The US Olympic Committee will decide Tuesday whether to brush off recent rejections and again enter a US city — Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Washington — in the chase for the 2024 Summer Games. If it does, the bid city will face stiff competition from a newly crowded international field that could include three major European capitals.
Rome, the 1960 host that withdrew from the 2020 race for economic reasons, announced Monday it would be back in for 2024. “Our country too often seems hesitant,” Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said. “It’s unacceptable not to try . . . or to renounce playing the game.”
Paris, which hosted the Olympics a century ago, is expected to be a contender despite reservations from Mayor Anne Hidalgo.
And Berlin, the controversial 1936 site, is competing with Hamburg to be the German choice.
Other possible entries include Melbourne (the 1956 host), Dubai (United Arab Emirates), Doha (Qatar), Istanbul, Budapest, and either Johannesburg or Durban (South Africa).
The International Olympic Committee voted overwhelmingly at last week’s special session in Monte Carlo to reduce the costs of bidding for and organizing the Games, making the prospect of bidding far more attractive to potential hosts.
Boston and the other three domestic finalists will make hour-long presentations to the USOC’s board at its Redwood City, Calif., session Tuesday, with the cities’ mayors, including Boston’s Martin J. Walsh, in attendance at the private meeting.
Should the US committee decide to proceed, it is expected to decide next month which of the four US cities to enter in the international competition. The formal application deadline with financial guarantee letters is Jan. 8, 2016.
Then, in April or May 2016, the IOC’s executive board will reduce the field — both US and international — to three or four cities. The final decision in the drawn-out process comes in September 2017, when the IOC will select the 2024 host at its full session in Lima.
“The larger issue for the USOC may be, is this the right time to get back in?” said Dick Pound, the longtime International Olympic Committee member from Canada. “It might be a smart thing to do to sit on the sidelines.”
No American city has hosted the Summer Olympics since Atlanta did 18 years ago, and IOC president Thomas Bach frequently has declared that a US candidate for 2024 would be welcomed. But the USOC, which did not bid for three cycles after 1996, has painful memories from the 2012 and 2016 races, when New York and Chicago were rejected summarily.
Some IOC members consider Chicago, which did not contest the 2020 Games that went to Tokyo, still to be the most desirable US site. Pound said he joked with USOC chairman and fellow IOC member Larry Probst that the Americans should win the bid and then shift the event to the Windy City.
If any of the four US cities gets the nod as the nation’s official nominee, it will face a decidedly less daunting and expensive challenge than did previous bidders because of the IOC’s recent unanimous vote. The change came after four of the six candidates for the 2022 Winter Games dropped out in the wake of Sochi’s $50 billion from-the-ground-up price tag.
Besides allowing hosts to use venues in other cities and even other countries, the IOC will encourage them to employ existing, temporary, and demountable facilities instead of “white elephants” that soon will stand idle. That would help Boston, which is relying heavily upon college sites as part of a “walkable” Games based around mass transportation and a modular Olympic Village at UMass-Boston.
“One of Boston’s strengths is the support of the educational institutions, and one of the things most compelling about the Boston venue plan is they are pitching it as a walkable Olympics,” the IOC’s Probst told the Chicago Tribune.
While an intimate layout has been a valuable selling point for past bidders, the IOC’s decision to allow hosts to use multiple cities lessens that advantage.
“It’s probably no longer a mantra,” said Pound, who pointed out that sports such as sailing and rowing frequently have been held well outside of the Olympic city. Tokyo, which based its 2020 bid around a compact setting, now is considering moving events to cities like Osaka and Saitama to save on construction costs.
The dispersal option would be an advantage to San Francisco, whose plan is expected to be a variation on its 2012 “Ring of Gold” scheme involving a quartet of Bay Area clusters — San Francisco, Oakland-Berkeley, San Jose-Santa Clara, and Palo Alto.
Los Angeles, which is vying to become the second city to organize three Games, also would use a quartet of cluster locations — Downtown, Westside (near UCLA), Avalon (south of the city), and Harbor (Long Beach).
Washington, which mounted a joint bid with Baltimore for 2012, this time would use more sites in and around the district with the Olympic village near a new stadium on the site of RFK Stadium, which was built more than a half-century ago.
While the four contenders all have proposed budgets less than $5 billion, the cost for roads and other transportation infrastructure will be significantly higher, which is why public support is considered essential. Government opposition was the main reason Oslo and Stockholm withdrew from the 2022 Winter race and why Munich, the 2018 runner-up to Pyeongchang, declined to bid again.
Because the US bid process still is in its embryonic stage, there has been minimal open debate in the contending cities, although the No Boston Olympics group has objected to using public resources to host a Games.
“There is a bit of noise in Boston,” Probst told the Tribune. “We haven’t really seen any of that in Washington, Los Angeles, and San Francisco as yet.”
Until this week, there has been little reason for civic discussion about the pros and cons of hosting the world’s largest athletic event. But should the USOC give its thumbs up to 2024 on Tuesday, the seven-year conversation will begin in earnest.
John Powers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.