Don’t start reading up on modern pentathlon just yet.
While it’s true Nashville was one of 35 cities the United States Olympic Committee wrote asking — nay, begging — to make a bid for the 2024 Summer Games, the city’s appearance on that august list was more a function of the census than sense.
The USOC wrote the mayors of the country’s 25 largest cities — Nashville snuck in at No. 25 — plus 10 cities that had, in the past, at the very least hinted they might, one day, maybe, perhaps be interested in forking out the billions of dollars it requires to earn two weeks of goodwill from NBC.
So Nashville is in the exclusive company of Rochester and Tulsa as targets for the USOC’s dupe.
The USOC has, to put it mildly, not done a great job with its host city nominees for the past 30 years.
The 1996 Atlanta games, while fondly remembered by Southerners as a sort of debutante ball for New South boosterism, was the first time ever the president of the IOC did not, at the closing ceremonies, declare the concluded competition “the best Games ever.”
Salt Lake City’s Winter Olympics bid was so fraught with corruption and bribery and ineptitude, it launched the political career of Mitt Romney.
Even President Obama was incapable of convincing the International Olympic Committee of the viability of Chicago’s bid for 2016.
So the USOC is left with this: grousing like the underconfident singleton asking a series of friends if they’ll be their failsafe spouse: “If neither of us are married in 2024 … you and I maybe …”
Surely one of these 35 cities will be so blinded by the USOC’s attention and glittery dreams it will offer itself up for the exhausting, expensive process of being a host city nominee in the hopes it will be selected for the exhausting, expensive process of actually hosting the Olympics.
In addition to building out the necessary competition facilities — from the Frank Gehry-designed main stadium that gets all the attention down to the, uh, dressagery (this may not be what it’s called) — the IOC requires 45,000 hotel rooms.
Good news, gang, only 10,000 rooms to go!
And because the games bring thousands upon thousands to town, there’s public transportation requirements. Without actually seeing what those are, it’s hard to be sure, but it’s probably a safe bet it goes beyond “barely adequate hub-and-spoke bus system.”
Boosters argue the intangible benefits — the warm fuzzies of civic pride — are what’s important with mega-events. And no doubt, Athenians felt great when the eyes of the world were on their city in 2004. All those eyeballs, however, didn’t help pay off the $16 billion the event cost — 10 times the estimate. Nor are those eyeballs and happy feelings paying for the long-term maintenance of the Olympic stadia.
But, that’s OK, what with the Greek economy having thrived so in the wake of the games.
Fortunately, much of the reaction to the revelation the USOC asked if we’d be on their list of safety schools has been bemusement ranging from, “Oh, that’s interesting” to “Why are we on this list?” to “Does anyone think this is a good idea?”
Frankly it’s a refreshing break from usual pie-in-the-sky sports overreach Nashvillians typically exhibit: “We could support a big league baseball team! They can play at LP Field after we host the Super Bowl!”
It was nice to be asked, though, even if it was just a function of demography rather than merit.