By Doug Porter
It’s easy to poke fun at the idea of San Diego putting together a bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics in light of the failures of the leadership for the Balboa Park Centennial. It’s not so easy to figure what the actual benefit would be if such a bid succeeded. And, since there are people working hard to make it happen, it’s worth pondering.
The Balboa Park centennial group tried to build an event from the top down, jetting off to Panama and Mexico for marquis events while ignoring offers from the likes of the former CEO of Legoland. Now their $50 million event has been downsized to $2 million, much of which will seemingly be spent on executive compensation.
A Summer Olympics comes with the marquis events included. Local boosters are charged with presenting a plan building from the bottom up including venues, accommodations, security and logistics. “Build it and they will come” can be considered the mantra for such an event. While we should expect much to be made in the media about the dollars needed, the social and political costs will likely be glossed over.
The exploratory committee putting together a 2024 bid, according to chairman Vince Mudd, will spend an estimated $400,000 by the end of March putting together a proposal for the US Olympic Committee’s selection group.
By the end of April, that group will “shortlist” various potential sites and there will be a mad dash amongst those getting the nod to put together a concrete plan by November, 2014. Once a US city gets the okay, the proposal will then be submitted to the International Olympic Committee. The IOC will announce the host city in 2017.
San Diego is one of seven US cities, out of the thirty four world wide initially contacted by the USOC, with exploratory groups putting together proposals. Fourteen other cities around the world have also indicated an interest in hosting the games.
Here’s the initial sales pitch, according to the SD2024 Exploratory Committee website:
San Diego’s infrastructure and venue sites also are unique. San Diego will soon have the largest contiguous convention center on the West Coast. It also has over 80% of the proposed venues (currently existing or planned) necessary to host the Games. San Diego’s region is already home to over 40,000 3-star and greater hotel rooms and will have over 60,000 by 2024, far in excess of those needed. San Diego’s voters also previously approved a ½ cent sales tax to pay for transportation infrastructure that will inject nearly $17 billion into keeping the region moving through road, transit, bicycle, and walking projects, all of which are complimentary to the needs of hosting the Games.
There is also video (shamelessly) extolling the virtues of America’s Finest City:
Only $10 Billion Dollars
In a letter sent to the United States Olympic Committee’s selection group the committee makes it clear that San Diego has the culture, location, sporting history, climate and infrastructure needed to put on a spectacular show. The committee’s chairman Vincent Mudd told San Diego 6 news, “between now and the end of March we’re going to spend about 400-thousand dollars putting together our final proposal to go back to the US Olympic Committee.” No San Diego committee has ever garnered the kind of attention from the USOC as this group has. Mudd tells San Diego 6, “we’re hoping to get shortlisted that happens in the month of April…and then we’ll spend from April to October 2015 trying to win against whoever is shortlisted to represent the United States of America.”
The problem for any city contemplating hosting the Olympics is cash. The cost is rising. London spent 30 billion, Brazil is spending 40 billion and Sochi 50 billion. Mudd believes San Diego can put on a show for less than 10 billion. Saying San Diego would need to build 2 stadiums, an arena, aquatic facility, and an Olympic village near Qualcomm Stadium. He admits taxpayers would likely have to agree to an additional tax to pay for infrastructure costs to host the games.
Why Do This?
Boosters will tell us that an Olympic Summer games staged in San Diego will have many positive impacts: infrastructure improvements, a boost to the local economy, thousands of jobs and world wide exposure with continuing benefits for years to come.
I’m sure the City and its various partners could find a way to package the deal so financing would be available for rehabilitation of local streets. a football stadium and just about any other big ticket items they feel are necessary. And naysayers will be directed to look at the ‘success’ of the 2002 Salt Lake City games. Left unsaid will be the role of the enormous amount of aid from the Federal government, which deemed the event vital towards restoring international confidence following the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Besides all the (promised) tangible benefits for San Diego will be the promise of assuaging our city’s historic ‘second tier’ complex. It’s always been there, lying beneath the boosterism responsible in some fashion for earlier commitments to mortgage the future for political conventions and a downtown baseball park. We’re not Los Angeles (Which did, by the way, make money with its 1984 games) Or New York, or Chicago…
Beyond the Smoke and Mirrors
There are real arguments beyond those about direct expenses and the seemingly inevitable inflation of early cost projections.
