A few years after I landed in Dallas and began editing the weekly business newspaper here, a movement was started to bring the Summer Olympics to North Texas.
Much to my surprise, a lot of local people didn’t like the idea, so it died in the crib.
I thought those people were nuts.
Having lived in Los Angeles during the 1984 Summer Olympics, I saw first-hand how positive such an event can be for a region.
So why am I bringing this up in Dallas-Fort Worth in 2010? Because I think North Texas has something to learn from Southern California’s experience.
Not unlike DFW (population 6 million), the area known as “L.A.” has traditionally been a jumble of disparate municipalities. They’re isolated, sun-baked pockets—united mainly by the accident of geography and a spaghetti bowl of crowded freeways.
But not in 1984. Not for a few glorious months, anyway.
To celebrate the Games of the XXIII Olympiad, flags and banners were hung from poles along the region’s avenues and boulevards.
It’s a small thing, sure, but I remember those flags billowing in the breeze—the first time I’d seen such color and pageantry in an area that, despite its “show-biz” rep, in reality can be depressingly drab.
The Games were staged in a wide variety of far-flung venues. They stretched from Memorial Coliseum, Dodger Stadium, and UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion to Cal State Dominguez Hills and even to Ventura County, up near Santa Barbara.
This served nicely to “spread the wealth” of Olympic excitement and participation across geographic, ethnic, and socio-economic lines.
Under the direction of businessman Peter Ueberroth, the ’84 Games were a hit financially as well.
Funded almost entirely by the private sector, they had an estimated economic impact of at least $2.3 billion (in 1984 dollars) on Southern California. And they generated a whopping profit for Ueberroth’s committee of more than $200 million, the most successful showing in Olympics history.
Cut to DFW, 26 years later.
As you’ve seen in this special issue of D, North Texas is gearing up in a number of ways for Super Bowl XLV—an event that Ross Perot Jr. has called “our Olympics.”
Under the sure hands of host committee CEO Bill Lively and committee chair Roger Staubach, the groundwork has been laid for an event that will unite and benefit our region like never before.
At the same time, I believe the efforts of Lively and Staubach have injected the area—and especially its business community—with an overdue shot of Dallas’ legendary “can-do” spirit in general.
And, make no mistake: doing so was no small achievement, especially in a still-struggling economy. As we’ve seen time and again—from that aborted Olympics bid to the continuing drumbeat against the Trinity River Corridor Project—the nattering nabobs of civic negativism are an insidious and potentially powerful force here.
So why stop with a successful Super Bowl in February 2011?
In recent weeks, I’ve heard a growing buzz among businesspeople about mounting another effort to win the Summer Olympics for North Texas. If a regional sports commission is one outgrowth of Super Bowl XLV, as organizers hope, the infrastructure—and the momentum—for such a bid already will be in place.
When it comes to pulling off an international event that can inspire and embolden a region, the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles is still considered the gold standard.
In a cage match between Peter Ueberroth and Bill Lively, though, I’ll put my money on the Texas guy any day.