The chairman of the committee seeking to bring the 2024 Summer Olympics to the Washington area said Thursday that he is intrigued by the possibility that an Olympic stadium could be built on the RFK Stadium site, perhaps becoming the future home of the NFL's Redskins.
"When the ownership of the Washington NFL team talked about looking, that's probably one of the places they'd like to look, so that's something we'd like to understand better," said Russ Ramsey, who has been visiting other potential Olympic venues in Maryland and around the region.
"There are a couple places that seem obviously very dynamic. Certainly one is the RFK site that exists now," Ramsey said. "I grew up three miles east of RFK, played in those neighborhoods and watched games, including the Senators in '71 before they left. So I find certain aspects of that very attractive. But that's my personal view. What we will do is look at all the sites in the region."
Washington is competing with Boston, New York and San Francisco to convince officials with the U.S. Olympic Committee that the city represents the country's best hope of winning the 2024 Games. The national committee is expected to decide on a U.S. site by early 2015, and the International Olympic Committee will consider that nominee when making the final selection.
On Thursday, Ramsey visited Garrett County, site of this weekend's International Canoe Federation Canoe Slalom World Championships. The white-water course, in the Deep Creek Lake area, could be used for Olympic competition.
Maryland is a secondary partner in the bid to win the Games. In an unsuccessful Washington proposal for the 2012 Games, Baltimore would have been the site of soccer, gymnastics, cycling, field hockey and triathlon. The Annapolis area would have been home to the sailing competition. The mountain bike competition would have been held at Patapsco Valley State Park. Those sites likely would be considered again.
New York won that domestic competition, but London was awarded the 2012 Games.
"Baltimore is spectacularly beautiful," Ramsey said Thursday. "The International Olympic Committee may come over and look at Federal Hill or the Harbor and think about what just happened there with the 200th anniversary of "The Star-Spangled Banner" and say, 'We want to have it here.' This is all preliminary. I think the regions will decide and the different elected leaders will decide where and how they want to put forth the most attractive proposals."
Maryland will not be asked to make a financial commitment unless the region is selected as the American candidate, he said.
"There are certain roles that only the governments — both federal and local — can play in terms of security and transportation. So, yes, there will be an investment," Ramsey said. "The actual buildup of this won't actually get going until 2017."
It is uncertain how much the state would be asked to pay.
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and the two candidates running to succeed him — Democrat Anthony G. Brown and Republican Larry Hogan — have generally pledged their support.
The Redskins, who play at 17-year-old FedEx Field in Landover, have expressed interest in moving. The team played at RFK Stadium, in a popular Washington location with a Metro stop, before 1997.
Asked Thursday about preliminary talks with Ramsey's group, the team replied with a statement backing the Olympic bid.
"The Washington Redskins enthusiastically support the Organizing committee in their efforts to secure the 2024 Olympic games for the Nation's capital," Tony Wyllie, the team's senior vice president, said.