I Left My Olympic Bid in San Francisco

The recent collaspe of plans to refurbish or rebuild the San Francisco 49er’s stadium (which will always be known in my mind as Candlestick Park, regardless of the current corporate sponsor) has led San Francisco to withdraw as a candidate to host the 2016 Olympics. San Francisco was apparently well aware of the problems associated with promising stadiums for the Olympics that were not yet approved by the city’s voters. Look, for example, at the problems NYC’s bid had given the uncertainty of the proposed upper west side Jet’s stadium, and of course the ongoing financial difficulties of the 2012 Olympics in London were detailed by our esteemed colleague, Stefan Szymanski, last week.

I was, however, very impressed with the city of San Francisco regarding their bid. I was contacted on several occasions by Andrew Murray, Office of the Legislative Analyst for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, asking about academic research into mega-events. His report to the SF Board of Supervisors, Costs, Benefits, and Considerations of Hosting the Olympic Games, is, in my opinion, a very fair piece that includes both the potential benefits of hosting the games as well as the pitfalls that cities can fall into. It is rare, in my experience, to see government reports for potential host cities that do more than gloss over the potential negative economic considerations of the Olympics and other mega-events, and too often local governments simply become cheering sections for sports leagues or event organizers rather than independent bodies looking out for the overall welfare of their citizens.

Good for SF for backing out of a bid once the costs clearly became prohibitive. I wonder if Chicago and Los Angeles, the two remaining American bidders, will display similar wisdom.

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Author: Victor Matheson

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