KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) - U.S. Olympic leaders have started contacting Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington about the possibility of bidding for the 2024 Games and believe the demise of Boston’s candidacy will be “ancient history” by the time the host city is selected in 2017.
In an interview Saturday with The Associated Press, U.S. Olympic Committee chairman Larry Probst said a decision will be made by the end of August on which of three cities should replace Boston as the American contender in a race that already features four European cities.
“We’ve got to reconnect with the three cities that were part of the group of finalists,” Probst said on the sidelines of the IOC general assembly in Kuala Lumpur. “We’ve got to determine what their level of interest is in pursuing a bid and take that feedback and gather our board together and discuss that feedback with our board and make a decision.”
“That will all happen in the month of August,” he added. “We will have resolved this by the end of the month.”
Probst gave his most extensive public comments since the USOC cut ties with Boston on Monday, pulling the plug on a bid plagued by a lack of public support.
The USOC now faces a Sept. 15 IOC deadline to enter a bid that would replace Boston, which had been chosen ahead of Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington.
Los Angeles, which hosted the 1932 and 1984 Olympics, is widely viewed as the likely choice.
“We’ll talk to them just like we’ll talk to San Francisco and Washington,” Probst said.
Probst said the USOC has begun the process of sounding out the three cities about stepping in, but declined to say what kind of response the committee has received so far.
“We’re going to share that feedback with our board first,” he said.
The feedback from International Olympic members, meanwhile, has been loud and clear: “Surprisingly strong encouragement to bid,” Probst said.
Many IOC members have told the AP they would welcome a Los Angeles bid.
“They’ve heard the speculation, they’ve read the speculation and of course they assume it’s going to happen,” Probst said. “They want to see a bid from the United States. We would love to host the games in 2024 and hope to have a strong bid.”
Probst said numerous IOC members have spoken to him here about Boston’s withdrawal.
“Everybody thinks it’s unfortunate,” he said. “When we chose Boston, we thought that it was going to be a strong bid. … But at the end of the day we couldn’t get the support of the local community. If you can’t get the public to support a bid, you’re not going to win. So we had to do what we thought was in the best interests of the USOC.”
Probst poured cold water on the possibility of a joint bid between Los Angeles and San Francisco, though he didn’t rule it out completely.
“I think that would be complicated - not impossible, but complicated,” he said.
Paris and Rome are among the declared candidates for 2024, along with Hamburg, Germany, and Budapest, Hungary. Toronto and Baku, Azerbaijan, are also weighing possible bids. The IOC will select the host city at its session Lima, Peru, in 2017.
The U.S. hasn’t hosted a Summer Games since Atlanta staged the 1996 Olympics. New York and Chicago failed in bids for the 2012 and 2016 Games, respectively.
Asked whether the Boston debacle had damaged U.S. chances for 2024, Probst said: “I don’t think so. I think that episode will be ancient history by the time that we get to Lima in 2017.”
IOC President Thomas Bach this week accused Boston of failing to deliver on its “promises” to the USOC. Mayor Marty Walsh fired back that he wouldn’t be “forced into spending taxpayers’ money at risk.”
“I have a lot of respect for Mayor Walsh,” Probst said. “I think he’s a terrific guy. We had a good working relationship with him. We’re going to take the high road and not get involved in any kind of finger pointing or accusatory remarks. I’m a big fan of Mayor Walsh. I’m clearly a big fan of Thomas Bach.”
Bach raised eyebrows this week when he declared that the IOC had a “commitment” from the USOC to submit a 2024 bid.
“I was a little surprised at the remark that he made,” Probst said, “but, yes, we would like to bid for 2024. We have said consistently that is our desire to have a bid for the Summer Games in 2024. That’s the commitment that we’ve made.”
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