Regrouping for a new Bay Area Olympics bid

Now that the London 2012 Games has ended, it’s time to reflect on how the Olympics were held there. We can also start to consider how the Games would be hosted in the Bay Area, should that come to pass.

The 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium was never going to match Beijing’s Bird’s Nest as a great architectural work, and it wasn’t designed to. The stadium was meant to be scaled back to 25,000 seats after its Olympic/Paralympic tenure. There were plans to use it as a soccer stadium for either Tottenham Hotspur or West Ham, but neither deal could be worked out.

According to GamesBids, the London buildout for the 2012 Games was $4 billion. You may remember that the Bay Area made its own bid for these very games a decade ago. The bid then was a mere $211 million, with few new competition venues as part of the plan. Instead, nearly $1 billion would’ve been budgeted for the Olympic Village, which would’ve been located at Moffett Field. Like many other bids, venues were to be grouped in clusters, with the main clusters being in San Francisco and at Stanford University.

Spread of Olympic venues in BASOC 2012 bid

Spread of Olympic venues in BASOC 2012 bid

Since the 2012 bid lost out to New York, much has changed in the Bay Area’s sports venue landscape. The earliest a Bay Area Games could occur is 2024 because the USOC is not bidding on the 2020 Games. A quick review of sports and venues in the 2012 bid:

