Olympics bid could speed up Montgomery projects -- Gazette.Net


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The Washington, D.C., region’s bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics could help speed up key projects in Montgomery County like the Purple Line, especially if the area wins the bid, business leaders say.

While officials have been informally working on a bid for more than a year, Greater Washington Sports Alliance President Robert Sweeney announced this week the formation of DC 2024, the nonprofit group that is spearheading the bid. If successful, Washington would be the first U.S. region to host the Summer Games since Atlanta in 1996.

“It would be a major undertaking for the region, but it’s an exciting opportunity,” said Gigi Godwin, president and CEO of the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce. “It would be a great opportunity for us to boost our hospitality sector and infrastructure.”

Washington was one of 35 U.S. cities to receive a letter from the U.S. Olympic Committee to gauge interest, but that committee hasn’t decided for certain it will bid for the games. For the 2012 Summer Olympics, which the local area bid on, the U.S. candidate, New York, finished fourth. The International Olympic Committee is slated to make a choice for the 2024 event by 2017.

Officials from Los Angeles, which hosted the 1984 Olympics, Philadelphia, San Diego and Tulsa, Okla., have expressed interest in submitting 2024 bids. Paris and Rome could be among the international competitors.

If the area won the bid, it would need to build an official Olympic Stadium, which could be conceivably then be used by teams such as the NFL’s Washington Redskins. Potomac resident Daniel Snyder, owner of the team, in a statement pledged his support.

“We look forward to assisting the Washington Olympic Committee in presenting the nation’s capital and fabulous surrounding region to the Olympic sporting world,” Snyder said. “We are fortunate to have most of the venues needed in an internationally recognized city that is accustomed to staging high-profile events.”

Fellow Potomac resident Ted Leonsis, owner of the Washington Capitals and Wizards, also pledged support of the bid on his blog.

In the 2012 bid, the Washington-Baltimore coalition’s proposal called for FedEx Field in Landover to host some soccer matches, while the canoe competition would occur in Western Maryland. Dormitories at the University of Maryland, College Park would house athletes, while Baltimore, Annapolis and Washington would get various events.

A new wrinkle would not just be the Purple Line, the east-west connection between Bethesda and Prince George’s County that is slated to be built by 2020, but the Shady Grove Arena. That arena is proposed near the Shady Grove Metro Station in Rockville at a cost of between $40 million and $50 million.

The 2012 Olympics would have cost about $2 billion to develop and operate, but the economic impact for the Maryland-D.C. region would have been $5.3 billion, according to a report by economists Stephen Fuller of George Mason University and Richard Clinch of the University of Baltimore.

Maryland and the Washington region would have also benefitted from an “enhanced world class image as a good place to live and do business,” Fuller and Clinch said. “Furthermore, the legacy of the Olympic Games will provide long lasting benefits to the area’s residents in the form of new and improved world class athletic facilities, enhanced transportation facilities and other infrastructure, and renewed community spirit and inter-regional cooperation.”

Companies such as Bethesda hotelier Marriott International and Giant Food of Landover lent financial support for the 2012 bid.

The price tag for the 2024 event would likely be more than $3.5 billion, according to DC 2024.

kshay@gazette.net