Houston, Philadelphia eliminated from 2016 picture

Thursday, July 27, 2006

San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago could possibly host the Summer Games.

DENVER -- The backdrop of America's bid for the 2016 Olympic Games might be the Golden Gate Bridge, the Sears Tower or the Los Angeles Coliseum -- or none of these at all.

The U.S. Olympic Committee eliminated Houston and Philadelphia as candidate cities for the 2016 Olympics on Wednesday, leaving San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago in the running for what many consider to be America's best shot in years at landing a Summer Games.

"Needless to say, I'm delighted that we cleared this major hurdle," Chicago Mayor Richard Daley said.

The three finalists, however, will have to make significant enhancements in their plans for the USOC even to bid on the 2016 Games, said Peter Ueberroth, the USOC chairman and the architect of the profit-making 1984 Games in Los Angeles.

"Right now, of the three cities that were selected today, there's none that would have an acceptable program that we could take to the International Olympic Committee," Ueberroth said. "It's possible that none can get to where they need to be. It's possible they all get to where they need to be. "

The three remaining cities now will have to finalize plans, including budgets, and present their bids to the USOC board of directors, which plans to decide by year's end whether to submit a bid for the 2016 Games. If it does, it will pick a city by the end of next March. The IOC will select the winning site in 2009.

Other cities that have expressed interest in hosting the 2016 Games include Rome and Milan in Italy; Madrid, Spain; Hamburg, Germany, and the Japanese cities of Tokyo and Fukuoka.

Many people believe 2016 is the best chance for the United States to land a Summer Olympics in the near future. It is believed the IOC would like to put games in Africa and South America, two continents that have never hosted the games, in 2020 and 2024.

The U.S. has not hosted the Summer Games since the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. The 2002 Winter Olympics were held in Salt Lake City.

The USOC appointed a four-person committee to evaluate information provided by the cities last month, including ideas for an Olympic stadium, an Olympic village and the amount of local and regional government support they would expect to receive.

The committee also reviewed international polling on whether the time is right for an American city to host the Olympics and which city might have the best chance to win the bid.

"All five cities that have participated in this process are capable of one day hosting the Olympic Games," Ueberroth said. "From the outset, we have said this process is about identifying the one U.S. city that has the best chance of being competitive in the international race. If we do not believe a U.S. city can be competitive, we will not bid."

Among the factors that will weigh into any bid is the amount of revenue the 2016 Olympics can be expected to produce -- and how much will go to the host country. A big chunk of that revenue comes from TV rights, and the U.S. Olympic TV rights are sold only through 2012.

Houston Mayor Bill White had touted his city's leadership and financial resources, including several Fortune 500 companies. Philadelphia had pointed to its storied past in American history.

"We thank the citizens of Philadelphia and the region for standing behind this project and for thinking and dreaming big," Philadelphia Mayor John Street said. "While we are disappointed to hear of the U.S. Olympic Committee's decision, we're honored to have made it to the second round."

Of the remaining candidates, Los Angeles is citing its diversity as a strong point and the availability of 38 Olympic-quality venues since it has hosted two Summer Games. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa also has suggested the events will be easier to get to than in 1984.

"L.A. is the best place in the world to host the Olympic Games," touted Barry Sanders, chairman of the Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games. "We can put the Games on in a way that captures the world's imagination -- in facilities we already have."

Sanders said that when the USOC asked the five cities last month to submit their proposals for hosting the Games, "all the other cities had to basically sit down and start creating architectural plans. Not us."

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom said his Olympics would provide a stunning setting for the Games, with marathoners crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, cyclists pedaling through the Presidio and sailors navigating his city's scenic bay.

"We strongly believe that San Francisco's international appeal and the strength of our regional bid will be a significant advantage in our effort to host the 2016 Olympic Games," Newsom said.

Chicago, meanwhile, promised support from corporations, compact events near downtown and framed by Lake Michigan's shoreline, mass transit and, like Los Angeles, ethnic diversity.

"We are honored to be a part of this process, and Chicago is committed to work with the USOC to develop a plan that can secure the necessary 60 international votes to bring the Olympic Games to the United States and to our great city," Daley said in a written statement. "There is consensus among Chicago's public and private sectors and our cultural, sports and educational communities that proceeding along this path is right for both the Olympic movement and Chicago."

All three finalists were embraced in the USOC's worldwide survey that included 58 IOC members, said Bob Ctvrtlik, head of the USOC's international relations department.

Ctvrtlik said he was optimistic the USOC will bid for the 2016 games -- "We've inched a little further toward going forward" -- although Ueberroth said he wasn't so sure just yet.

"Bob is optimistic and that's his job, to get a city there," Ueberroth said. "I'm an anchor, and I'm not going to let them waste their money and/or their efforts unless we feel we can have a real good chance of winning this thing."

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