  • Athletics/Track and Field, Opening/Closing Ceremonies @ Stanford Stadium – A few years after the bid lost, John Arrillaga decided that it was time to revamp Stanford Stadium. The track and 36,000 seats were removed, making the new Stanford Stadium a compact, football/soccer venue. For any new Olympics bid, the Olympic Stadium would need to be located elsewhere – in the Bay Area.
  • Soccer @ Candlestick Park, Oakland Coliseum, other stadia – Candlestick would be replaced by the 49ers Stadium in Santa Clara, whereas the Coliseum could be refurbished or be replaced by a new Raiders stadium. A new Candlestick was to be the centerpiece of a 2016 Olympic bid, but the 49ers never signed on and the bid died with the stadium. Stanford Stadium can now function solely as a soccer venue. The Earthquakes’ stadium could also be used as a secondary venue. This is one sport where the Bay Area is as strong as any worldwide in terms of hosting, though some games would be held in LA or San Diego (Stanford hosted some group and elimination games during the 1984 Summer Games).
  • Baseball & Softball @ AT&T Park & Sunken Diamond – No longer needed since both sports are no longer Olympic events. That could change in the next decade or so.
  • Boxing @ Cow Palace – By the time 2024 rolls around, the Cow Palace will be 83 years old with few renovations during that lifespan. It could remain a venue, or it may not be standing in a dozen years. If it’s still operational it’d be fine for boxing or one of the other arena sports such as handball, or as a backup basketball or volleyball venue.
  • Basketball @ Oracle/Oakland Arena & Leavey Center/SCU – Whether or not the Warriors are still in Oakland, the arena is perfect for basketball and should stay a basketball venue. Leavey Center is somewhat small and should be replaced by either Maples Pavilion or Haas Pavilion. If built, a new waterfront SF arena could replace Oracle as the venue of choice, perhaps pushing volleyball to Oakland.
  • BMX Racing @ N/A – BMX wasn’t an Olympic sport when bids were being accepted in 2002. It is now, and it shouldn’t be too difficult to figure out where it should go. Since the Olympics are held during the summer and building a BMX track requires moving a lot of dirt, it probably wouldn’t make much sense to put it in a baseball stadium since it would be highly disruptive. Either Spartan Stadium or Memorial Stadium could work, though both may have too many seats. A temporary venue may make more sense, or perhaps Kezar Stadium. If we’re looking at expanding facility, the Santa Clara PAL BMX track is a possibility. It would require expansion and the installation of seating.
  • Cycling, Track @ Mather Park Velodrome, Sacramento – Plans originally called for a new mostly covered velodrome at Mather, a former Air Force Base. It’s another case where either a new temp-to-perm venue would have to be built, though it could conceivably go anywhere, not just Sacramento. Another planned site for a velodrome was Santa Clara, where the Soccer Park adjacent to the 49ers stadium/headquarters is located. The only other velodrome in the region is at Hellyer Park in San Jose, and it would require a major expansion to be Games-ready.
  • Equestrian @ Monterey Horse Park – Located on the former Fort Ord, it’s a bit far from San Francisco but is much larger than Bay Area facilities such as the one in Woodside. An successful Games bid would probably provide enough money for the nonprofit group overseeing the Horse Park to get its vision completed.
  • Field Hockey @ Spartan Stadium – The prospects for Spartan have only improved now that the stadium is using Field Turf instead of grass. Cal’s Memorial Stadium is also an option since it also uses artificial turf.
  • Gymnastics @ HP Pavilion/San Jose Arena – There’s a long tradition of excellent support of gymnastics, up to and including this year’s Olympic trials. Unless the SF arena came into play, HP Pavilion should continue to be the gymnastics venue.
  • Modern Pentathlon @ Maples Pavilion/Stanford – Shouldn’t change. Venues are in close proximity to each other.
  • Swimming/Diving @ Stanford temporary facility – The Avery Aquatics Center at Stanford and the George Haines Int’l Swim Center in Santa Clara’s Central Park are both good facilities, but neither has the space for the 10,000 or so seats that would be needed in the future. Spieker Aquatics Complex at Cal barely has seats. This gives rise the the idea of a new swim center somewhere in the Bay Area with enough space to add temporary seats, the same way “wings” were added to London’s aquatic center.
  • Tennis @ San Jose State South Campus – Fortunately, the Bay Area won’t have to follow up on London’s use of the Wimbledon and its world-beating facilities. Instead, it’s likely that Stanford’s Taube Tennis Center, which was expanded since the bid, would be used. Taube hosts an annual WTA tournament, but it lacks a really large stadium.
  • Volleyball, Beach @ Edwards Stadium, Cal – I never understood this choice when the bid was released. You’d think that, unlike many Olympic cities, we have beaches, we’d want to host beach volleyball on the, well, beach. Here’s hoping that if a bid is made, a change is made to use either Ocean Beach or Santa Cruz Main Beach as the venue. The latter at least has the infrastructure to handle the event. If the Brits can make a beach volleyball stadium happen behind 10 Downing Street, we can certainly put a venue on a freaking beach.
  • Volleyball, Indoor @ Haas Pavilion, Cal – No need to change things here. At 11,000+ seats, Haas is perfect.
  • Water Polo @ George Haines Int’l Center – Would require temporary seating to double arena size to 5,000, the same size as the London temporary venue. Probably worth it. Stanford’s Avery Aquatics Center could also be used, though it too would require additional temporary seating.
  • Weightlifting @ Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center, Oakland – With no budget money available to operate the venue, it seem like HJKCC would be ripe for the kind of investment needed to host weightlifting. Then again, the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium across the bay seems like just as good a fit and it wouldn’t require much work at all.

Other indoor events would be held either at Moscone Center or San Jose Convention Center, which makes sense given their flexibility and capacity.

New venues to be built

Without a large stadium with a track, the Bay Area would seem to be at a disadvantage compared to competing cities. Then again, maybe it’s not. The other American cities, Chicago and New York, also don’t have such stadia. Chicago’s bid was based on a temp-to-perm stadium to be built in Washington Park, near the University of Chicago on the South Side. New York’s 2012 bid was based on a Jets stadium on the West Side of Manhattan that got blown up by Cablevision, the company that also owns Madison Square Garden and the Knicks and Rangers. Houston and Philadelphia could also compete, but they’d have to build more venues than the Bay Area, Chicago, or NYC.

