Now that Chicago has lost its bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics, here’s a question: Should Minnesota bid for the 2020 or 2024 Games?
Rep. Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, thinks so. She helped form and lead an ad hoc group in 2006-07 to examine a possible bid for the 2016 Games. Chicago was far along in its bid process, so a Minnesota try never happened.
Now that Chicago lost today, Hortman (and others) think it’s natural to assume the Olympics could come back to the United States in 2020.
Hortman sent an email to Gov. Tim Pawlenty minutes ago urging him to form a task force to look into a bid.
She wrote: “As I am certain you have heard, Rio de Janeiro was selected as the host city for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. This means there is a very good chance the summer Olympics will be returning to the United States in 2020, and the time is right for our state to look at the potential costs and benefits of preparing and submitting a bid.”
In 2006, Hortman sponsored a bill to appoint a task force to examine the possibility of an Olympics in Minnesota.
She wrote today to Pawlenty: “Appointing a task force would not indicate a commitment from our state to make a bid, but it would say that we are interested in the potential upsides of federal transportation dollars invested here, the potential benefit for our businesses, and the potential benefit for our community. The time is right to get moving to take a serious look at whether we have the corporate and civic support to put together a bid. I believe the next U.S. bid city will be selected by the USOC in 2011 and the 2020 host city will be selected by the IOC in 2013. We have time to consider all the appropriate variables impacting such a decision if we get started now.”
Her ad hoc group included about 20 representatives from sports, transit and hospitality sectors. A key stumbling block: a large stadium for Opening Ceremonies and track and field. The TCF Bank Stadium exists now, but is likely too small. A new Vikings stadium?
Another issue: public transit. But Hortman notes that the federal government (PDF) has aided Olympic host cities in the past with massive amounts of funding for transportation upgrades.
On a personal note, as someone who has covered seven Summer Olympics and seven Winter Games and also covered Minnesota’s bid to play host to the 1996 Summer Olympics, I’m a real skeptic on whether Minnesota should bid, could host a Games and would have the political and corporate clout to pull it off.
Bidding alone is a $100 million proposition. The Olympics? Billions to stage. Many billions. Olympics require mega-global cities. We’re not one. I wrote this last summer at the start of the Beijing Olympics.
Still, there is some truth to certain things. We have a bunch of facilities in place, from the University of Minnesota and the various colleges in the core city; some events — such as rowing and sailing — could be held close in; others could be farmed out to Rochester, Duluth or St. Cloud. The airport is good. We’re a bit short on hotels.
An athletes’ village would have to be built. There would need to be substantial public support … and we all know how hard it’s been to garner public support for publicly financed and funded stadiums.
So, let’s see where Hortman’s task force idea takes us. Dreaming is good. Cold, hard reality is important, too.