Whatever we’re told it will cost will be incredibly optimistic, if history is any judge. The 1976 Montreal Olympics took thirty years to pay off. The 2004 Athens Olympics grew almost a hundred-fold over budget. The 2016 games planned for Rio de Janeiro are already 50% over budget.
As Christopher Gaffney, a visiting professor at Rio’s Universidade Federal Fluminense, told the Wall Street Journal, “It’s an expensive party.”
Most importantly, there is a social cost to hosting an Olympics, one usually delegated to obscure academic journals. Poorer people in Olympic host cities get screwed. It’s “trickle up”, not trickle down, no matter what gets promised in the way of jobs.
From the British CeaseFire Quarterly:
In 2007, the UN-funded Centre for Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) released a report detailing the effects of the Olympics between 1988 and 2008. It concluded that the Olympic games, having evicted more then two million people in the past twenty years, are one of the top causes of displacement and real-estate inflation in the world.
The research details that the levels of forced displacement have increased in each successive city. The 1988 Seoul games witnessed the eviction of 720,000 people, where it was used by the military dictatorship to turn Seoul from a city maintained by and for its people into a corporate city owned by the privileged. The 2008 Beijing Olympics oversaw the eviction of 1.25 million residents to make way for the games.
Predictably, the report shows that the evictions disproportionally affect the homeless, the poor and ethnic minorities. Beyond forced displacement, the Olympics succeed in longer-term economic displacement of working class areas of host cities. The COHRE report shows that the Olympics significantly accelerate the process of inflating real-estate prices. For instance, in Sydney, host to the 2000 games, rents increased by an astounding 40%, between 1993, the year it was selected, and 1998. Whereas in the same period, neighboring city Melbourne saw only a 10% rise.
The 1996 Atlanta Olympics resulted in the demolishing of 2,000 public housing units – evicting 6,000 residents, in addition to the 30,000 residents who were displaced as a direct result of gentrification brought on by the Olympic ‘development’. Indeed, as if to say that the poor and black of Atlanta had not suffered enough, the city issued over 9,000 arrest citations for the city’s homeless population as part of a concerted ‘clean up’ effort, a kind of ‘two-week face lift’.
Should San Diego proceed with its Olympic quest, the social costs must be considered and not ignored. I’ll be watching. You should be, too.
Now, on to some other news…
Hell Freezes Over
A UT-San Diego editorial I 100% concur with:
The San Diego city government is on the brink of an epic mistake. It plans to begin deleting official emails more than a year old because it supposedly costs too much to retain them.
But state law says official records must be kept at least two years. And it’s not 1999 — online storage of simple documents is extremely cheap.
Here’s hoping Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s first official act is to reverse this inexplicable decision. Even if the policy is legal — the League of California Cities thinks so — it is still a bad idea for a city in which every elected official allegedly supports open, transparent government.
Also, the Reader reports that Cory Briggs/San Diegans for Open Government is threatening a lawsuit if the city plan to delete emails is implemented. California Aware, another open government advocacy group, has also suggested that legal action may be an option.
Briggs claims the policy is illegal. “The government code prohibits cities — including charter cities — from destroying any ‘record, document, instrument, book or paper’ unless the records are at least two years old and are ‘no longer required.'”
On top of that, the same section prohibits the destruction of records unless they are “reproduced, recorded or otherwise preserved.”
Lastly, purging emails is just plain “stupid,” according to Briggs. “Many legal issues that the city could face are subject to statutes of limitations allowing lawsuits to be filed more than two years after the disputes arise. A substantial amount of city business is conducted by email. To delete those messages before the limitations period expires is foolish and imprudent at best.”
Former iMayor/now Council President Todd Gloria’s spokeswoman Katie Keach told KPBS the email destruction policy was drafted because the city hasn’t allocated the $400,000 to $500,000 it would cost to continue archiving city emails.
Wait! Didn’t the City Council spend yesterday figuring out how to spend a bonus $50 million surplus? Why, yes, they did.