The Olympic stadium dilemma is simple. Track and field is only popular in most countries during the Olympics, making any large stadium with a track a white elephant. Even USC got rid of the track at the LA Memorial Coliseum to make it more football friendly, though it could in theory be converted back at some point. Since 2002, several undeveloped properties such as SF’s Mission Bay and San Mateo’s Bay Meadows have been developed, reducing the number of potential sites. Lennar still has a parcel for a stadium within its development footprint at Hunters Point, but that could disappear in time. Oddly enough, the best idea may be to float a stadium on barges in the bay. It could be docked next to the SF arena on Piers 30/32, and like Chicago’s stadium plan, could be built to have a permanent capacity of only 10,000. The Olympic capacity would be 80,000, almost all of it temporary. The low-profile permanent stadium could be floated around the Bay or even outside the Bay for other regions to use.

Moffett Field’s Olympic Village is a good concept in that it has plenty of space and is self-contained. It also has Google as a next-door neighbor to provide a huge amount of technological infrastructure if needed. Unfortunately, it’s not close to SF or many of the venues. Preferably, I would’ve liked to have seen Treasure Island used as the Olympic Village. As the Navy cleans up the land, developers are waiting to build new housing there as some of the last large development within SF city limits. Hunters Point could also work, but it’s already spoken for. Other possibilities include Alameda NAS, which would require new transportation infrastructure, and Golden Gate Fields.

An Aquatic Center has to be one of the big ticket items and is practically unavoidable. Santa Clara may be a possibility, but it’s plagued by numerous problems: limited space to expand, little parking, and its location right next to a residential neighborhood. A temp-to-perm facility would be best. From what I gather, there is only one pool that approaches Olympic size in all of San Francisco, inside the Koret Center at USF. There should be room for a facility somewhere in SF. If not, the East Bay or Peninsula may be good fits.

London put the BMX track and velodrome next to each other, which was a good move from a planning standpoint. Future cities may not have enough room to colocate the two sports in that manner, so it shouldn’t be a requirement. Either way, prep for both sports should be cheaper than the aquatic center or main stadium.

The issue that hurt BASOC in its 2012 bid was the geographical spread of the venues. The IOC prefers venues to be within 16 miles of each other with good transit links. In both cases, the Bay Area falls short. London made it work by putting venues right in the middle of the city and limiting the spread, even if it meant that the athletes often faced gridlock going to venues and the Olympic Village. Even though 2024 seems far away, it’s not likely that much of the needed public transit infrastructure being planned now (BART to Silicon Valley, High Speed Rail) will be completed by that point. And with some venues in far-flung places like Monterey or Folsom (rowing), accessibility will not be one of the bid’s strong suits. If anything, the IOC could be swayed by the need for fewer new venues, even temporary ones. A Summer Games in the Bay Area would be a crowning achievement for the region, and the political climate may have changed over the years to make the region’s plusses (available venues, lower cost, sustainability) even more important next time around.

P.S. – Not to be forgotten, Lake Tahoe and Reno are mulling a joint bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics.

50 thoughts on “Regrouping for a new Bay Area Olympics bid

  1. you’d think a new 65-70 thousand olympic stadium would be a waste here locally since the niners will have their new stadium. the only way at this point to warrant building a billion dollar venue to host the opening ceremony/track events/closing ceremony for a 2-3 week stretch would for it to be used year around and wouldn’t it make sense unless one of the main tenants would be the raiders “inherenting” the new olympic stadium to play at the very least 10 home games, 2 preseason and 8 regular season games?

    maybe they could play at the coliseum or even the new niners stadium in santa clara for a decade long stretch until they can start playing in the new olympic stadium. big question than is where would a new olympic stadium be built. course the coliseum would seem like a spot since it has everything you want other than the surrounding area but i doubt the bay area organizers would want to build such a venue in oakland and especially in that part of the city.

    as for the olympics as a whole, the bay area is as well suited to host an olympics due to it having most of the sports venues already built other than the olympic stadium and a swimming venue.

  2. Build on Olympic Stadium with a track at the Coliseum complex, and then after the Olympics, lower the field, add some seats down low, and, voila, a football venue fit for the Raiders.

