The U.S. Olympic Committee will hold meetings with cities interested in bidding for future Olympics and is promising to streamline the domestic selection process if the federation decides to go for the games in 2024 or 2026.
At its quarterly meeting Thursday, the USOC board voted to move forward in exploring a possible bid but stopped short of committing to one. The 2024 bid process doesn't begin in earnest until 2015. "We're just trying to get smarter and see which cities we might want to have serious discussions with," CEO Scott Blackmun said. "We're going to view 2013 as more informational, if you will. We'll be smarter at the end of the year than we are in the beginning. But we don't expect to make substantive announcements in 2013."
Los Angeles, Dallas and Tulsa are among the cities that have expressed interest in hosting the 2024 Summer Games. New York, Chicago and San Francisco have either bid, or expressed interest in bidding in the past and could also get in the mix. Salt Lake City, Denver and Reno, Nev., are among those that have talked about hosting the 2026 Winter Olympics.
The United States hasn't hosted the Olympics since 2002, when the Winter Games were in Salt Lake City. Its last bid came for the 2016 Summer Games and the bid city, Chicago, finished last in the voting.
Since then, the U.S. has tried to shore up its standing in the international Olympic community. Resolving its long-simmering feud with the International Olympic Committee over revenue sharing has been the key component to that.
Still, if the USOC is going to make another run at the Olympics, the leadership wants some significant changes in the process before it ever leaves U.S. borders. It doesn't want a drawn-out domestic bidding phase, the way it worked for the 2016 bid. That was designed to give American cities a taste of what the international bid process would feel like, but it ended up costing the eventual "winner," Chicago, around $10 million before it even got in the mix with Tokyo, Madrid and the eventual winner, Rio de Janeiro.
"We definitely recognize that we want to have a more cost-effective process this time around than we've had in the past," Blackmun said. "It needs to be a little more informal, a little less expensive."
The USOC is also focusing on getting more buy-in from the federal government. Among the issues the USOC will explore would be getting a federal financial guarantee, the likes of which almost every country brings to the table when they bid. Recent U.S. bids have been backed by state and local guarantees, but not federal.
"I think it's important to have local, state and national support for a bid," USOC chairman Larry Probst said. "We hope to position this as a national bid for the United States." When the USOC came to the revenue agreement with the IOC some thought the federation should use the momentum to prepare a bid sooner rather than later. But time was tight for both 2020 and 2022, so the USOC decided to take its time in an attempt to get things right.
In many ways, it pays not to commit to a firm plan at this time, with the economy still struggling and the deadline for committing to an endeavor with a multibillion-dollar price tag (the London Games cost almost $15 billion) still more than two years away.
Blackmun said he was willing to sit down with any city that was interested in hosting, and that over the next few months, the board will put together a "process paper" that will describe a timetable and other details. But he didn't guarantee a future bid.
"We won't know if we're in a position to submit a bid until we know which city we'd submit," Blackmun said.