Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Houston's Olympic Dreams

Yesterday United States Olympic Committee members visited Houston as part of a week-long trip to five potential host cities for the 2016 Summer Olympics. The USOC will also be visiting Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and San Francisco before deciding whether to submit an American bid to the International Olympic Committee. New York, the USOC's failed 2012 entrant, is not on the list this time around.

Houston, along with New York, Washington DC and San Francisco, was a finalist for the 2012 bid, and I'm glad to see that the USOC is giving Houston another chance to make its case for hosting the Games. However, I expect the city to be passed over, just like it was in 2012.

This isn't because the city is functionally incapable of hosting the Olympics; much of the infrastructure is already in place, it was widely reported that Houston had the best technical package of the four USOC finalist cities in 2012, and there's no reason to believe that local citizens, politicians and business leaders couldn't effectively organize themselves for the challenge.

But, on the international stage, it's all about perception. Houston's international perception ranges anywhere from "poor" to "non-existent." Moreover, the city has its summer climate working against it: it's hot, humid and vunerable to hurricanes. Last but not least, it was rumored that anti-American sentiment among some members of the IOC was working against the Big Apple's 2012 bid, which, if true, isn't exactly encouraging for any American bid for 2016.

By 2016, it will have been twenty years since the last Olympics in the Americas and it will probably be time for the Summer Olympics to return to this side of the planet. But IOC president Jacques Rogge has already indicated that he'd like to see South America host a future Olympiad, and Argentina, Brazil and Chile are all rumored to be preparing bids of their own. Even if the Olympics did return to North America, wouldn't it be more likely that they'd go to a city with a more temperate summer climate and more international recognition, like Chicago or Toronto?

Don't get me wrong. I'd love to see Houston host the Olympics. But let's be honest: Houston has about as much chance of hosting the Olympics as a snowball has of surviving Houston's August heat.

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