  3. “an” Olympic Stadium

  4. Olympic Stadium was originally awarded to West Ham, but then Tottenham and Leyton Orient (lower division) took a legal route to block it. Tottenham were then accused of spying on West Ham (phone records, etc) during the original bidding process. They have since dropped out.

    The bidding process started over, and is due to be over in October. The 2 teams in the running are now West Ham and Leyton Orient, while there have also been other bids submitted by a higher education business (not sure what they would do with the grounds) and a group that wants to stage Formula 1 races there.

  5. The big issue is the bay area Olympic venues or to far apart. The IOC wants the venues clost together easly reached from the athlets village. Also IOC wants public transportation. Also Olympics in the Bay area will have to be a project that all the bay area county’s or on board. Then come money that is not there.

  6. Wow the London bid was only 4 billion dollars? Wasn’t the Athens buildout 8 years ago 10 billion euros?

  7. Don’t forget they’re adding golf and rugby to the next summer games so those sports will have to be accommodated as well. Golf would be a snap (SF Olympic Club, Pebble Beach), I don’t know the field requirements for rugby, is it similar to football? If so, I imagine that would be pretty easy as well.
    If I understood the post correctly for many of the indoor sports they would just use the convention centers like Santa Clara/San Jose/Moscone? I assume they would just build temporary bleachers in those? That makes a lot of sense. Judo, taekwondo, badminton, table tennis, fencing, could all work in those facilities.
    Regarding swimming, isn’t the Santa Clara swim center outside? I was under the impression that Olympic swimming had to be indoors.

  8. OT–Melky C suspended 50 games…AT&T needs to be renamed the “House of ‘Roids”.

    • OT–Melky C suspended 50 games…AT&T needs to be renamed the “House of ‘Roids”.

      ROFLMAO….Ted, paging Ted….where are you Ted?! 😉

  9. Let us not be total jackholes… Steroids suck, but our team is the one that , at least in perception, started the “steroid revolution.”

    • Let us not be total jackholes… Steroids suck, but our team is the one that , at least in perception, started the “steroid revolution.”

      Sorry Jeffrey, but I think Andrew Carignan says it best for us A’s fans:

      Andrew Carignan ‏@A_Carignan38
      Feeling really bad for @SFGiants after this suspension. Yeaaa actually not at all. Go @Athletics

  10. @John – Wasn’t aware of that! Golf’s pretty self-explanatory as you said. Rugby union (sevens) will be the Olympic competition. The field is slightly smaller than a soccer field, so no worries about it fitting there.

  11. Also swimming doesn’t have to be indoors if an allowance is made by the swimming federation. Athens for example was outdoors.

  12. I’d love for the Olympics to be here… Get ‘er done Bay Area.

  13. This just in: Comcast SportsNet, the Oakland Athletics and the San Francisco Giants have teamed up to make a $15,000 donation to the Petaluma National Little League… Does this mean anything re the new ballpark? Probably not. Nothing ever does….

  14. Classlessness is classless

  15. Eh. No use crying over spilled melk.

  16. OT: baseball gods don’t like greedy baseball people/team

    anyway, they have to build a massive 80Kplus T&F stadium before they even think about submitting a bid

  17. Anon writes: “””ROFLMAO….Ted, paging Ted….where are you Ted?! ;)”””
    LOL, awesome.

  18. All I can say is that I am ready to drown my sorrows tonight and get out of town and forget about baseball for a week while backpacking next week. Thanks to Jeffery.

  19. don’t be shocked if another shoe drops

  20. Daniel, please explain.

  21. Xoot writes “”Try the high road next time, “Anon.”””
    Xoot, Fyi, it appears Anon’s comment went over your head.

  22. The Olympics in the Bay Area would be great! I really enjoyed this post, and I’m going to share it lots of people.

  23. @CFL Who put together those renders?

  24. What they built in London sounds like what Oakland dreams about at Coliseum City. Place a shiny new stadium in a run down area. Add a huge shopping mall that you have to walk through to get to the sporting site. Surround it with athlete housing that can eventually be converted to apartments and condos after the Olympics. Turn the new stadium into a football stadium. Too bad it’s 12 years away.

