Going after the Games
As the sun set on Salt Lake City, Utah the evening of Feb. 24, 2002, members of Salt Lakes Olympic Organizing Committee basked in the successful completion of the Winter Olympic Games.It had taken years of planning, fund-raising and construction to bring the Games to their city. And according to Harry York, CEO of the Reno-Sparks Chamber of Commerce, when everything was said and done, those officials estimated the Olympics had brought more than $4 billion worth of economic impacts to the city and region.Thats the kind of effect that York and others members of the Reno-Tahoe Winter Games Coalition hope to bring to the Reno-Tahoe area via the 2014 Winter Games. And if all goes as hoped, Truckee may find itself playing host to a good portion of the athletes and spectators who come from around the world for the competition.
Bidding for a Winter Olympics is nothing new for the Reno-Tahoe area, as different groups have looked into hosting the 1992, 1998 and 2002 Games in the past. Furthermore, more than a few area residents remember the 1960 Winter Games held in Squaw Valley, which drew an estimated 240,000 people to the region.Though the bidding process in which the Reno-Tahoe region would compete for the chance to host the Olympics is still in its infancy, backers of the effort have recently stepped up their fund-raising campaign, asking Nevada lawmakers for $200,000 over the next two fiscal years in startup funds.The funds from Nevada Senate Bill 374 would go toward generating community awareness and support for the potential bid, according to York, as well as additional fund-raising in support of the bidding process and travel to visit with the U.S. Olympic Committee in Colorado Springs, Colo.And while any actual bid by the region to host the Games would first have to beat out other bids from U.S. cities before being submitted to the International Olympic Committee, supporters of a Reno-Tahoe Winter Olympics have long thought that the area would be an excellent venue.The more we looked at things, the more it looked good. It looked like a really positive thing that could happen when you start comparing the competition within the States and then the competition internationally, York said. Outside of Salt Lake City, which just finished having the games, our resources are probably as good as anybody in the country.
Those resources include consistent snowfall in the Sierra during the winter months, multiple alpine and Nordic ski resorts capable of staging the necessary Olympic ski races, more hotel rooms in the area now than Salt Lake City had in 2002 and a major thoroughfare in Interstate 80 that connects the region with large population centers such as Sacramento and the Bay Area.In addition, Reno is accustomed to playing host to big events such as the annual Hot August Nights and Street Vibrations celebrations, York said.But while organizers in Reno are especially positive about the potential for bringing the Games to town, Truckee residents involved in the Coalitions organizing efforts still have many questions.The Olympics are a very interesting topic. There are people that instantly embrace it as an ideologue of America culture and there are folks who worry about it as potentially being too much for a small community, said Jim Simon, a Truckee attorney and member of the Reno-Tahoe Winter Games Coalitions Executive Council.I think ultimately, if the program is properly designed and sufficient environmental concerns are addressed… then certainly the community would give it a very serious consideration, he added. Its one of those types of projects that requires lots of information and public input before a community could fully embrace it.Truckee Mayor Craig Threshie echoed those sentiments, stressing the need for more information from the organizing committee and more research into what kinds of effects the Olympics have had on other similar regions.We are hearing that there can be some significant environmental problems with the events, he said, mentioning infrastructure that is built for specific events that may become derelict afterwards without users for it; the effects of large crowds in areas not designed for them; as well as the additional traffic and pollution caused by bringing so many additional visitors to the Tahoe area during the wintertime.However, Threshie vowed to look for the potential benefits the Winter Games could bring to Truckee when considering the idea.From my perspective, I think its very important that we look at the positive aspects the games could provide, he said. So while I want to approach it very cautiously, I want to look and see if the community could really benefit from having the games.
Almost all of those asked about the potential benefits of hosting the Olympic Games in the region said that improved public transit systems were a big concern.That list included Threshie, Truckee Donner Chamber of Commerce CEO Lynn Saunders and Truckee Architect Larry Young, who is also a member of the Reno-Tahoe Winter Games Coalitions Executive Council.I spent a week at the Salt Lake City Olympics and I thought there was a tremendous amount of community spirit that came out of the … Olympics, both in preparation for, during and following [the games], Young said. So I thought that was really beneficial from a social standpoint.I see the potential for getting a lot of money to the area for the purpose of infrastructure improvements transportation systems and so forth. So I think that would be very valuable for the community.Young said that he was able to move around the Salt Lake City/Park City Olympic venues quickly and easily via public transportation at the Salt Lake City Games. Other questions raised include where people would park and whether new parking lots would have to be built to accommodate them. Additionally, could such parking lots be used after the Games to help with the parking shortage in downtown Truckee via tie-ins with local transit systems? Will there be adverse impacts on water quality, traffic and pollution? And how will any impacts be mitigated?We have to make sure that what we have remains as positive as it is now and we dont reduce any of our environmental quality, because then it wouldnt be a benefit in the long run anyway, said the Chambers CEO Saunders. We have to protect what we have.According to York, Thats all stuff that has to be taken care of. When you do the package for the Olympic bid, both nationally and internationally, the environmental and traffic impacts are a major element of the packages.
Traditionally, the International Olympic Committee has tended to spread the Games around different continents in successive years. After the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, the 2006 Winter Games will be held in Torino, Italy and the 2010 Games will be hosted by Vancouver, Canada.That means local organizers would have to convince the voting members of the International Olympic Committee to go for two consecutive Winter Games in North America if the Reno-Tahoe area were to have a shot.York said he wasnt worried about that issue; however, a greater potential roadblock might be New York Citys bid to host the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, which would make it almost impossible for an American city to win the bidding for the 2014 Winter Games.The hard thing is were shooting for 2014, but depending on how things happen, we could be shooting for 2018, York said. The U.S. Olympic Committee will know by July 6, 2005 whether New York City will get to host the 2012 Games, and the International Olympic Committee will announce which city gets to host the 2014 Games in July 2007. If New York does not get the 2012 Games and Reno-Tahoe submits a bid for 2014, it will have to compete with cities such as Ostersund & Are, Switzerland; Pyeong Chang, South Korea; Salzburg, Austria; and Sofia, Bulgaria, which have all announced that they will bid. Other cities that are hoping to bid for the 2014 Games include Annecy, France; Harbin, China; Jaca, Spain; and Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina.