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Monday, August 22, 2011
The IOC has this bid process all wrong

By Jim Caple

Good news today for people living in Dallas, New York and Chicago, the three American cities that expressed interest in hosting the 2020 Summer Olympics. The U.S. Olympic Committee revealed it will not submit a bid to host those Games, so residents in those cities dodged the bullet. Count your blessings, folks.

Don't get me wrong. I love the Olympics. I especially love going to the Olympics. But would I want to live in a city hosting the Olympics? No way. I would rather be a volunteer mascot and wander around crowded streets in 95-degree heat and 80 percent humidity while wearing a steaming, furry costume already saturated with the sweat of other volunteer mascots than live in the host city. I receive regular emails from my friend Paul in London ,complaining about the constant budget overruns, increased taxes and hassles ahead of the 2012 Games.

Hosting the Olympics is too costly and too much grief. Chicago's bid for the 2016 Games cost an estimated $48 million, which I'm pretty sure doesn't include the unofficial bribes to the proper International Olympic Committee officials. The estimated cost of actually hosting the Olympics was pegged at $5 billion. Of course, that estimate is like when your contractor estimates the cost of the kitchen remodel; he knows and you know the final cost will far exceed that, but you also both know an honest, accurate estimate would be a non-starter.

Oprah
Despite calling in Oprah and President Obama, Chicago still lost out on the 2016 Olympic bid.

Anyway, Chicago spent all that money and even sent the leader of the free world (Oprah Winfrey), President Barack Obama, to plead its case to the IOC, and still finished a distant third to Rio de Janeiro.

Meanwhile, the London Games were originally budgeted at 2.4 billion pounds, but the estimate is now well over 7 billion pounds (or $10.5 billion). Not that anyone would anticipate stadium budget overruns in New York.

What does a city get for all this money and work? Some infrastructure (i.e., years of maddening road construction), some very expensive venues that will never be used again (there has been talk of turning Beijing's spectacular Bird's Nest into a shopping mall) and seven years of hassle and taxes. On the other hand, you would have the honor of sweating as a volunteer in a hideous polo shirt.

Plus, if you're fortunate enough to actually attend an Olympics, the best part is traveling to an exciting city, not getting stuck in your own town's traffic while searching for a parking spot under $50.

Frankly, the IOC goes about the selection process the wrong way. Rather than having cities initially submit bids, it should select qualified cities. By that I mean cities people from around the world want to visit (i.e., not Dallas, and especially not in August).

A short list of such cities would be say, Sydney, Barcelona, Rome, Athens, Rio, Buenos Aires, London, Paris, Prague, Munich, Stockholm, Amsterdam, Tokyo, Singapore, Melbourne, Auckland, Cairo, Cape Town, Istanbul, St. Petersburg (Russia), Beijing, San Francisco, New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Seattle, Washington, D.C., Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto and Mumbai. That's just off the top of my head and by no means a full, conclusive list. There must be at least four times as many cities large enough and appealing enough. Generally speaking, though, at a minimum, a potential Olympic city must have its own Lonely Planet guide.

After that, qualified cities would be allowed to say whether they were interested in hosting the Olympics. Those that do not want to endure the years of hardship, would say, "No, we have our own nightmarish highway construction projects right now." Those that do not have the money would say, "Sorry, but maybe next time when the economy is better and the real unemployment rate is under 15 percent.'' Those that believe the money and effort would be better spent on the education and health of its citizens would say, "No thanks, we'll just watch it on TV."

And that would pretty much narrow it down to Sydney, which I don't think anyone would have a problem with.

As for Dallas, Chicago and New York? Fans there still get to see the Yankees, Mets, Cubs, Cowboys, Bulls, Mavericks, Stars, Bears, Knicks, White Sox, Rangers, Islanders, Giants, Jets and Blackhawks, plus all the pizza (deep dish or New York style) they can eat. I think they'll survive without trampoline and race-walking.