When US Olympic Committee directors meet Thursday to likely choose their nominee to host the 2024 Games, they will likely find that the four competing proposals now have much in common.
All four bids — from Boston, Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Los Angeles — will largely rely on existing and temporary facilities generally in or near the city’s center.
Boston’s bid, which touts the city itself as an Olympic park, is the most compact of the four, with most venues near public transportation stops.
Washington in 2012 unsuccessfully mounted a joint bid with Baltimore — some 40 miles away — but its bid this year narrows its focus to DC's Beltway area. San Francisco’s bid, meanwhile, would keep 17 of its 26 venues within the city limits — a distinct change from its sprawling, and unsuccessful, proposal in 2012 that lost out to New York’s more confined grid.
And Los Angeles, the fourth contender, proposes to hold the most popular events, such as track and field, swimming, gymnastics, and basketball, at its downtown and Westside clusters.
The USOC directors will gather at the Denver Airport to cast the votes, and the organization’s leadership will hop on a plane to the winning city to present the plan with local officials on Friday.
In the next round of competition, the US nominee would likely compete against major European capitals such as Paris, Berlin, and Rome. If the US nominee wins, it would become the first American host since Atlanta in 1996.
What is the USOC leadership looking for? “It’s a combination of things,” said USOC chairman Larry Probst. “It’s bid leadership. It’s the support in the local community both politically and from the business community. Educational institutions. Obviously, the venue plan is important.”
With potential Olympic bidders wary of building expensive white elephants that will gather dust after the Games, the International Olympic Committee now is encouraging cities to use venues that either are already in place or can be downsized or moved.
Los Angeles — which along with London would be the only three-time host — is the only one of the four American bidders with an existing stadium, the mammoth Coliseum that was the centerpiece of both the 1932 and 1984 Games. Washington conceivably would build a new facility on the site of aging RFK Stadium that later could be used by the Redskins NFL team.
San Francisco, whose 2016 candidacy collapsed when the 49ers opted to build their new home in Santa Clara, would construct a temporary “pop-up” stadium on open land in Brisbane, south of the city. Boston also is considering a temporary 60,000-seat stadium at Widett Circle in South Boston near Interstate 93.
All four cities plan on constructing as few permanent facilities as possible. Los Angeles, which has by far the most existing venues, could get by with none. San Francisco, which is mulling a new basketball arena for the Warriors, would build tennis courts on Treasure Island and a whitewater course in Vallejo.
Besides the stadium, Washington may build an aquatics center in Arlington County and tennis courts east of the Anacostia River. Boston’s aquatics center either could be a temporary complex in the former Beacon Park Rail Yard rail site in Allston near the Charles River or a permanent campus facility.
With International Olympic Committee officials not scheduled to make the final decision for 2024 host until September 2017 and formal applications not due until next January, the USOC that the US nominee Thursday will want to further refine its bid in the next round of competition.
“It’s impossible to imagine that each one of those cities is going to have every single detail figured out and decided upon and nailed down at this stage of the game,” Probst said after last month’s meeting in California, where the cities made detailed presentations.
But the board, which includes half a dozen members with Boston ties, including Olympic athletes Angela Ruggiero and Mary McCagg and former John Hancock chief executive James Benson, felt that it was sufficiently familiar with the essentials of the four bids to make a decision this week.
“We’ve said consistently this is going to be a really, really difficult decision,” Probst said, “and that’s why we want to take our time and make sure that we get to the best possible decision.”