Should Minnesota bid for the Olympics now?

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.

Comments (15)

  1. Submitted by Terry Hayes on 10/02/2009 - 03:28 pm.

    I say go for it. Commuting is way too easy around here. Not enough detours and construction—we need more. And we have tons of money, and by then President Pawlenty will be in his fourth term and have a whole bunch of clout. Bring it on.

  2. Submitted by Sam Bergman on 10/02/2009 - 04:16 pm.

    Wouldn’t a Winter Olympics (smaller, cheaper, and more in keeping with our existing facilities) be far more realistic for MSP? I know the downhill skiing would be a problem, but there’s got to be a suitable hill somewhere in the Upper Midwest, and Olympic organizers always allow individual events to be held far from the actual host city…

  3. Submitted by James Hamilton on 10/02/2009 - 04:19 pm.

    Uh, . . . no.

  4. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/02/2009 - 04:56 pm.

    They had nice segment on Olympic bids today on Democracy Now!

    http://www.democracynow.org/2009/10/2/sportswriter_dave_zirin_on_obamas_olympic

  5. Submitted by Jeff Klein on 10/02/2009 - 05:58 pm.

    While we’re not really a major international city, I was under the impression that, at least in the U.S., the size of a professional-league stadium was pretty standard. If you built a new Vikings stadium that was 60-70,000 person capacity, are there really other stadiums around the country that are substantially bigger? I’d be against funding such a thing, but I might reconsider if it could bring us the Olympics.

    I agree that a winter Olympics would be more in character, but sadly, Lutsen just isn’t enough for super-G and downhill events. Would it be crazy to host those in Colorado? I wonder how far is typical for the longest distances between event locations.

    I suppose the Olympics are a bit out of our reach. A shame because it would be awfully cool. Collaborating with Chicago is more realistic.

  6. Submitted by Mark Long on 10/03/2009 - 03:22 am.

    I remember Mpls.’ bid for the 1996 Olympics and how disappointing it was to lose to Atlanta (by the U.S. Olympic Committee).

    I think we should bid for the 2020 games. Minneapolis does have the ability to host the Summer Olympics minus the main stadium for the opening/closing ceremonies and track/field events. A new Vikings stadium could easily fill that void.

    It doesn’t take a major international city to host the games. Beijing and London are exceptional examples. Minneapolis is comparable to an Athens, Barcelona, Montreal, Melbourne, Helsinki, etc (not to mention the size of Winter Olympic cities). We already have a lot of the infrastructure to host the games, and the event sites would be spread from Duluth to Rochester (if not to Madison, Milwaukee and Chicago).

    We DON’T have the infrastructure to host the Winter Olympics. There are many U.S. cities/areas far more qualified. But, the Summer Olympics could work well. Anyone concerned about the influx of traffic and foreigners could escape to their cabins for the two-plus weeks anyway.

    I say go for it.

    (BTW, I’m headed to the Vancouver games, and would have loved to go to Chicago’s.)

  7. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/03/2009 - 07:43 am.

    I know I have always thought of Minneapolis as the Rio De Janeiro of the north. And really, how many of those people who rave about the beaches at Ipanema, have ever seen Lake Minnetonka?

  8. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/03/2009 - 09:50 am.

    This obsession with sports is approaching a form a insanity.

  9. Submitted by Annalise Cudahy on 10/03/2009 - 10:45 am.

    Let’s build on the great success of the RNC by hosting a series of big-name events conducted behind cordons of security. If we become the international experts in holding these “caged” events, we might get a lot of business and employ a lot of big scary people. The economic benefit is so obvious that we never need to honestly calculate it.

  10. Submitted by Diana Raabe on 10/03/2009 - 11:33 am.

    Think about why cities make such elaborate bids to host the Olympics — it’s good business.

    Too many people outside of Minnesota have a warped view of what our state, and our people, are like. It would be nice to get some credit for being more sophisticated than we currently do. Additionally, it would be nice to share the beauty of our unique natural resources. We don’t all live on dry, flat farms in the Midwest!

    I support Hortman.

  11. Submitted by Rebecca Hoover on 10/03/2009 - 01:07 pm.

    I was glad to see a country in South America chosen as an Olympic site for the first time ever. It is important for the Olympics to be inclusive and to be hosted by many countries. The USA has hosted many Olympics relatively recently and we need to learn to share. We are not the center of the universe and probably would gain more by supporting the inclusiveness of the Olympics than by actually hosting the Olympics.

    It is also important that Minnesota is well known for its work in health care (our Mayo Clinic) and medical devices. We need to continue our focus on this and put our resources there. Building our scientific expertise is what is made us prosperous and that is where we need to focus.

    The countries that have tried to use sports to gain the world’s attention haven’t accomplished much other than attracting a little tourism. And tourism is a low wage industry.

    This idea of hosting the Olympics is narcississtic at best. I also think our legislators need to do less and disappear between sessions. The continued attempts to stay in the stoplight get a bit tiring.

  12. Submitted by Mohammed Ali Bin Shah on 10/03/2009 - 03:50 pm.

    No.

    No.

    No.

    I like to keep my money in my pocket, not in the pockets of the 115 IOC reps.

  13. Submitted by John Olson on 10/04/2009 - 06:14 am.

    Um….no, Melissa.

  14. Submitted by Adam Minter on 10/04/2009 - 10:45 pm.

    London will spend at least $US15 billion on its Olympics, and the price tag keeps rising. Preposterous to think that the state of Minnesota would be able to come up with that kind of money – on its own, through corporate contributions, or via federal help. Has Hortman actually attended a summer games, much less spoken to somebody involved in funding one? If she had, I don’t think she would’ve wasted the time of the people on her ad-hoc group.

    For some perspective, get a look at this disheartening piece that ran on FP.com last week:

    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2009/09/30/an_olympic_sized_mess?obref=obinsite

    P.S. I’m surprised that nobody brought up Perpich’s ill-fated attempt to lure the 96 games to the Twin Cities. If I recall correctly, Atlanta and the Twin Cities squared off in the USOC finals. That, too, was preposterous.

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