by Daphne Ford
Despite the city’s stunning beauty, booming economy and diverse cultural climate, San Francisco is no longer being considered to host the 2024 Olympic Games.
The United States Olympic Committee gathered in Denver last January to select Boston as the U.S.’s candidate city for the 2024 summer Olympics. Los Angeles and Washington D.C. were also up for consideration, but didn’t make the cut.
In a statement regarding the USOC’s decision, San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee stated, “We are disappointed to learn that we were not chosen by the USOC to bid on the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games…We congratulate Boston, which is a great city and would make a fantastic host.”
If Boston is selected, it would mark the first summer Olympic games to take place the in the United States since they were held in Atlanta in 1996.
Many residents of the Bay Area are disappointed with this decision, as San Francisco seems to many like an idyllic choice to host the games: its lush geography and architecture would provide picturesque backdrops and the booming tech industry could play a major role in financing the games. It may not be the most obvious choice when compared to fellow bidders Los Angeles and Washington D.C., but the benefits of hosting the Olympics in Boston rather than San Francisco aren’t immediately clear. This decision has left many Bay Area residents questioning the the USOC’s actions.
The USOC has not been specific with their reasons for turning San Francisco down, but several factors could have contributed to their decision.
Geographically, San Francisco may not have what it takes. Because of the relatively small size of the city and lack of open space, the bid included potential venues in Mill Valley, Alameda, Palo Alto and San Jose. Although most venues were proposed in San Francisco, larger cities nearby would provide a better space for constructing new stadiums and venues on a grander scale. In an attempt to secure the bid, construction for a new stadium in Oakland to host the opening and closing ceremonies, which would also act as a permanent home to the Oakland Raiders, was proposed shortly before the USOC’s vote.
Placing venues in both the North and the South Bays is a solution to San Francisco’s space problem, but it would cause a tremendous amount of traffic, making it both inconvenient to visitors who are trying to make the most of their Olympic experience and locals who are trying to go about their day-to-day lives.
San Francisco’s financial plan did look promising. Despite the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing reportedly costing $40 billion and the Sochi Winter Olympics costing $50 billion, Lee, San Francisco Giants CEO and President Larry Baer projected a $4.5 billion plan, which is considerably low. It was also entirely privately funded. Lee told the SF Gate, “Anything that we construct is going to have to be thought through...That’s how we’re going to never leave taxpayers with any kind of hook on this.”
The proposal did include already planned public transportation improvements that are to be funded by public spending, including electrifying Caltrain and extending BART to San Jose.
Despite the proposal’s regard for taxpayers, there are other long-term potential financial consequences.
The Bay Area’s wealthy tech industry, who could provide a great deal of funding and sponsorship, helped to make San Francisco’s bid an appealing one. Media attention and TV deals would benefit tech companies, but it would eliminate opportunities for low-income workers and continue to make it difficult for working-class families to survive. Gentrification and lack of affordable housing is an issue in the Bay Area that many feel should be dealt with before committing to such a huge finical undertaking.
Many residents voiced environmental concerns as well, particularly for Hunter’s Point, the proposed construction site for the Olympic Village. From 1929 to 2006, Hunter’s point was home to many coal and oil-powered plants, and several health and environmental problems have been cited as a result of byproducts and smokestack alluvium disposed of in the area.
A group led by Service Employee International Union Local 1021, which included former San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly, started a campaign called SFNo2024. They used social media platforms and op-ed pieces to voice their concerns for San Francisco’s bid. In an opinion piece published in the SF Gate, Daly and co-chair of the San Francisco Committee on Political Education, SEIU Local 1021’s political action committee Ed Kinchley claimed, “San Francisco voters haven’t been given a clue as to what holding an Olympics here would mean to our region.” They also sent a letter to the USOC stating that they were “prepared to take political action to ensure that Bay Area voters have a say in ensuring that no public funds are spent to host the 2024 Olympics in our region.”
The group garnered much attention, as many respected and well-known members of the Bay Area community supported the organization’s views. An anti-Olympic games organization was formed in Boston as well, and it is undetermined as to whether San Francisco’s committee had any influence over the USOC’s decision. "I would love to be able to take credit for killing the bid, but the truth is San Francisco didn't have a particularly strong bid,” Daly told the San Jose Mercury News, "Twelve hours before the bid goes to the board and they're switching the location for the Olympic stadium? It was just a bit too amateurish that close to the deadline."
Whether it was due to vocal resistance, geographical factors or financial or environmental concerns, San Francisco will have to sit this one out. Many feel that this is for the best.