On Dec. 16, Washington 2024, the organization leading the city’s bid for the 2024 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games, will make their final presentation to the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). Washington 2024 is competing against Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco to be the U.S. bid city for the 2024 Games.
So far, Washington 2024 has refused to share their plans with the public. In attempt to learn more about the bid’s potential impact on Hill East, ANC 6B sent a letter (pdf) last month to Washington 2024 requesting a community meeting prior to the USOC’s final decision on a U.S. bid city. Unfortunately, Washington 2024 declined ANC 6B’s meeting request (pdf). They plan to start their community engagement process when/if Washington, DC is selected as the U.S. bid city.
While Washington 2024 declined ANC 6B’s invitation for a meeting, the organization did accept an invitation to speak at Councilmember Vincent Orange’s Small Business and Economic Development Summit held on Fri., Dec. 12. Since we can’t get a meeting with Washington 2024 in Hill East, I decided to attend the summit to learn more about the bid. Here is what I heard:
- The USOC’s decision on a U.S. bid city could come as early as next week or as late as next January. If Washington, DC is selected, the USOC and city will have until Sept. 2015 to formally apply to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to host the 2024 games. The IOC will make its final decision on a host city in Sept. 2017.
- Not surprisingly, Washington 2024 did not share the specific plans they will be presenting to the USOC. I’m not sure if the decision to keep the public in the dark about the plans is being made by Washington 2024 or the USOC but it is a bad decision. Putting on an Olympics requires a multi-billion dollar public investment. The secretive nature of the process has helped fuel skepticism about the bids in Washington and the other three potential bid cities.
- RFK Stadium and Reservation 13 are under consideration for a new Olympic Stadium and Olympic Village respectively, though other sites are also being considered for these venues.
- Robert Sweeney, senior advisor to Washington 2024, noted that the Olympics could be a catalyst to develop sites like Reservation 13 where redevelopment plans largely have failed to take off. I responded that the city is largely to blame for the state of Reservation 13 today and that it shouldn’t take the Olympics to develop a waterfront site sitting on top of a Metro station.
- Sweeney did mention the Reservation 13 master plan and said that Washington 2024 would follow the plan in developing an Olympic Village if the site is chosen for such a use. I was pleasantly surprised that the organization was aware of the master plan and had thought about how to incorporate it. However, using the site for an Olympic Village would mean the city wouldn’t see the housing and retail slated for Reservation 13 until 2025 at the earliest.
- Sweeney reaffirmed that Washington 2024 would begin an “extensive” community outreach campaign beginning in Jan./Feb. 2015 if the city is chosen as the U.S. bid city. Community briefings would be held in all eight wards and he recommitted to holding a community meeting in Hill East.
- There was a lot of focus on the legacy of an Olympic Games. Andrew Altman, former head of the legacy corporation created for the London 2012 games (and former head of the DC Office of Planning) talked about how London began their Olympic planning by envisioning what the Olympic park and venues would look like in 2030. Washington 2024 is modeling their effort after the London games.
- In addition to Councilmember Orange, Mayor-Elect Muriel Bowser spoke at the Summit in support of the Olympic bid and will be attending the Dec.16 USOC presentation. It appears that the Mayor, Mayor-Elect and DC Council are all behind the bid though they haven’t held a single hearing on the subject nor officially voted to support the bid. If Washington, DC is awarded the games, the city will have to sign a financial guarantee to fully fund the games and any cost overruns.
Community engagement should be the centerpiece – not an afterthought – of an Olympic bid. Residents shouldn’t have to attend business roundtables and summits to learn basic details. I plan to continue pushing city leaders and Washington 2024 to share more information about the bid.