Right out of law school, attorney and East Dallas resident Matt Wood moved to Melbourne, Australia, to practice law. While he was there, Melbourne made a bid to host the Olympics in 1996, and Wood was introduced to the inner workings of the bid process. Atlanta won the bid for 1996, and for 2000 Australia combined all its energy for a bid for Sydney. During that time, Wood moved back to Texas and worked for a firm that was involved in making a bid for Dallas for the 2012 games. “I got to go over and represent Dallas in the Sydney games, as well as reconnect with all my friends that were running the games,” he says. Dallas officially went through the Olympic bid process for 2012, but lost. Wood began preparing the path for Dallas to bid for 2020, but that fell through near the get-go. Now, Wood is gearing up for another round of bids, hoping Dallas can woo the Olympics Committee for 2024.
How have y’all been preparing?
There’s several pieces to this. For the past three years, we’ve been building our relationship with the new management of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). Following Vancouver 2010, they had a management change and brought in a new CEO and new chairman of the board, and we built a relationship with that new organization. We’ve also been bringing in consultants and looking at the assets that we have in this city to find out the best, most economical, most logical venue decisions we can make that fit what the USOC wants to see. But also looking at, what do we need in our community?
Why would hosting the Olympics here be, pardon the pun, a game-changer for Dallas?
One of the things that we would do through this process is help Dallas see itself differently, whether we win or lose. When I worked on Melbourne’s bid for the ’96 games, Melbourne did not win that, but if I took my map from our bid file we worked on in ’90 and took a map of Melbourne today and laid them over each other, they’d line up very similar because the city leaders in Melbourne looked at their city and said, “OK, we didn’t get the games, but this is still the city we want to have.”
An example of that is that we believe putting housing at Fair Park is a game-changer. We want to put the Olympic Village there. We think housing for 20,000 with the requisite, right amount of shops, restaurants, schools and services would create a vibrant Fair Park that the next generation would want to live in and be around.
What are some of the assets that we already have to offer?
No other city that I can name has 277 acres two miles from Downtown, waiting for redevelopment, that has mass transit and all of the infrastructure already in place. It’s just sitting there waiting to happen.
Very few cities have the hotel rooms that we have — 77,000 room keys. We need 60,000. We’re already there. We have a major international airport. Love Field is about to become a national airport, once the Wright Amendment lifts in 2014, and we have multiple regional airports. So we have more than enough runways to host the Olympics.
Not only that. If you look at Fair Park, Downtown, the convention center, American Airlines Center, and the fact that all of those are tied by light and heavy rail — so, the TRE and DART — and then SMU is tied by a light rail. Most of our venues are already rail-accessible. Most other cities would have to build that in, and then in most other cities all those facilities would not exist in a five-mile ring. That’s a very, very tight, condensed footprint.
What is the likelihood that this will actually happen?
We can be as positive as any other city at this point. Our job is to become the U.S. bid city, which is the first stage in this. The USOC has to decide one city; they can only put up one city. So our job between now and July of 2015 is to become that U.S. bid city. At that point, our mindset is: we want to bid until we win. We’re bidding for 2024, and we think we can win ’24, but there are going to be other cities that will have a good case for ’24, internationally.
Tell me a little bit about the process.
Right now what the USOC has done is invited any city that they think might potentially want to take a look at this to begin a dialogue with them, and they will winnow those down to a handful of cities. They will not define their process yet; they’re still working on that. We’re having conversations with them on a regular basis, but we know that by July of 2015 they have to have picked and submitted a U.S. bid city if they’re going to bid for ’24, so that’s a hard date. So sometime between this summer of ’13 and July of ’15, they will have winnowed down the number of cities they’ve heard from to, say, two or three, and then drilled down really closely to those two or three, then picked a city, and then given that city enough time to prepare for the international process. The international process is a two-year process with the 2016 games being right in the middle of that. So you prepare your bid book, you put all your finances together, get all your guarantees in place, you participate in the games and market your city. They judge your bid book, they do a site visit, and they bid on the host in 2017.
If they say yes, what needs to be done in Dallas to make it Olympic-ready?
The Trinity project would need to be finished. Currently the Trinity project includes a white-water and a flat-water rowing venue that we would like to utilize, so we would want to have that finished. We don’t have to have the new golf course done by 2024, but I think Park & Rec and AT&T are going to make sure that new southern Dallas golf course will be done by then. Those are cool pieces because those are pieces that someone else has planned on, that we just need to utilize.
The three big expensive items that would need to take place is: the Olympic Village — housing for 20,000 and all that goes with that, which would be a significant expense, but that would be something a private developer, or a series of private developers, would help us with. We’d need an Olympic stadium, which we’ve looked at expanding the Cotton Bowl to be the Olympic stadium, or we’ve looked at utilizing the Cotton Bowl for soccer and building a temporary stadium. That decision hasn’t been made yet. We’re still looking at it, but there’s space at Fair Park to do it. And then, an aquatics center. For most venues that we don’t already have, and we have a lot of them here, we’ll build temporary facilities.
So how much money are we talking?
Well, I can tell you what we know. The operating expenses for games – notwithstanding whatever costs for venue changes that need to take place, just the operating budget – run around $3 billion. And that’s not money that the city itself has to raise without resources coming from the Olympic process, because there is revenue that comes in from corporate sponsors, from the media, ticket sales, so there are silos where you know that money comes from. And then, we’d have to pay for construction on top of that.
So, as an example, for 2020, Tokyo, Madrid and Istanbul are the three bid cities. Tokyo’s proposed budget is $3.9 billion because they have a lot of venues already in place. Madrid’s proposal is $2 billion. (I think they’re way off; they’re way low on that), and Istanbul’s budget is $19 billion. London spent $17 billion. Beijing spent $50 billion, so it’s a matter of, are you going to utilize this or that, or are there other projects you’re going to hang on to this? Saying, well, we need this, so let’s put all that in this budget. That’s not what we’re doing; we’re saying a lot of this is here, so we think our budget is much tighter than some of the other U.S. or some of the international cities will be.
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