  25. @ML, it’s big enough for a minor league park if the A’s leave town to greener pastures

  26. @AG, maybe a little league park. Take a look at picture #9 and the baseball field to the north east. No way that field fits on that plot of land and that has no real grand stand.

  27. So, this is what it has come too? Just plopping not to scale versions of stadiums on google earth maps and saying, “See!”

  28. curious as the write-up says it is 7 acres which would be a tight fit–ML says 4 acres—how could they go to this kind of effort and yet be so off on site size?

  29. I love this:

    Making the Athletics’ ballpark a clean, renewable energy field by powering the stadium on wind and solar energy.

    I guess if you’re going to dream, might as well dream big! lol

  30. @GoA’s, the only thing I can think of is that they’re planning on moving out the folks to the north/north east or something. They’d still have no parking, poor ingress/egress, and one hell of a NIMBY movement from those Condos/Apartments. Even it were big enough, it’s like they chose a site that has a collection of every issue of every site they’ve previously failed.

  31. So who is “sponsoring” this site? is it the city—sos? Has HT already gone the way of VC…again? Incredibly frustrating to be stuck in Oakland and its horrible political leadership–

    • @GoA’s – It’s a fan’s idea. The 4 acres I referred to is the field along the shoreline. It’s 7 acres when including the aquatic center, 11-12 when including the old Cash & Carry building, which was bought by the city several years ago. The way the park is drawn up on the site it wouldn’t fit. Using the entirety of the land it would work, but it would run into fierce opposition from parks supporters and Waterfront Action.

  32. Well another obstacle to MLB making a decision down. The Padres sale was completed two hours ago. The O’Malley Family, Phil Mickelson and Ron Fowler are now in control. Reportedly sale price was $600 million with Moores walking away with $200 million of the $1.2 billion dollar TV deal.

    • Well another obstacle to MLB making a decision down. The Padres sale was completed two hours ago. The O’Malley Family, Phil Mickelson and Ron Fowler are now in control. Reportedly sale price was $600 million with Moores walking away with $200 million of the $1.2 billion dollar TV deal.

      Speaking of which, haven’t heard a peep out of the owners meeting (again)…. sigh

  33. @Anon- a tweet yesterday quoted LW saying that it was discussed but still no resolution…personally expected as much—with the auditor finishing up the SJ review there is no way they would push forward until there is more clarity–

  34. Off topic: I am having a business dinner next Thursday. I told the folks I am meeting with I wouldn’t come to SF but if they wanted to meet in Oaktown, that’d be great. Unfortunately, the A’s are in Tampa Bay, so the West Club isn’t an option :)… I need suggestions for Uptown (on account of 1 I am only in uptown for concerts and haven’t spent much time eating there and 2. I always eat on College Ave when in the town, because I love this place called the Crepevine and Zachary’s is a good second option)… feel free to email me directly at if you have a suggestion for me. Otherwise, I’ll yelp it.

  35. It looks like they might have changed chefs and owners since I last ate there prior to the Elvis Costello show at the Fox so I am not sure if the quality is the same.

  36. Ted went and saw Elvis Costello? I don’t care what anon says, you are alright by me.

    • Ted went and saw Elvis Costello? I don’t care what anon says, you are alright by me.

      Different strokes for different folks (and possibly different generations / cultures as well). I’m more inclined to ask about the nightlife (clubs) in Oakland, personally. The last one I went to in Oakland was the Hotel Ibiza, but that closed down years ago.

  37. Jeffrey: Try Plum Bar, Flora, or Pican (especially if you like Whiskey). All good choices.

    by the way, relax people about that estuary park website. it’s not related to any efforts of the City of Oakland. As ML pointed out, it’s a fan who is freelancing.

  38. Jeffrey, the aforementioned restaurants are all great options in Uptown for a business dinner, as are Ozumo and Mua. Enjoy!

  39. Pingback: Travel Blog | Olympics In San Francisco?

  40. Pingback: Olympics In San Francisco? | New 2000

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