An Olympic Effort Can Bring Gains to Region

SPORT: Try for 2024 Games Bid Seen as Catalyst for Change
Monday, August 19, 2013

Competing to be the city offered in a U.S. Olympic Committee bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympic Games could be a boon to San Diego, regardless of whether such efforts succeed in bringing the international event here.

That’s the collective sentiment of a local exploratory committee working to convince the U.S. Olympic Committee that San Diego has — or can have — what it takes to do America proud in 2024. One of the main messages the local committee wants to spread is that working to qualify to become this nation’s nomination for host city will bring many disparate groups together to address needs that require attention anyway.

“The Olympics can serve a catalytic role,” said Vincent Mudd, the chairman of the committee, which has 32 San Diego-area residents.

Mudd, a retired former owner of San Diego Office Interiors, said a team of USOC members will visit San Diego in the next two months as part of its work to narrow the number of potential host cities from 10 to three.

The USOC, headquartered in Colorado, declined to confirm the final cities and said no date had been scheduled to visit San Diego. A spokesman said the organization has engaged in “informal discussions with approximately 10 cities” to evaluate whether it will submit a bid for the 2024 Games.

Infrastructural Potential

Mudd, while acknowledging the unlikeliness of San Diego winning the games, said the city has a lot of required infrastructure in place and time to build about four key venues that aren’t.

“Our research tells us that we have great options in San Diego,” Mudd said. “We have the property here that allows us to build all the venues we need and allows us to build these for multiple uses.”

As occurred in London and Beijing, many structures that would have to be built to host the 2024 games, such as a primary Olympic stadium and an indoor sports arena, could serve the region for many years.

The London Olympic Organizing Committee spent about $8 billion to build out infrastructure and host the last Olympics, Mudd said.

Keith Jones, a member of the committee for two years, said the big takeaway from the bidding process is what San Diego, a city he described as “thirsty for infrastructure upgrades,” could accomplish in that area through planning for such a massive event.

“This is about so much more than sports,” said Jones, managing partner for Ace Parking Management Inc.. “It’s about taking San Diego from its perceived cul de sac in America to realize its full potential as a gateway to the Pacific Rim and the rest of the world.”

Demonstrating Host Qualities

The exploratory committee is trying to attract other major events such as Olympic qualifying competitions, national conventions and college tournaments that would provide added heft in demonstrating San Diego’s ability to organize and manage high-profile events, said Mike Elconin, who has been on the committee for about a year.

Elconin, CEO of Cognionics, said a prime central site for the games could be at Qualcomm Stadium, touting its location and connection to the region’s transportation network.

Mudd echoed Elconin’s belief in San Diego’s capacity to pull off grand happenings, calling it “probably one of the most natural places on Earth to host an Olympics.” He noted that the city has demonstrated its prowess in hosting two national political conventions, three Super Bowls, a couple of America’s Cup races and many other sporting events.

“We can do anything we want in San Diego as long as people believe that the benefits return to the people,” Mudd said.

Perhaps the toughest hurdle to winning the national bid comes from its own residents, Mudd said.

“A lot of people say nothing ever gets done here, but really look around at all the great things that San Diego has done,” he said. “We have to re-introduce San Diego to the entire world starting with San Diegans, even if many of us don’t understand the richness of our mega region.”

References: This article appeared in the San Diego Business Journal on August 19,2013

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