Village on the current site of a homeless shelter and methadone clinic, according to The Washington Post.
There would be plenty of big-ticket items in DC's bid, too, including a new aquatics centre and stadium—all driving the cost up compared to other cities that plan to re-use existing venues.
Boston reports that "behind closed doors," the city has already secured hosting rights—despite vocal arguments against it amongst local activists, who oppose the big, expensive stadium that is part of the city's bid. Still, the city has a few pretty strong arguments for hosting, like the fact that it has a public transit system that could deal with the influx of tourists. Another plus: Since the games would happen when the city's thousands of college students aren't around, dozens of university venues could be repurposed to house athletes and host events.
At the same time, many critics argue that the city's ageing streets and highways can't accommodate the kind of traffic the Olympics bring. While the bid describes the Olympics as a way to take action on needed improvements, others argue that planning much-needed, very expensive infrastructure projects around the games is a mistake.
"We have far more pressing challenges than throwing a three-week party for the global elite, one that comes with a £9.66 billion hangover," one anti-Olympics critic told the Boston Globe.
Lead image: Team USA/Getty