Olympics – Bay Area – 2024. Why not?
Well, okay, sure, there are a ton of reasons why not. But let’s focus on the why.
The Bay Area has a huge advantage over most other Olympic venues, mostly because such a large number of venues already exist. Stadiums and arenas are all over the area. The amount of construction required for athletic events wouldn’t nearly match the plans in other American cities such as Chicago or New York…or Tulsa, apparently.
Because of that, the money could be used to help the Bay Area with what it needs, not only for hosting a competition like this, but also for the long-term: Improving infrastructure from freeways to mass transit systems. Electrify Caltrain? There’s money for that. BART to San Jose and Downtown? There’s money. Extend light rail and Muni? Improve chokepoint intersections? There you go. Venues that do need renovation could be used for the many local universities to improve their facilities.
The Bay Area is also a modern cultural landmark. Is it an exaggeration to say that since the 1970’s, this area has been home to the innovations and companies that have transformed the world? Apple, Google, Oracle, Twitter, Yahoo…well, Yahoo kinda helped change the late 90’s. At least they had good commercials. But the point is, the things that came out of the Bay Area are many things that help define the world.
Bringing the Olympics here would be a tribute not just to the athletics, but the world-uniting culture that has come from our home.
There was a failed bid for the 2016 Olympics, which fell apart thanks to the Niners’ stadium talks at Candlestick falling apart. But could this plan be reimagined for 2024?
The big question would be the Olympic Village and Stadium. More than anything else, this is the biggest athletic construction that would have to be done, and it would require a lot of space. Since venues would be spread out over a large area, ideally a Village would have to have access to plenty of mass transit…and one of the best idea would be building the infrastructure for a ferry system to move athletes and spectators from the three main points: San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland. The Village is also a key redevelopment highlight – there’s your new housing and commercial development for an entire area.
• Hunter’s Point – The 2016 plan focused on this location. It included the money to rehabilitate and clean the former Naval Base, turn it into housing that could be repurposed for the community, and connecting it to mass transit in the City. It also has facilities for a new ferry terminal. Of course, the other part of the plan was an Olympic Stadium at Candlestick to eventually become a new Niners home. That part of the plan may not be applicable anymore, but the village there is still a great idea.
• Moffett Field – This was an original part of the 2016 plan as well, with Stanford being prepped as the Olympic Stadium until its recent renovation reduced the capacity too much. There is room for a Stadium, and plenty of room for a village. The question would be whether NASA would allow this, and whether it would want the airfield back after the Olympics. It has freeway access…but it’s one of the worst sections of freeway in the Bay Area. South Bay light rail is pretty much already there, and a connection from Caltrain is not inconceivable. A ferry terminal would require dredging, but it’s also realistic.
• Oakland Coliseum – Well, if the Niners don’t need a new Stadium, who does? Oakland…at least two teams there do. This is also the area that most closely matches what London did with its East End and the Olympic Village there. A new Olympic stadium that could become a long-term Raiders home, and a new Athletics home as well. And the industrial area that surrounds it has been long targeted for redevelopment by all sorts of people. It’s by a freeway, on the BART system, as well as with ACE. The biggest downside? This wouldn’t be a ferry possibility. San Leandro Bay is essentially locked to any good-sized ferries by the bridges to Alameda. The nearest ferry possibilities would be Jack London Square or the former Alameda Naval Air Station, neither of which are easy access points from the Coliseum.
• Alameda Naval Air Station – Even less used than Moffett Field, plenty of open space and room to be developed, and in much need of redevelopment. Plus, a ferry terminal would be no problem. But road access would be ridiculous.
• Treasure Island – This is my personal favorite, even if it’s a pipe dream. They’ve been trying to redevelop this land for years, but even the recent plan approved last year may be in trouble with the lack of redevelopment funds. The idea of a Stadium here, and an Olympic Flame over the Bay is idyllic. But the ferry system would be the only major way to get on and off the island; road access would be almost as ridiculous as Alameda. Also, being in the City Limits of San Francisco makes it applicable to all the NIMBYs. But boy, it’d be one of the great views and centerpieces of the Olympics.
There’s choices. But what about other venues? This is where the Bay Area stands out. London offered 31 event venues. Here’s a sample of venues possibilities, spread out across the Bay:
• New Olympic Stadium – Track & Field/Athletics
San Francisco -
• New Warriors Arena – Basketball
• Cow Palace – Judo/Taekwondoe/Wrestling
• Kezar Stadium – Field Hockey/Rugby
• Oakland Arena – Table Tennis/Weightlifting
• Memorial Stadium – Soccer/Rugby
• Haas Pavilion – Boxing
San Jose -
• New Niners Stadium – Soccer (London used five soccer venues)
• San Jose Arena – Gymnastics
• New Earthquakes Stadium – Soccer
• San Jose Event Center – Fencing/Gymnastics-Rhythmic
• Spartan Stadium – Soccer/Rugby
• Stanford Stadium – Soccer
• Avery Aquatics Center (Stanford) – Diving/Swimming/Synchronized Swimming
• Maples Pavilion – Volleyball
• Taube Family Tennis Stadium – Tennis
Oh, and AT&T Park. You know, in case they want to bring back baseball. Right? RIGHT? And if the A’s build a new stadium, well, you know, we need a place for softball, too.
Yea, it seems like San Francisco is a little light on events there, but it’s also the most dense city with the most problems with traffic, finding space, and NIMBYs. But San Francisco is the headliner. It’s the tourist grab, the video highlight. It’ll be where the tourists spend their non-event days. The biggest events will get spread out in the space that can afford it.
Those are the majority of the events right there. The only major facilities that appear to need construction from scratch other than the Olympic Stadium would be a Velodrome, and a canoe slalom. The areas mentioned above for the Olympic Village that aren’t used are possibilities. There are also possibilities in Oakland for additional venues (they keep coming up with new sites for the A’s, after all), the former Candlestick site (hey, it’d be someplace enclosed, probably), and other spots.
There’s room for some creativity for the other events. For the long-distance cycling, where would you like it? Through the hills of San Francisco, or the scenic Napa Valley, or the Marin foothills? How about the marathon through the streets of San Francisco and over the Golden Gate bridge? And would beach volleyball be any more appropriate than at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk? The Alcatraz Ironman Triathlon would be legendary. And why not put the equestrian events where Bay Meadows once stood? Redevelopment there has fizzled.
I admit, this is a longshot of a dream. There are plenty of arguments against hosting the Olympics in the Bay Area. But when it comes to finding ways to improve the ridiculously constrained infrastructure in the Bay Area, and bring the entire area the attention as a business center, a tourist destination and other revenue directly into the business around the bay.
This can be done. Will anyone be willing to step up to try it, is the question?
I mean, if not, I guess Tulsa’s a fine example to represent the U.S.