If the Washington, D.C., region is successful in its bid to host the 2024 Olympic Games, it could have economic benefits for Fairfax County as well.
“Olympics, if they are done right, can make regions a lot of money and they can leave a lasting infrastructure,” said Fairfax County Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield), who is backing a potential bid.
A group called DC 2024 announced last week that it has formed an exploratory committee to explore the possibility of an Olympic bid.
“With more state-of-the-art sports infrastructure in a 40-mile radius than any other U.S. city, thousands of hotels and lodging options, and a vast and expanding transportation system, the greater Washington region is one of the best and most qualified in the world to host an event of this magnitude,” DC 2024 President Bob Sweeney said in a released statement.
It won’t be known for years whether the region will see an Olympic Games.
If the group proceeds with a bid, it first has to convince the U.S. Olympic Committee to select D.C. from among other U.S. cities bidding for the Games. That selection will be made in September 2015.
Then, the USOC and D.C. leaders would need to sell the prospect to the International Olympic Committee, which will select the 2024 host in September 2017.
Herrity notes that the region will have a chance to show off its hosting prowess at the 2015 World Police and Fire Games, just before the USOC makes its selection. Fairfax County is the nominal host of those games, which include more than 12,000 competitors, but the effort also involves regional partners, Herrity said.
While there are big expenses and financial risks involved in hosting, good planning can make hosting the Olympics very profitable for a region, said Robert Baker, director of the Center for Sport Management at George Mason University.
“There have been places in the past where the economic benefit was shortlived because there wasn’t a post-Olympics plan,” he said.
Hosts need to plan ahead for how they will use new facilities like the Olympic Village and any new sports venues after the Games are over, Baker said. The same also applies to other new infrastructure, like road and transit improvements to help visitors get around.
“I think, if it’s well-planned, there is so much upside in the economic benefit,” he said. “It’s just such a huge economic shot in the arm.”
In addition to the one-time tourism dollars brought in by the people coming to watch the Olympics, Baker said, “You have people from all of the world with their eyes on a location.”
This could mean a long-term boost to local hotels and businesses. It could also launch new businesses to meet the needs of the Olympic events, Baker said.
“It also becomes incumbent on the new businesses that emerge to have a sustainable plan or reinvest the money in something else,” he said.