HERE’S WHY THE SUMMER OLYMPICS bid makes sense for Dallas. 1. The Games generate enough revenue cofinance themselves. Atlanta took in a half-billion in ticket sales, a half-billion in broadcast rights, a half-billion for its share of sponsorship rights, and $200million from miscellaneous sources, not including $1.2 billion in federal funds for highway and light-rail improvements. Its direct costs were $1.1 billion, leaving $600 million for continuing investment in the community.
The Games give an economic incentive to invest in our city. They will generate private investments in housing (10,000 new units will be needed), sporting facilities, and Fair Park. These infrastructure improvements will last long after the last athlete has boarded the plane home.
The Games set a hard deadline for projects already underway. Hosting the Games moves Dallas to the top of the list for federal and state projects already committed. In our case, those projects include the Trinity River, our highway system, and the expansion of DART.
The experiences of Atlanta, Salt Lake City, and Los Angeles show that the Games can have a hugely positive impact on a city. The Games in 2012 are likely to come back to the United States, if for no better reason than the new television contract will begin then and the pressure will be on to generate the broadcast revenues that only the U.S. can deliver. The competitor cities will likely be Baltimore-Washington, Tampa-Orlando, and Houston. Can Dallas beat out these competitors to get the Games? The answer is almost certainly yes-if we’re willing to face facts.
I. The U.S. Olympic Committee wants a guarantee that a bidding city can handle the approximately $ 1.1 billion in costs. They’re not going to get it, at least from the City of Dallas, and they’re not likely to get it from anyone else. But they’re also not likely to budge on what is, after all, a reasonable demand that the host city not stick them with unfinished facilities and unpaid bills. So Dallas chairman Tom Luce and his committee face the task of meeting the USOC requirement in creative ways. By cobbling together lines of credit from banks, completion bonds from contractors, and commitment letters from federal agencies, Dallas ought to he able to prove it can pay the bills. But it isn’t going to he easy.
DFW Airport is our biggest asset, but American Airlines may be our biggest liability. Miami International (which Tampa-Orlando claims) and Dulles Airport are truly international airports, served by foreign carriers, and that means Florida and Washington are heavily promoted in foreign markets as tourist and business destinations. Dallas, by comparison, is a virtual unknown. Foreign carriers are powerful lobbies in their respective countries, and they’re not likely to support an Olympics where American will reap the benefits.
Mexico could be the key to the decision. Atlanta skillfully employed the Rolodex of former U.S. Ambassador Andy Young to woo African members of the IOC. Latin America could play a similar role in deciding which American city wins the bid, and Mexico will likely be the major player. All the big talk about NAFTA and our close relations with Mexico are about to be put to a big test. Houston is the destination of choice for the Mexican elite, and in Mexico it’s the elite that count.
Has the Dallas business community bitten off more than it can chew? We’ve been here before. In 1936 the competitor cities for the Centennial Exposition celebrating the Texas Revolution were Austin, San Antonio, and Houston-sites of, respectively, the State Capitol, the Alamo, and the Battle of San Jacinto. Dallas, which didn’t exist at the time of the Revolution, grabbed the Exposition out from under their noses, built Fair Park, and attracted seven million visitors. We did it with guile, salesmanship, and hard cash. And this time, like last time, it’s going to take all three.