A regional group’s quest to have the Washington, D.C., area host the 2024 Summer Olympics and Paralympic Games has found favor among several Fairfax County supervisors.
Some supervisors attended a Sept. 10 briefing by leaders of the non-profit group DC 2024 at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG).
Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova (D) said county officials have not voted on the matter, but supervisors have expressed support for seeking the Olympics.
“I describe this as potentially an enormous, galvanizing opportunity to bring the region around to hosting the Olympics,” she said. “It would be a regional effort with benefits.”
DC 2024 will submit its bid around the end of this year. The U.S. Olympic Committee will choose the U.S nominee city next year and the International Olympic Committee will select the 2024 host city in 2017.
DC 2024 is headed by chairman and CEO W. Russell Ramsey, a financier and entrepreneur, and vice chairman Ted Leonsis, chairman and CEO of Monumental Sports and Entertainment. Leonsis’ company owns and operates the Washington Capitals, Washington Wizards and Washington Mystics sports teams.
Several supervisors said Fairfax County’s hosting of the 2015 World Police and Fire Games – an international sporting event second only in size to the Summer Olympics – will show the Washington region can host the Olympics.
“We’re pedaling really fast right now to make sure we do right by these games,” Bulova said.
While Fairfax County will host most of the police-and-fire events, Loudoun County will handle the soccer competitions and Washington, D.C., will serve as the site of the opening ceremony, she said.
Other supervisors expressed excitement at the possibility of reeling in the Olympics.
“We already have most of the infrastructure to host the Olympics within an hour’s drive,” said Supervisor Patrick Herrity (R-Springfield). “A successful World Police and Fire Games will go a long way to demonstrate the region’s ability to host the 2024 Olympics.”
At the COG board meeting, Supervisor Penelope Gross (D-Mason) said she asked Ramsey how this Olympics bid would differ from the unsuccessful one the Washington and Baltimore areas mounted in the early 2000s.
“He responded that the area is more robust now, Washington is considered a ‘cool’ city and the effort to secure business support is stronger,” Gross said.
The organizing group for the 2024 Olympics bid is “quite impressive” and the time is right for the Washington area to embark on this quest, she said.
“We should be delighted to share our history, landmarks, extraordinary quality of life and vibrant communities with visitors from all over the world,” Gross said.
Supervisor Gerald Hyland (D-Mount Vernon) said hosting the Olympics would give the D.C. area a great opportunity to shine and provide a substantial economic boost.
“We have so much to offer in each of our jurisdictions to house people, to have people recreate and attract them to our historical sites,” Hyland said. “It would be absolutely incredible for the world to have the Olympics here in the capital of the United States, which is the center of activity around the world.”
Supervisor John Cook (R-Braddock) also expressed support for the Olympics quest, but stressed the need for vigilant financial oversight.
Seeking the Olympics “does not mean any open-ended commitment on public funding,” Cook said. “Any contribution from local government, and an assessment of the additional costs that local government would incur from hosting the games, would need to be analyzed before any formal commitment can be made.”
Bulova noted that in D.C. 2024’s presentation, Leonsis urged transparency in the Olympic bid’s proceedings.
On visits to two former Olympic sites – a personal vacation in Vancouver, British Columbia, and an official trip to one of the county’s sister cities near Seoul, South Korea – Bulova said she saw first-hand that public benefits continue long after the athletes have gone home.
“The longer-term, legacy infrastructure resulting from the Olympics can be extremely beneficial for the whole region,” Bulova said.