Doctoroff's Defeat, Philly's Folly and More on the Business of Sports

07.9.2005 | Evan Weiner | Sports

Three years ago, the United States Olympic Committee decided the Washington-Baltimore area didn’t have what it took to land the 2012 Summer Olympics. Ultimately, the USOC felt New York would be strong enough to impress International Olympic Committee delegates and secure the bid.

The USOC was wrong and may have learned a lesson in the process.

The American committee took New York’s Dan Doctoroff at his word, and that may have been the USOC’s downfall. Doctoroff first dreamt of a New York Olympics during a 1994 soccer World Cup match at Giants Stadium while gazing at the New York skyline. Doctoroff formed an Olympic bid committee and in 2002 become New York’s deputy mayor. Doctoroff had the political means to get an Olympic Stadium built on the west side of Manhattan.

Doctoroff failed.

In the end, Doctoroff could not outmaneuver New York state assemblyman Sheldon Silver and deliver an Olympic Stadium. That was the death blow to New York’s bid.

Ironically, Washington has a football stadium that could have been used as an Olympic facility; so do Dallas, Cincinnati, Tampa and Houston.

New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco do not. That’s the problem the USOC has. The USOC has to decide in future bids for the 2016 or 2020 Olympics, does it go for glitz or for cities, like Washington, that have facilities in place? Washington also has the power and glitz the IOC craves.

In 1999, Washington-Baltimore, Dallas, Houston, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Los Angeles, Cincinnati, San Francisco and New York emerged as contenders for the 2012 Games. Will the USOC go back to those cities and ask if local politicians and business leaders are interested in going through the bid process again?


It is still very early, but Los Angeles and Minneapolis have expressed some interest in hosting the 2016 Games. But both cities need stadium upgrades. New York officials claim they won’t bid on 2016. Washington-Baltimore can deliver an Olympic Stadium for 2016 along with needed infrastructure but so can Dallas, Houston, Tampa and Cincinnati.

Internationally, Rio De Janeiro, Toronto, Paris, Madrid and Moscow figure to be in the hunt. However, it’s highly unlikely the IOC will choose another European city four years after the London Olympics.

The politics of the Olympics also needs to be addressed. Did the USOC lose credibility with the IOC  because New York’s bid fell apart a month before the 2012 vote? It is possible, even though U.S. television money helps keep the IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland going.

Over the next few months, the USOC has to sit down and think about the bidding process for the Summer Games. Will the committee take the word of politicians who claim they can get facilities built? Or will the USOC seek cities that have existing sports arenas and stadiums?

The USOC needs answers before it presses ahead with any more bids.

Do Philadelphia residents really want the 2016 Summer Olympics? Apparently there may be a handful of people who are entertaining the idea of bringing the 31st Olympiad to South Philadelphia. After all, Philadelphia does have a football stadium that could be used as an Olympic Stadium for opening and closing ceremonies and track and field events. Philadelphia has two indoor arenas and a baseball stadium, so some of the very basics that are needed for the Olympics along with public financing for those facilities are in place.
But a city needs more than just four buildings for an Olympics; just ask the Paris 2012 Olympics bid committee. Paris had virtually everything in place to stage an Olympics and yet was beaten out by London.
Philadelphia first has to approach the United States Olympic Committee with a plan and at this point, the USOC has to do some serious thinking about future bids. Do American delegates want cities who already have facilities done or will they trust local politicians and business leaders who promise that they can deliver stadiums, arenas, international broadcast centers, Olympic villages and housing and venues?
Philadelphia’s plan also has to have Harrisburg’s support as the International Olympic Committee demands host cities and countries to have funds set aside to take care of cost overruns. So Pennsylvania has to be partners with Philadelphia and the Philadelphia bid committee.
Pennsylvanians should be aware of just how much money it costs to stage an Olympics. Greek Olympic officials are more than $3 billion in the hole and have a whole set of empty buildings to show for the 2004 Olympics. Sydney hosted the 2000 Games and now is paying off debts on buildings that are not used and has closed by some Olympic venues that were supposed to be part of the “legacy.”
If Philadelphia does go ahead with an Olympic plan, the city would go head to head with other American cities at first. In 1999, eight American cities decided to go after the 2012 Summer Games. New York beat out seven US cities to get the USOC’s designation as the American bidder. Those eight cities along with Minneapolis-St. Paul might decide to go after the 2016 Olympics.
If Philadelphia somehow wins the USOC bid, the city might be in a race for the Games with Toronto, Rio de Janeiro, Moscow, Madrid, Paris, Istanbul, Cairo and others.
The politics of the Olympics also needs to be addressed. Did the USOC lose credibility with the IOC because New York’s bid fell apart a month before the 2012 vote?
Philadelphia residents should remember this. The Olympics has always been a money drain and all those promises of Olympic-related jobs and the Olympics being an economic stimulus have been overstated. New York got lucky when London landed the 2012 Olympics. The IOC’s decision saved New York taxpayers billions; Athens and Sydney should have been so lucky.

It is highly unusual for people in Washington or New York to have any use for Jerry Jones or his Dallas Cowboys.

After all, Jones’ Cowboys are a bitter NFC East rival. Yet it would be very wise for people in Washington and New York to carefully observe what is going on in Arlington, Texas. That city could be the first to use the June 23 Supreme Court decision — which allows local governments to seize people’s homes and businesses against their will for private development — for a stadium project.

Arlington residents last November voted to fund half of Jones’ new football facility. Now Arlington is buying out properties near the site that will be Jones’ new football home. A number of property owners have taken Arlington’s buyout, but a significant number have not for various reasons, including the feeling they are not getting fair market value for their land.

The Arlington City Council has decided to seize some of those properties at a fixed price. Time is becoming a problem for Arlington as the city needs to clear the land by year’s end to start construction on time in 2006. Jones is planning to open the stadium in 2009.

This is the second time Arlington has used the eminent domain law to seize land for a sports facility. In 1991, Arlington took over land and used it to build a stadium for the Texas Rangers ownership group, which included former Managing General Partner and current President George W. Bush.

Both Washington and New York have sports projects still in planning. Mayor Anthony Williams promised Major League Baseball a new stadium by 2008 if MLB moved the Montreal Expos to D.C. New York realtor Bruce Ratner purchased the New Jersey Nets and plans to move the team a few subway stops out of Manhattan near a parcel of land that was once offered to Walter O’Malley in a bid to keep the Dodgers in Brooklyn.

The Supreme Court’s June 23 decision may make it much easier for the Washington City Council to get the land needed for the Anacostia waterfront stadium project and clear the way for Ratner and New York officials to get all the land necessary for his Nets arena, along with  his plans for housing and offices.

As of now, there are no other major league stadium or arena construction projects that will benefit from the Supreme Court decision. But the Minnesota Twins, Oakland Athletics and Florida Marlins owners want new stadiums and Las Vegas is interested in building a baseball stadium. The Minnesota Vikings, San Diego Chargers and New Orleans Saints owners want new football facilities. The Orlando Magic and Pittsburgh Penguins ownership groups want new arenas.

The political and sports worlds have intersected in Arlington. Washingtonians should be paying close attention to see if Arlington uses eminent domain to get land for Jerry Jones’ stadium.

Washington could be the next city to use eminent domain laws for sports.

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