Last week, a group of Tulsa business leaders made a presentation to Tulsa City Councilors with the hopes of obtaining their blessings to move forward on a bid for Tulsa to host the 2020 Summer Olympics. Making frequent references to Atlanta’s 1996 games, they insist the idea isn’t as farfetched as it may sound.
In 1990, when Atlanta won the right to host the Games, they were considered a long shot among the heavy hitters in the bidding war. Indeed, the sentimental favorite to host the games in 1996, which would mark the Centennial Olympic Games, was Athens in Greece, the first city to host the modern games back in 1896. The other cities bidding were Toronto, Belgrade, Manchester and Melbourne.
Atlanta won out and though considered to be an over-commercialized spectacle that cost around $1.8 billion dollars, the games in 1996 managed to turn a $10 million profit and have proven to be a catalyst in the modernization of the northwest Georgia city.
In their pitch to the International Olympic Committee, the organizers in Tulsa plan to rely heavily on the model used by the Atlanta organizers, which also mirrored that used in 1984 when Los Angeles hosted the games. Therein private funding will be heavily used to construct necessary venues like an Olympic Stadium and Swimming Center, and certain events like soccer will be “farmed out” to Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater and to OU’s Memorial Stadium in Norman. The U.S. Olympic Committee is already planning a training center along the Oklahoma River in OKC, so that could be a viable venue for rowing and kayaking. Grand Lake and others in northeastern Oklahoma could be used for the other boating and yachting events as well.
Those are but a few of the challenges facing the Tulsa organizers. Lodging for the sea of Olympic fans and the international media is a big concern in a town not well known for its vast hotel space, but in addition to new construction, the idea of docking shallow draft cruise ships in the McClellan-Kerr Navigation Channel at the Tulsa Port of Catoosa is being tossed around, as well as utilizing hotel space in both Tulsa and Oklahoma City, just an hours drive from Tulsa.
Several cities worldwide compete for the right to host the Olympics every four years. Tulsa is one of four American cities that are either seriously bidding for or are considering the idea of bidding to host the XXXII Olympiad. The others are Boston, Detroit,and Minneapolis-St. Paul. The USOC will only support one of those four and Tulsa is a long shot there first. Detroit has bid for the games a record 7 times dating back to 1944, (Los Angeles tops them with 9 bids, but has hosted twice), and it’s easy to see why they’d be the sentimental favorite.