Thursday, February 21, 2013

There are no bad ideas, Lemon, only great ideas that go horribly wrong.

From the Pittsburgh Bureau of Enormous Civic Mistakes:

It would take a huge financial commitment and a massive building program, but Pittsburgh will review whether to submit a bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics.

Good. God.

Pittsburgh was among 35 U.S. cities to receive letters Tuesday from the U.S. Olympic Committee to gauge whether they have interest in preparing a bid for the games. The committee will review bids in about two years and decide whether to recommend one to the International Olympic Committee, which is expected to chose a host city in 2017.

Okay, nobody freak out just yet. We're just one of 35 cities the USOC has selected to see if the interest is there. Obviously, there are cities in this country that are more financially and spatially capable of pulling off an event like this. I just hope there are cities more enthusiastic. The Post-Gazette's piece on this development, linked above, addressed the issue from a very grounded place, addressing only the facts. The Tribune-Review is not interested in such level-headedness:

Imagine the world's best athletes marching through Heinz Field to the national anthem as the Olympic flame burns at The Point.

Heinz Field? Really? Heinz Field has a maximum capacity of about 68,000. That’s what it can hold for an outdoor hockey game, with seats on added onto the field. Olympic Stadium in London, constructed exclusively for the 2012 summer games, has a capacity of 80,000. It didn’t even matter that Wembley Stadium, which opened in 2007 – the year they broke ground for Olympic Stadium — already had a maximum capacity of 90,000.

Olympic Stadium cost £486 million ($741,733,200) to build, and it has zero other practical uses. I'm sorry, that’s so dismissive. I take that back. London’s Olympic Stadium will play host to the 2015 Rugby World Cup, the 2017 IPC Athletics World Championships, and the 2017 IAAF World Championships in Athletics, and maybe West Ham United Football Club — a team that plays a game you Yanks call so adorably call soccer.

Do you think Pittsburgh’s Hypothetical Olympic Stadium — which we’d probably wind up naming after Jerome Bettis, so for the purposes of this argument, we’ll just call The Bettis — would have even the slightest hope of attracting anything that anyone would give a rat’s ass about beyond the summer games? At least London is home to 14 professional soccer clubs, more than 80 amateur leagues, and some 41.6 million rugby and cricket squads. What would we use that building for? High school football playoffs? An MLS team? Does it come with a $5 billion marketing plan to get Allegheny County residents super-invested in track and field? The Bettis Stadium has zero uses, practical, hypothetical, metaphorical or otherwise.

So when you’re imagining the year 2024, with all of the world’s best athletes walking around Heinz Field as the Olympic Flame burns at the Point, what you should be imagining is a brand new Three Rivers Stadium — only twice the size of the original and built entirely of glass, biodegradable plastics and recycled cardboard — in an area likely somewhere out past, oh, I don’t know, the West End Bridge. Meanwhile, the Olympic Flame that’s raging on at the Point is actually a shale gas well that exploded and is now raging out of control. It’s surrounded by barbed wire fences, has caused the Ohio River to turn bright green, and most civil engineers say that letting it burn long enough might be our only hope of ever demolishing the perpetually bankrupt, hummus-colored Downtown Hilton.

But please, go on…

Though it may seem farfetched, city and county leaders can envision that.

I can, too. It looks like Darren Aronofsky’s film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road.”

“Pittsburgh is on the map,” Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said. “We've hosted major events before. It's definitely something we should take a look at.”

Look. By all means, look. But don’t touch, and don’t spend a goddamn dime.

Ravenstahl said he would not dismiss the idea outright.
“Certainly, there would be extraordinary obstacles and challenges to meet in putting a bid together,” he said. 
How about the extraordinary obstacles you are totally unable to overcome in the day-to-day operations of a city? Just off the top of my head:

·         The pension crisis
·         The police bureau
·         Act 47 state financial oversight (which we aren’t ready to come out from)
·         The police bureau
·         The police bureau

And you want to talk about hosting the Olympics? Perhaps my memory’s a little foggy from the rage, but I feel like we had some international thing here a few years ago that might have caused some controversy. But again, I could just be making this up.

Ravenstahl said city officials “welcome opportunities to tell our comeback story to the world. It wasn't long ago that we hosted a safe and successful G-20 summit.”

Oh yeah, the G-20 summit! Well that went swimmingly, didn’t it? I guess security ceases to be a logistical issue if you’re willing to gas, beat and arrest everyone. Remember when the city was ostensibly on lockdown for three days, and if you so much as left your house to go out for milk or bread, you wound up in the clink with five of your neighbors and 65 teenagers from Seattle? SO GREAT! The only positive to come out of the G-20 was how Pittsburghers reacted to the protesters:

The letter from committee CEO Scott Blackmun outlines a host city's infrastructure and venue requirements — some that might be difficult for Pittsburgh to meet. The Olympics would require an operating budget of more than $3 billion, not including costs for venue construction and infrastructure improvements.

Three billion dollars? Well, surely, we’d make all of that back and then some, right?

“The great majority of cities end up spending more money than they take in,” said Andrew Zimbalist, a professor of economics at Smith College in Massachusetts, author and expert on the economics of major sporting events.
Host cities typically spend billions of dollars on stadiums, roads and other infrastructure, and continue for years to pony up millions of dollars in maintenance for underutilized facilities, he said.
You don’t say! So in addition to spending a lot of money we don’t have, this would put the city into an even deeper financial hole than the one it’s not even finished crawling out from? This sounds EXACTLY like the kind of thing Mayor Dudeface would use TIFs to advance.
Bakery Square? TREAT YO’SELF!
2024 Olympic Games?
Jimmy Sacco, director of stadium management at Heinz Field, said the football field — with its view of Downtown, Point State Park and the city's three rivers — would be an ideal setting for opening ceremonies.
“I think it would be great,” Sacco said. “We proved ourselves to the world with the Winter Classic and how Pittsburgh opens its arms to the world. Yes, we could handle it.”
You turned a football stadium into a football stadium with a hockey rink in the middle and added 6,000 folding chairs. You “proved [y]ourselves to the world” about as much as a high school prom committee. Not only that, but the turf at the football stadium where you “proved yourself” is nationally renowned for being perennially and epically shitty.
If the over/under on the number of Olympians who would suffer career-ending injuries walking around the field during the opening ceremonies was 45 percent, I’d take the over.
Thankfully, we haven’t completely run out of reasonable people in this town.
Craig Davis, president and CEO of VisitPittsburgh, doubts Pittsburgh is big enough to seriously consider making a bid.
With those words, Craig Davis pulled ahead of Jerome Bettis in the race for my non-existent vote for the completely fictitious FTC Pittsburgher of the Year Award.
“You could go up to Erie, down to West Virginia, (but) I would suspect that Pittsburgh is just too small,” Davis said.
No. I don’t want this meaningless sound and fury anywhere near Pittsburgh. I don’t even want them to have it in Washington County. Let LA have it — they haven’t had a good catastrophe in a while. Isn’t Dallas just crying for something like this? Jerry Jones could pay for the whole thing out-of-pocket. Or, in my wettest of dreams, Philadelphia. If the IOC gave the games to Philadelphia, not only would the natives light the whole place on fire, the U.S. would win the Never Invited Back Award and would be permanently absolved from ever hosting the Olympics again.
The U.S. committee has about two years to decide whether to bid for the games and choose a city.
Hunker down, people. This ain’t over.

1 comment:

YinzerBoy said...

I really don't see how any city thinks hosting the Olympics is in their best interest given the cost. And, incidentally, the word soccer is not an American construct.