D.C. Best Suited Among U.S. Bids for "Financial Legacy"

A leading Olympic scholar makes a case for Washington D.C. as the United States' 2024 Olympic candidate city. 

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 09:  A aerial view of the Lincoln Memorial photographed on December 9, 2011 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 09: A aerial view of the Lincoln Memorial photographed on December 9, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

(ATR) Potential 2024 bid city Washington D.C. is best suited to reduce traditional costs and leave "a financial legacy for Olympic sports," a Games scholar and sports management and tourism expert tells Around the Rings.

"I think D.C. can turn a profit where the others may not be able to," Lisa Delpy Neirotti tells ATR. "The USOC would be better off in Washington than the other ones."

Based in Washington D.C., Delpy Neirotti is director of the master of tourism administration program at the George Washington University School of Business and an associate professor of sports management. However, she stresses, "I’m not biased – I’ve looked at all of them," noting that she spent time last summer in San Francisco and is also familiar with Los Angeles and Boston.

Delpy Neirotti has attended and completed research at 17 consecutive Olympic Games.

"Based upon what I know about Washington, I think the security costs could be reduced as much as 40 percent because we have so many intelligence officers and FBI agents already living here," she says, noting that fewer security officers would have to be housed. "Also, we’re already wired and tapped."

Delpy Neirotti also believes costs of the Cultural Olympiad could be defrayed by merging with programs offered by the Smithsonian, so Washington is "better set up to reduce traditional budget items."

While financial guarantees by government entities have often been a stumbling block for U.S. bids, Delpy Neirotti says it is easier for congressmen and senators to support money going to the capital versus another state.

"If I’m sitting up there and have to vote on something, am I going to make my neighbor look good?" she says.

"If you think about it from IOC perspective, you could build a better case saying that we’ve got a financial revenue source from four different entities (federal, states of Virginia and Maryland and District of Columbia) versus one. Then if we can show the economic prosperity of this region versus other regions, that’s also something to take into consideration."

Delpy Neirotti adds that public spending is an easier sell in Washington D.C., which revolves around that practice.

A new metro line to Dulles Airport means that all three airports - including Baltimore - are connected via public transportation and an Olympic bid can accelerate other transportation improvements.

At the local level, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia work well together.

Delpy Neirotti, who has taken students to every Olympic Games since 1992, says an Olympic Games will spur development along the Anacostia River.

"It’s very similar to the London setup," she says. "It’s a plot of land that’s been kind of wasteland, and people said, ‘We want to develop that because it’s on the water.’ Just like Sydney, where they developed that waterfront land, it’s there for the taking.

"But people need a push to make it happen, and Olympics seems to always be that push. I know the money’s there."

With the lease on the current stadium occupied by the Washington NFL football team expiring around the time of the 2024 Games, that could smooth the way for a new stadium in Washington. Owner Dan Snyder has long sought to move back to the city.

Delpy Neirotti says that the story of Washington is also very similar to the one told by London. "If you look at the number of kids who are involved with sports," she says, "we’re very diverse. We have a large population that is in need of sports and in need of assistance. A big portion of their push is to improve the lives of the less fortunate in our area, as well as the whole redevelopment in Wards 7 and 8."

Another benefit to having the Olympics in the capital city is that it is home to many NGO headquarters, such as the Red Cross. Delpy Neirotti says that these NGOs could partner with the IOC to disseminate information and raise awareness about the Olympic Movement globally.

She also says that almost every major company has at least one representative or a small office in D.C. because of government relations, so that could be a bonus for sponsors.

The U.S. Olympic Committee has not yet determined if it will bid for 2024. It is postponing its decision until after the IOC meets for Agenda 2020 voting next month in Monaco. The USOC has consistently said that it will only bid if it thinks it can win.

Among the potential candidates, Boston and Washington have been most visible to the public. Both have 2024 websites. A Los Angeles 2024 website is hosted by the Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games, but it is outdated since that entity is no longer acting as the bid leadership.

While Boston has detailed specifics of its bid and target budget, the other cities are more tight-lipped.

Jeff Millman, a spokesman from the office of Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti, tells ATR, "We won’t be discussing the bid or the effort at this point."

P.J. Johnston, a media consultant for San Francisco, tells ATR, "We’ve got a group of civic leaders led by Larry Baer, Anne Cribbs and Steve Strandberg that are leading this effort and pulling community leaders to the effort. But it’s too soon for us to speak publicly in any kind of detail."

From Washington, spokesman TJ Ducklo tells ATR, "We are referring all inquires of this nature to the USOC at this time."

Delpy Neirotti, a California native, points out that she is not discounting Los Angeles.

"They can always do it," she said.

While she loves San Francisco, her concern is that "they haven’t been able to get one stadium built with public money. I teach sports facility management. San Francisco tried three referendums. All of them failed."

Delpy Neirotti says that in Boston, "transportation is a little bit more difficult getting around the city," but acknowledges that it is "pretty compact."

The U.S. is unusual among world powers in that it has never hosted an Olympics in its capital.

"I think a lot of people may have the impression that we’re closed down at night or nobody lives in the city, but it’s a very integrated downtown," Delpy Neirotti says, noting a vibrant jazz scene and popular restaurants and nightclubs. "This is an opportunity for the United States to say, ‘Hey we’re not just a government. Washington D.C. is not just [U.S. President Barack] Obama. There are a lot of people who live and play sports here."

Delpy Neirotti points out that Washington has a lot of green space and a fantastic live site could be held on the Mall. Washington is used to major events with at least 1 million people surging into the capital every four years for the presidential inauguration.

Bid leaders Ted Leonsis and Russ Ramsey are both into sports, well-connected and have deep pockets.

Delpy Neirotti senses that public support will not be a problem. "Like all cities, the first reaction is, ‘How can we handle this?’" she says. "And then they realize they don’t have to build everything Sochi had to build. We already have all the hotels we need. We already have the train station, the metro stations and the airports. We have basically everything to run it. Yes, we’re going to have to build a velodrome, a natatorium, a stadium, the Olympic Village, but housing complexes are going up here right and left. And the land’s already there, so I’m not worried.

"I really want to think about the city that’s going to be able to sell to the IOC and also leave some financial legacy for the USOC and the Olympic sports."

And that, she says, is Washington.

Written by Karen Rosen

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