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LOVERRO: Quest for 2024 Olympics a race D.C. is better off losing

- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 1, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

If you truly care about the quality of life you lead here on a daily basis — and if you truly care about the future of the children who haven't even been born yet in the Baltimore-Washington area — you got some bad news last week. Officials from New York and Philadelphia had a remarkable epiphany for elected officials — they decided to pass on the biggest boondoggle buffet in the world.

They announced they would not be bidding for the 2024 Summer Olympics.

Unfortunately, the powers that be in Washington are still committed to wasting more money and resources for a chance to host an event that, at the very least, will make nearly all of your lives miserable for an entire summer, or, at the very worst, send governments into economic tailspins and leave broken dreams in its wake.

Yes, Washington, after the debacle and embarrassment of the effort to host the 2012 Games, is determined to jump in the pool again, as another set of business leaders and politicians are counting on the Olympics for an infusion of money in their pockets and a crowning achievement for the first paragraph of their obituaries.

They've got a web site, dc2024.org, and they've selected leaders of the organization — Russ Ramsay, chairman and CEO of Ramsay Asset Management and former chairman of the George Washington University Board of Directors, and Washington Capitals and Wizards owner Ted Leonsis. The latter's building, the Verizon Center, will be 27 years old by 2024 — three years older than the Capital Centre when it was abandoned.

Just saying.

The Washington Business Journal reported in March that Ramsay and Leonsis would lead the non-profit (and let me make it clear here — when they say non-profit, they mean you and me) organization's efforts to host the 2024 Summer Games.

At some point, Ramsay and Leonsis and everyone involved in this scheme will likely have to approach government officials in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia — much like they did for the 2012 Games — to cover any losses.

What could go wrong? The Olympics never lose money.

Here was the headline from the Philadelphia Business Journal about the city bowing out of the 2024 bidding: "Philadelphia won't join the ranks of decaying Olympic cities."

"After this research phase, including visits and conversations with past Olympic host cities, our team has determined that Philadelphia will not present a bid for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games," Mayor Michael Nutter said in a statement. "However, we do believe that Philadelphia has what it takes to bid on and host an Olympic Games in the future, and will continue to foster our working relationship with the USOC and support their efforts."

In other words, we could do it. But after seeing the carnage of past Olympics, we would rather not burden the children of the parents who haven't even been born yet with the debt of this civic vanity.

New York's moment of sanity really nailed the problem — the Olympics are a disaster for the average citizen, and their generations to come. Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen told The Wall Street Journal that pursuing the Olympics for 2024 "doesn't make sense.

"I think when you actually ask the average New Yorker on the street whether or not the city should be focusing its planning effort, its infrastructure effort, its policing, its transportation, around an event that will happen for three weeks in the summer 10 years from now, versus getting down to business with all of the challenges and opportunities we have in front of us right now, I'm pretty sure that the vast majority of New Yorkers would say, 'I'd rather watch it on my big-screen TV at home,'" she told the Journal.

You would have to have been on another planet — or a member of the Washington 2024 Olympic organizing committee — to not know about the perils of hosting the Games, and doing business with one of the most corrupt organizations in the world in the International Olympic Committee, which picks the pockets of the people who are promised streets of gold.

In Salt Lake City, the mayor went on local television every night to plead with people to come into town to eat at local restaurants — some of which had spent money in anticipation of the business rewards from hosting the Olympics — because those restaurants were empty, and losing money.

In Sydney, host of the 2000 Summer Olympics, businesses went bankrupt after expanding, looking forward to reaping the rewards predicted by Olympic organizers, only to find that more people typically leave a city during the Games than come there. The Olympic Stadium turned out to be a very big flower pot for years after the Games were gone.

We know what happened to Greece, which spent $11 billion to host the 2004 Summer Games and wound up in economic ruin. And for all the angst over Vladimir Putin and Russia, he may likely self-destruct under the weight of the $51 billion spent on the Sochi Winter Olympics.

Hosting the $1 billion 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow may have contributed to the demise of the Soviet Union.

Soviet rulers feared the damage hosting the games would leave behind, according to the Moscow Times. In 1975, Leonid Brezhnev wrote a letter to his successor, Konstantin Chernenko, about the "enormous amount of money" to be spent hosting the Olympics, the Times reported

"Besides the enormous cost, there may be all sorts of scandals that could disgrace the Soviet Union. Maybe we should reconsider this issue and refuse to hold the Olympics," Brezhnev wrote to Chernenko, according to the Times report.

The Olympics helped put the Soviet economy into a tailspin.

Poor Brazil. They are in bed with both the IOC and FIFA, about to host the World Cup and then the Summer Olympics two years later. They will have giant flower pots littered throughout the country, which had been on an economic sprint but will wind up crippled and left for dead.

"We think we enter the race as a frontrunner," DC 2024 president Bob Sweeney told USA Today last year.

Great — the one sporting contest D.C. may win

Thom Loverro is co-host of "The Sports Fix," noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 radio and espn980.com.

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