Five Reasons Not to Love D.C.’s Olympic Bid
If you thought the Nationals Park and D.C. United stadium deals were bad, just wait'll you see what the Olympics would mean for the city.
The nonprofit DC 2024, led by the Greater Washington Sports Alliance, announced this morning that it's making a push to bring the Summer Olympics to the capital region in 2024. The city already has a case of stadium fatigue from the city-funded Nationals Park and the recent deal to build a D.C. United soccer stadium at Buzzard Point. We don't yet know exactly what hosting the Olympics would entail, but there are plenty of reasons to be wary. My boss Mike Madden already outlined a few of them; here are five more:
1. Nationals Park cost about $700 million to build. For the D.C. United stadium, the city expects to contribute about $150 million, through land swaps and infrastructure development. The Olympics, by comparison, are expected to cost between $4 billion and $6 billion.
2. Say what you will about the wisdom of the Nationals Park arrangement, but the stadium has undeniably given a boost to the surrounding Capitol Riverfront neighborhood. Likewise, the D.C. United stadium should spur development at Buzzard Point. The Olympics would certainly bring some economic gains, but studies have found the games to be an overall money loser.
3. U.S. Olympics Committee CEO Scott Blackmun wrote a letter to the mayors of 35 cities earlier this year outlining the requirements for a host city. These include 45,000 hotel rooms, housing for 16,500 athletes, workspace for 15,000 journalists, and extensive public transportation infrastructure. We're having enough trouble just keeping our five-line Metro system running. Good luck with this.
4. Goodbye, Hill East development. Bob Sweeney, president of the Greater Washington Sports Alliance, says, "I think it would be naive not to think that [RFK Stadium] would be part of the dialogue." Cynical residents of the Hill East neighborhood have long suspected that the redevelopment of Reservation 13/Hill East has been put on hold because the city secretly wants to bring the Washington football team back to RFK. If the stadium suddenly becomes part of an Olympic bid, we're unlikely to see mixed-use development of the neighboring property anytime soon.
5. Other than potentially a new football stadium, it's not clear that we really need additional sports facilities in D.C. Our basketball, hockey, and baseball teams already play in the heart of the city; our soccer team will soon join them. Do we really need a new velodrome? Much of what the Olympics would bring would likely be temporary—raising the question of whether it justifies the construction, the traffic, the headaches, and, of course, the cost.
Image from dc2024.com