Monday, October 5, 2009

Why Not Washington?

Firstly, congratulations to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for winning the bid to host the Olympics in 2016. I'm already tingling at the thought of the opening ceremonies with the samba schools putting on a serious clinic! One wonders how many Carmen Miranda knock-offs and in how many gender-bending varieties will we see! Will there be a revival of the old Don Ameche musicals accompanied by a rush on CDs by everyone from Antonio Jobim and Gilberto Gil to Sergio Mendes?

It's all only just beginning but, while Chicago goes home crying "Mama eu Quero," what about Washington, D.C? Exactly why is it that the capital city of the United States of America has never hosted the Olympic Games? The Olympics have been held in 12 capital cities around the world and in some cases more than once. Six different cities in the United States have had the honor, with repeats for both Lake Placid and Los Angeles but not once for the American capital? What does a city have to have or build to win the games?

International exposure and appeal? Please. Infrastructure? The Metro could use two or three cross-town lines which would certainly happen if the Olympics came to town but otherwise it does a sufficient job of funneling commuters and tourists in and out of the city and to popular attractions and venues. Dulles Airport handles most of the heavy lifting with major airlines from Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East checking in so no issues here, either. Accommodations? Again, please. Now that 16,000 athletes, trainers and journalists have landed, eaten and been put up for the the night where will they compete?

Fed Ex Field, home of the Washington Redskins with nearly 94,000 seats, is the de facto site for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. Venerable RFK has hosted DC United, the local soccer side for years, with the new Washington Nationals Stadium handling baseball and softball. Choose between the University of Maryland, Georgetown University, Catholic University and George Washington University for tennis, ping pong, track and field and swimming. And that doesn't count Orioles Park at Camden Yards, M&T Bank Stadium or Johns Hopkins University up the road in Baltimore or even Byrd Stadium or Navy-Marines Corps Memorial Stadium as available options, either. The only thing that seems to be missing is a velodrome.

Of any city in the United States if there is no history or culture in DC, well....

Virginia has been equestrian country ever since it was a crown colony. Pick a field and you'll find horses, a rifle range or a golf course. I can't imagine a more dramatic setting for rowing than under Mt. Vernon on the Potomac. There is also the Chesapeake Bay with either the Naval Academy as a setting or maybe Fort McHenry, still guarding the Inner Harbor up in Baltimore.

So why has "DC" never mounted a successful Olympic bid? The last time around, in 2002 when the city tried for the 2012 Games there was a unilateral war in the offing which, sour grapes claim, torpedoed the bid right from the beginning. London won the games for the fourth time over bids from other would-be repeat capitals Rome, Paris and Moscow in spite of siding with the Yanks who had picked a fight?

I was in Paris when the early bidding for the 2012 Games were being mounted. Some Parisians didn't want the games for a third time because of the utter chaos it would bring to the city.

"Paris is choked with tourists in the Summer anyway," they said. "Why bring the Games to make it even worse?" Maybe some of the locals in Washington/Baltimore, a metropolitan area of six million people, feel the same way, given the notorious traffic in the city and on the Beltway on any given Summer day.

Rio doesn't have a Beltway much less anything close to the interstate system feeding Washington. There are two - count them - t-w-o subway lines in Rio with 32 stations serving over 14 million! Yet withall in all the years of the modern Olympic Games they have never been held in South America. It couldn't have happened to a better city and it's about time.

Same goes for Washington, D.C. It's about time.

Gotta go!

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