A source close to the USOC has indicated that San Francisco has made the cut to be one of the four finalists to represent the United States in the country’s 2024 Summer Olympics bid. Joining SF are Los Angeles, Boston, and Washington, DC. The decision came as part of a multi-step culling process, with the most recent cut eliminating San Diego and Dallas.
The Bay Area put together a 2012 bid well over a decade ago. The landscape has changed a bit thanks to some venues either closing or being renovated, and new ones opening. I wrote about what a new bid would look like after the London Games. While there are plenty of venues for most of the events (although with a large geographical spread), the missing piece is a stadium that can properly hold track & field events and the opening and closing ceremonies. The 2012 bid was largely dependent on a rebuilt Stanford Stadium. After the bid failed, Stanford decided to downsize the stadium and make it a compact football/soccer venue. An alternative had a new 49ers stadium at Candlestick built to convert from football to track, but the 49ers turned their attention south and the method to do such a conversion was unproven. With several questions unresolved about the bid, San Francisco lost out to New York City, which came a distant fourth in voting.
London showed the way by getting temporary stadium built. Repurposing it has turned into a bureaucratic mess, as the redone stadium won’t open as the new home for West Ham United until 2015. Unless organizers figure out where to put the main stadium and the athletes’ village, they won’t really have a bid.
I’ve thought for some time that Oakland could be in a good position to support both if they could figure out the logistics of it. If SF was willing, it could allow Oakland to have both at the Coliseum. The problems are largely timing related. If Oakland also wanted to make a deal with the Raiders, would they build a stadium that could be converted to track temporarily, or would they go the London route and wait to build an Olympic stadium and then convert it permanently to football afterwards? The difference between the two is several years, and Mark Davis may not be patient enough to wait for the second option. On the other hand, the first option could prove extremely difficult to pull off. A football stadium may be 260-270 feet wide to accommodate the field and benches, whereas a track setup is 340-350 feet wide. That translates to 13 rows on each side to be added or removed.
Los Angeles is the only one of these cities that has previously hosted the Summer Games, last in 1984. Since then, the centerpiece of the bid, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, had its field lowered and the track removed. The venue has also come under control of USC, which has a 99-year lease. The venue could in theory build back the track and remove seats, but doing so would require a good deal of demolition and filling in to accommodate the wider track. It’s unclear if USC would go for such a plan. Washington and Boston would presumably have more compact bids than either West Coast city. They’re also not experienced hosting large sporting events, which puts them at a disadvantage. They also don’t have clear main stadium options, either.
All of this would be rendered moot if the USOC decides not to move forward with submitting any bid, a decision which will be made in the next six months. I’m not holding my breath.