While the new policy was announced just a few days before Gloria handed over the mayor’s office to Kevin Faulconer, Gloria had known about the archiving program for a while.
Keach said in an email that Jeff Leveroni, the city’s former director of IT, raised the issue “early in the Interim Mayor’s tenure.” Leveroni no longer works for the city.
Between 2007 and 2009, the city transitioned to using a new email archive system called Nearpoint, Keach said. A 2008 memo from then-Mayor Jerry Sanders says that starting Dec. 22, 2008, all city emails older than 90 days will automatically be deleted, but will still be stored in Nearpoint.
Keach said the problem is not that the city is reaching the end of its allotted space for archived emails in Nearpoint, but that Nearpoint “is no longer supported by HP.”
Oh, and get this, Keach told KPBS the city is transitioning to Microsoft Office365 Cloud, a new email system hosted by Microsoft.
Office? Really? Do they still have AltaVista as their search engine at City hall?
On This Day: 1933 – Labor Secretary Frances Perkins became the first woman to serve in a Presidential administrative cabinet. 1970 – Janis Joplin was fined $200 for using obscene language onstage in Tampa, FL. 1998 – The Supreme Court said that federal law banned on-the-job sexual harassment even when both parties are the same sex.
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Brent Beltran says
Olympics? In San Diego? No effin way. Ain’t gonna happen.
bob dorn says
Oh boy, we’ve only just watched the collapse of the much less challenging Balboa Park 100th anniversary celebration and now we’re hearing about building two new stadiums, “an arena, aquatic facility, and an Olympic village near Qualcomm Stadium.” Who’s going to run that show, Zippy the Pinhead?
Doug Porter says
Collapse is right. They’ve officially disbanded….Do I hear paper being shredded?
Andy Cohen says
Here’s an idea (albeit 10 yrs in the making): In other Olympic villages, the units used to house the athletes were intended to be transitioned into affordable housing units for lower income residents. Such as, say, the lower income residents who are affected by today’s housing crisis in San Diego. The problem has been in holding organizers to their promises.
So, we build the Olympic Village, say, on the Qualcomm Stadium site, along with the new stadium that will be necessary (or two…..I still think San Diego can’t support two large stadiums, but that’s another argument for another time). Once the games are over, the Village gets handed over to the SD Housing Commission for transition to affordable housing. It’s perfect! Right there on the trolley line and everything!
The problem is paying for it. And we all know that in this city, nothing can ever get paid for, so nothing will ever happen (at least not since Petco).
Brian Brady says
“Once the games are over, the Village gets handed over to the SD Housing Commission for transition to affordable housing. It’s perfect! Right there on the trolley line and everything!”
That’s actually a brilliant idea.
“The problem is paying for it. And we all know that in this city, nothing can ever get paid for, so nothing will ever happen (at least not since Petco).”
Agreed but solve that problem, and you placate a lot of people and solve a couple of problems. Naturally, I’d prefer that private industry fund, own and operate those housing units. I don’t know if that’s possible but, if it is, you placate a lot of people, Andy.
Andy Cohen says
The problem with handing it over to private industry to do is that they’re purely profit driven, which means they’ll want to build it to make the most money possible. Typically that means higher end units that they think they can sell for a premium price. Or rent.
But the idea is REAL AFFORDABILITY, and I just don’t see how that’s possible putting it strictly in private hands, at least not without serious government regulations. And we all know how well that’ll go over with this particular marketplace.
Brian Brady says
“The problem with handing it over to private industry to do is that they’re purely profit driven, which means they’ll want to build it to make the most money possible.”
That’s okay if they can see ancillary profits. Here’s an idea to consider:
8-10 towers for Olympic Village and a company buys each one. They, quite literally, have naming rights for the Olympics and the thereafter “The San Diego Free Press Tower”.
I’d like to see a rent-to-own consideration for the tenants. The idea is that people who need subsidized housing won’t need it forever. Look for opportunities for people, who normally wouldn’t be able to own, get a chance to own it at the end of thirty years.
Peg the return to something that keeps pace with inflation and pencil it out. The sponsoring company gets a safe investment and, more importantly, its name on a tower for the Olympics and some 30 years thereafter.
It might not be juicy enough to attract private money but it just might be. It just might be.