As the 2012 Summer Olympics came to a close, I decided to take a glimpse into the future of the games by looking at which cities had placed bids for future games.
We already know that Rio will host the 2016 Summer Olympics and that the next two Winter Olympics will be in Sochi, Russia (2014) and PyeongChang, South Korea (2018). Tokyo, Madrid, and Istanbul are the finalists for the 2020 games.
After that, it’s wide open.
Plenty of cities are preparing bids for the 2022, 2024, and 2026 games, including … Tulsa, Oklahoma?
Tulsa, a city whose metro area has a population of not quite one million, hopes to bring the Olympics to northeastern Oklahoma in 2024.
While hosting an Olympics on the banks of the Arkansas River would require the city to reinvent its infrastructure, the Tulsa Olympics Exploratory Committee is confident that Oklahoma’s second largest city can pull it off.
“The research proved that we could do it,” committee member Michael Jones told Tulsa’s KJRH. “We’d have to use the regional model that Atlanta utilized as opposed to this centralized model that London is utilizing.
Of course, Atlanta has a world-class airport (at least in terms of traffic) and a serviceable public rapid-transit system. It also has been a major league sports city since the Braves and Falcons came there in 1966 (and the Hawks followed in 1968). And Atlanta’s metropolitan area is six times bigger than Tulsa’s.
Tulsa’s push for the 2024 games reminds me of last year’s Onion article, “Indianapolis Announces Really Embarrassing Bid For 2020 Summer Olympics.” The article worked because the idea of Indianapolis hosting the Olympics was absurd. And Indy has hosted the Pan American Games, a Super Bowl, several Final Fours, and the FIBA World Championships. Tulsa has hosted no such events.
To its credit, the United States’ 55th largest metropolis is home to a beautiful new 18,000-seat arena, the BOK Center (whose tenants include the WNBA’s Tulsa Shock and the city’s minor league hockey team), and Southern Hills Country Club, a world-class golf course that has hosted three U.S. Opens and four PGA Championships. (The IOC is adding golf to the Olympic program starting in 2016.)
But having a couple nice venues doesn’t solve the much larger infrastructure problems that would come with a Tulsa Olympics.
I like that the people of Tulsa are dreaming big, and I applaud their imagination.
But the last two American cities to bid for the summer games were New York and Chicago, two of the nation’s three largest cities, each with plenty of experience hosting major events. Both lost.
It’s hard to imagine the United States Olympic Committee backing a Tulsa bid if Washington-Baltimore, Dallas, New York, or Chicago is interested (and all of the above have said that they might be). And there’s no way the International Olympic Committee would choose Tulsa over Paris or Toronto or Durban (if it can make a compelling case for being Africa’s first Olympic host), all of which are preparing bids for the 2024 games.
But if Tulsa somehow manages to get the 2024 Olympics, I’ll be there. I’ll be wilting in the late-summer Oklahoma heat, but I’ll be there.