Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Costs of an Olympic Host Add Up to Just Fool's Gold

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Costs of an Olympic Host Add Up to Just Fool's Gold

Article excerpt

One way to measure the progress of a city is by the audacity of its Olympic bids.

Pittsburgh's leaders received a letter last week from the U.S. Olympic Committee, seeking to gauge local interest in hosting the 2024 Summer Olympics. Only 35 cities received one. (Don't get too excited. Rochester, N.Y. got one, too.)

We're short a tennis stadium, an aquatics center and maybe 40,000 hotel rooms, to name just a few items on the to-do list, but neither Mayor Luke Ravenstahl nor Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald is treating this as junk mail. Both say they'll be checking in with local corporations and foundations to see if there's any real interest (i.e. serious money) out there.

Mr. Ravenstahl is busy with more pressing matters that stem from errant credit cards, perhaps readying himself for a time when passing the buck is certified as an Olympic sport. Until then, the argument among the citizenry is over just how crazy hosting the Olympics would be.

It's certainly less of a reach than it would have been 20 years ago, but even if we could do this, the question is why. Proponents point to the city's success in hosting the G-20 in 2009, but while that raised our international profile, it was at the cost of creating a martial-law theme park on the shut-down streets of the Golden Triangle. (Slogan: We're not going to let those stinkin' anarchists shut down Pittsburgh. We'll do it!)

The rides offered during the G-20 festivities -- trips to jail if caught being young and outside in Oakland on a nice Friday night -- made me miss those days when only crime was against the law.

So I don't buy the bit in the Olympic Committee's pitch letter that says, "The Games have had a transformative impact on a number of host cities, including Barcelona, Beijing and London."

I visited both Barcelona and London decades ago and found them to be nifty places before the Olympics arrived. I've never been to Beijing, but I'm guessing it would be on the rise even if no pentathletes ever bunked there.

The irony of chasing Olympian status is that by the time your hometown is worthy it probably no longer needs international games to prove it. …

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