Washington group explores bid for 2024 Olympics

Baltimore-area venues would stage Olympic events under a Washington, D.C.-based group's plan to explore a bid to host the 2024 Summer Games.

"Our intention is to have this be the entire region," said Robert T. Sweeney, president of DC 2024. "Quite honestly, we can't do it without Baltimore. Baltimore is a big partner in our game plan."


DC 2024 formed several months ago and has been working behind the scenes to build support for a bid, Sweeney said.

The group has reached out to Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and Washington Mayor Vincent C. Gray, and all three support the group's work toward a possible bid, Sweeney said. DC 2024 also has the support of the area's professional sports franchises, whose facilities likely would be used if the group's bid was successful, he said.


The U.S. Olympic Committee sent out letters in February to 35 cities, including Washington and Baltimore, to assess their interest in hosting the games. Washington and Baltimore made an unsuccessful joint bid for the 2012 Summer Games, which eventually went to London.

Sweeney said he understood that the USOC wanted to work with just one jurisdiction, instead of two. So, this time around, Washington is taking the lead.

Terry Hasseltine, director of the Maryland Office of Sports Marketing, said the decision was made to submit a bid under only Washington's name because of its international profile.

"When all is said and done, Washington, D.C., has the brand equity globally," Hasseltine said.

Even so, he added, a good bid will require participation from Maryland and Virginia.

"The Olympics is a very unique sporting event. It takes a lot of people coming together for a common cause. The D.C. group is interested in exploring making a bid at the highest level," he said. "This is a D.C.-driven bid. But the state of Maryland will have to be at the table somehow, some way, as will the state of Virginia."

And if the bid is successful, Maryland and Baltimore will get ample attention, Hasseltine said.

The governor's office referred all questions to Hasseltine. He said the state has made no economic promises to the Olympic effort.


"There has been no commitment except to be engaged in the process," Hasseltine said.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, through a spokesman, declined to comment.

DC 2024 plans to resurrect many of the ideas from the 2012 joint bid, a 600-page proposal that officials spent three years and $9.5 million to produce. Under that bid, Baltimore would have been the site of soccer, gymnastics, cycling, field hockey and triathlon, while the Annapolis area would have been home to the sailing competition. The mountain bike race would have been held at Patapsco Valley State Park.

"It was a good site in 2012. It's a lot better site now," Sweeney said. "First of all, we now have a convention center, a new Nationals ballpark. We have rail to Dulles [International] Airport. All those kind of things are very important."

Maryland also can offer a "great transportation infrastructure," and Baltimore's hotels would be keys to any Olympic bid, Hasseltine said.

Among the places Hasseltine identified as potential sites of Olympic events are the Camden Yards sports complex, the Washington Redskins' FedEx Field in Landover and the University of Maryland, College Park. The Inner Harbor and Annapolis would be potential sites for water sports, and Garrett County would be a candidate to host white-water events, he said.


Ultimately, the bid could involve sites as far south as Richmond, Va., Hasseltine added.

Sweeney, who is also president of the Greater Washington Sports Alliance, which brings sporting events to the area, is trying to raise $3 million to $5 million over the next two years for the bid.

The USOC is expected to decide on a U.S. site in September 2015, and the International Olympic Committee will make the final selection two years later, Sweeney said.

USOC CEO Scott Blackmun told The Washington Post that other cities, including Boston, Dallas, Los Angeles and San Francisco, are also organizing political and financial support for bids.

If Washington is selected, it would be the first time in 28 years that a U.S. city has hosted the Summer Olympics. Atlanta last did so, in 1996.

Sweeney estimated that it will cost $3 billion to $6 billion to host the games in Washington and predicted that the games would be profitable here.


Unlike the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, or the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, both of which required extensive construction of new facilities, the Washington region already has venues and amenities available, Sweeney said.

"Clearly, we don't need hotels. We don't need high-speed rail anymore," he said."The historic backdrop of the nation's capital and all of the history in suburban Maryland and Virginia and D.C. itself make it an ideal destination for fans, for the athletes, for everybody to come and visit Washington, D.C."

But Dennis Coates, an economics professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, said the Olympics are a financial boon to the International Olympic Committee, not necessarily to the host cities.

"The question is: How much do we have to pay?" Coates said. "Just putting together a bid is an expensive proposition. It's not an easy thing to do."

Even though the region already has sports facilities, Maryland still would be on the hook for guaranteeing public safety and paying for traffic control, he said. And it's not known whether the events would generate enough sales tax and other revenue to account for those expenses.

Coates said he might not support a bid for those reasons, but conceded that having the Olympics here would be exciting.


"This could generate an enormous amount of pride and an enormous amount of happiness among the population, particularly if you pull it off well," he said.