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The U.S. Olympic Committee is gauging Tulsa’s interest in making a bid for the 2024 Summer Games, the City Council was told Thursday.
The committee sent letters to Tulsa and about 30 other cities in February asking whether officials would be interested in discussing becoming the country’s nomination for the Olympic Games that year, said Neil Mavis, a member of the Tulsa 2024 Olympic Exploratory Committee.
Mayor Dewey Bartlett has responded with a letter of interest, Mavis said.
“That’s basically all this is right now is just a discussion that we’re interested,” he told the Tulsa World. “Some cities have already responded saying they’re not interested, so the fact we’ve responded and said we are interested means that we’re talking more.”
Mavis’ group, which is affiliated with the U.S. Olympic Committee and not funded by the city, sought a Tulsa bid for the 2020 Olympics in 2009 but turned its focus to the 2024 games after the Olympic Committee decided not to make a bid that year.
He said the next step will be to lobby the Olympic Committee for a seat at the table when it begins serious discussions, possibly in 2014.
The U.S. Olympic Committee likely would sit down with two or three cities if it decides to prepare a bid, Mavis said.
“They’re not committed to a 2024 bid,” he said. “They’re waiting on trying to talk to the cities to gauge the interest, and we’d like to try to at least get invited to that next step, if there is one.”
He told the World that “I’ve got every indication that they’re going to give us a fair chance.”
City councilors applauded the effort — even while calling it “crazy.”
“It’s a good kind of crazy,” Councilor Blake Ewing said. “I cannot encourage you enough to keep fighting on this.
“Tulsa needs more crazy, big thinking.”
Councilor Jack Henderson added, “For you to come here today and have all of this detail showing the seriousness of what could happen if we put in a bid, I am on board and hope that it happens.”
Mavis said Tulsa would need significant investment to meet Olympic standards, but the city already has numerous venues that could be used, including the BOK Center, the Tulsa Convention Center, Expo Square, ONEOK Field and the Oral Roberts University Mabee Center.
The U.S. Olympic Committee also would consider venues in areas as far away as Oklahoma City, Stillwater and northwest Arkansas, he said.
Tulsa would have to build an Olympic stadium, dorm infrastructure, a swimming pool building, a bicycle track arena and temporary structures for road courses — but the city of Atlanta, which hosted the 1996 Olympics, had the same needs before its Olympic bid, Mavis said.
He said his group’s main concern is that Tulsa’s 13,000 hotel rooms fall well short of the Olympics’ new benchmark of 46,000 hotel rooms for host cities.
Previous host cities have been accepted while falling short of the hotel requirement, however, he said.
The city could add to the room count by bringing shallow-water cruise ships into the Port of Catoosa and by counting the hotels throughout northeastern and central Oklahoma.
That would bring the total into the 37,000 range, Mavis said.
|What the city would need|
|80,000-seat Olympic stadium|
|Swimming pool building|
|Indoor bicycle track|
|Enclosed road courses|
|46,000 hotel rooms (has 13,000)|
(c)2013 Tulsa World (Tulsa, Okla.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.