Pittsburgh invited to consider playing host to 2024 Olympics

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Here's what it would take for Pittsburgh to be the host of the 2024 Summer Olympics: thinking big and building bigger.

And $3 billion.

Consider goal one accomplished. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and other community leaders say they won't reject out of hand a letter from the U.S. Olympic Committee gauging the region's interest in hosting the Summer Games.

Because Pittsburgh staged world-class events such as the G-20 Summit and One Young World during the past four years, they say the region would consider an Olympic bid.

Goal two presents more challenges.

The U.S. Olympic Committee estimates it would cost $3 billion. It calls for 45,000 hotel rooms (the region has 24,000 now), and venues the region doesn't have yet such as a tennis stadium, an aquatics center for swimming and diving events, a velodrome for cycling and a track-and-field stadium. Oh, and an Olympic Village for the 16,500 competing athletes to live in for two or three weeks.

Pittsburgh was among 35 U.S. cities to receive letters Tuesday from the USOC, ranging from biggies New York and Los Angeles to Rochester, N.Y., at the other end of the spectrum. The committee will review bids in about two years and decide whether to recommend one to the International Olympic Committee, which is expected to choose a host city in 2017.

"Certainly there would be logistical challenges to meet even to put a bid together," said Joanna Doven, a spokeswoman for Mr. Ravenstahl. "We will look into what it would take and talk to the corporate and nonprofit community to see if they would be interested.

"Obviously, we would have to do our due diligence to see whether we should go forward with a bid."

Mr. Fitzgerald was more direct.

"I think it's something we should take a look at," he said. "This would take a big collaboration of a lot of partners. I think it's something we should look at and see what we can do."

Craig Davis, president and CEO of VisitPittsburgh, said "unequivocally, yes," the area has the personnel and know-how to handle such an event. The facilities are another matter, especially since he estimated the region actually would need 60,000 hotel rooms because the rule of thumb is that 25 percent usually are unavailable.

"I would tell you there would have to be significant changes for this region to host the Olympics," he said. "Presently, we are very small compared to what we would need. I would be very careful if I advocated building this kind of infrastructure."

Bill Flanagan, who served as chief of staff for the G-20 Summit in 2009, said Pittsburgh's inclusion on the list of cities asked for a bid is "flattering" and something that likely would not have happened five years ago. He is also executive vice president of corporate relations for the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.

He said the organizations would "certainly be willing to sit down and talk" about putting together a bid. Bid packages in recent years have cost about $10 million to develop.

"I look back at the G-20 and see how well we were able to pull off that event, but it cost about $10-$12-$14 million," he said. "There's clearly an order of magnitude involved here that we've never done before."

Since the G-20 Summit, Mr. Flanagan said, the community has had about 25 domestic and 25 international delegations visit the region to review how it pulled off major events.

"I think you need to think about how far we've come to even have Pittsburgh asked to think about a bid," Mr. Flanagan said. "Clearly we're on the map and the radar screen now around the world."

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Ed Blazina: eblazina@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1470.


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