Group looking to make bid for 2014 Winter Olympics, Environment, traffic biggest issues locals bring up
The Reno Tahoe Winter Games Coalition has formed to raise money and persuade the public that the Reno-Tahoe area should make a bid to host the 2014 Winter Olympics.
While the Olympics can seem like a great idea, many environmental advocates and Reno-Tahoe locals are already – or soon will be – up in arms about the prospect of the Winter Olympics coming to the area.
“If we look back at the 1960 Olympics [at Squaw Valley], a massive amount of development incurred before, during and after,” said Jon-Paul Harries, program director for Keep Tahoe Blue. Furthermore, he said, “Environmental regulations are relaxed or ignored completely.”
However, coalition president Jim Vanden Heuvel says the environment will be its No. 1 concern, and the Winter Games would only be good for the area.
“We could utilize sports as an economic driving force in our area,” Vanden Heuvel said. “Look what [an Olympics] can do for the community and for the region.”
Still, others contend the Reno-Tahoe area can’t handle an Olympics. “It’s one of those ideas that’s already out there, but this time it’s more serious,” said Tom Mooers, executive director of Sierra Watch. “Before the winter in Squaw, there wasn’t much up here.”
Vanden Heuvel mentioned the coalition would be working with the environmental groups, and they are already looking into ways to make things run more smoothly, one reason the games would be split between Reno and Tahoe.
The games would be held at three main venues – probably Squaw Valley, somewhere in South Lake Tahoe and the indoor events in Reno – Vanden Heuvel said, which would help overcrowding. Because most roads around and near the lake are only two lanes, he said the coalition is looking into public transportation to provide shuttles.
Another good thing about an Olympics, Vanden Heuvel said, is financial benefits. “Salt Lake City had a $100 million surplus,” he said.
“It would be a major undertaking” and it would be “very different than what we saw 43 years ago,” said Eric Brandt, Squaw Valley Director of Marketing. However, he said, “We’re supportive.”
Brandt also said Squaw Valley is excited at the prospect of hosting another Olympics. “We’re an Olympic hill, and we would be again.”
“We look at it differently,” Harries said. “They’re looking at the economic benefits.”
While the Olympics would still be 10 years out, Vanden Heuvel said the time is needed to prepare. Also, he said the group will be going to the United States Olympic Committee meeting in October. There, the USOC can decide to let the coalition make an official bid, or it can put it off until its March meeting.
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