The idea is out there now, and while a few people may be laughing, even more are supportive, perhaps a bit intrigued.
That's the assessment of Michael Jones, a Tulsa lawyer who is part of a local committee that is pursuing the idea of bringing the 2020 Summer Olympic Games to the city.
"The public response has been great," Jones said. "I've read some negative things on the blogs, and you always have doomsayers and naysayers, like you did with the BOK Center. But those people have obviously been proven to be wrong.
"I'll tell you the truth. I have yet to meet anybody personally who hasn't thought this is a great idea. Most people agree this is a long shot at best, but if you don't dream big, you'll never succeed."
Having gone public with their proposal earlier this month, members of the committee now are in a holding pattern. With the International Olympic Committee scheduled to announce Oct. 2 which city will be awarded the 2016 summer games, the future of Tulsa's possible bid hangs in the balance.
The local committee's course of action is clear: If the IOC awards the games to Chicago--one of four finalists, along with Madrid, Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro--the project comes to a halt. The 2020 games would be held in another hemisphere, likely not returning to a North American site until 2032, Jones said.
But if the Chicago bid loses to one of the other finalists, it's game on--eventually maybe even Games on--for the Tulsa committee.
"We totally support Chicago's bid and hope they get it," Jones said. But if that doesn't happen, the Tulsa group will be prepared to continue its preliminary steps toward putting together a bid, he said.
If that happens, Jones likely can expect to encounter a lot more skepticism. But that's something he and fellow committee member Neil Mavis, whom Jones refers to as the group's numbers cruncher and data researcher, have faced every step of the way.
The genesis of their idea came during a lunch conversation at, of all places, the Goldie's Patio Grill location at 4401 E. 31st St. in mid 2008. Jones recalled that he and Mavis, a onetime Atlanta resident, were having a casual discussion about how quickly Tulsa had grown. Mavis made the observation that the city was, in many ways, much like Atlanta had been before it was named the host of the Summer Olympics for 1996.
"So we started wondering, what would it take to host the Olympics?" Jones said.
Mavis started doing the research, and what he found helped the idea take root between the two friends--there were no minimum population requirements and the games were primarily venue driven, although there was a requirement for an appropriate number of hotel rooms.
From that investigation, Mavis and Jones concluded there was no requirement that could be regarded as an impossibility from Tulsa's standpoint. They looked to Atlanta's effort for an example they could perhaps duplicate.
"With all that research over a year or so, we kept bouncing ideas off each other," Jones said. "Eventually, we came to the conclusion that it would be a big, uphill climb. It's possible, but it's not necessarily likely or highly probable.
"But everybody in the world told Atlanta they were insane, but they won it, and they did it. And it resulted in a huge economic change for them."
Mavis and Jones attracted a few others to the project, including District 7 City Councilor John Eagleton, and their Tulsa 2020 committee was born. They compiled a 23-page feasibility study that laid out their idea in depth, analyzing what it would take to prepare the city to stage an event of such magnitude and listing the facilities that would have to be built. They also tried to project what the costs and economic benefits would be.
Committee members had been communicating with members of the council and the mayor's staff for several months to gauge their response to the idea. Jones said Eagleton expressed the belief that the time to go public with the idea was in August, before the municipal elections, so that committee members could ascertain what kind of support for the idea existed not just among the current mayor and councilors but among the candidates who had filed to run against them.
So they made a presentation before the council on Aug. 4.
"We also needed to let them know we didn't want to be doing that behind their backs," Jones said of moving forward with the idea. "We didn't know all the council members personally, and there was the feeling that this would be a good way to do that, even if they didn't like the idea. Not that that would probably stop us, but it's always good to have public sentiment in your favor than opposed.
"If the council is behind this, people are more likely to open their doors and talk about this than just, 'You guys are insane.' "
The Tulsa 2020 committee hasn't gotten the official approval of the council to move forward with the proposal--a step required before the committee could officially submit a bid, Jones said--but it won't be seeking that designation until after Oct. 2.
He emphasized that the committee would raise private funds to finance the bid itself. Atlanta spent $7 million on its bid, but the Chicago 2016 committee reportedly has spent close to $50 million thus far--with no guarantee of success.
Tulsa 2020 members also would get back in touch with the U.S. Olympic Committee, which would choose the winner among any American cities submitting a bid, allowing that city to move on to further consideration before the IOC.
More data would need to be collected and analyzed, and committee members would reach out to other community leaders and especially the leaders of Oklahoma's Indian nations, seeking their input and assistance. Jones said the state's Indian heritage would be a major selling point in any potential bid from Tulsa.
No one needs to explain to Jones what an underdog the city would be if officials decide to sanction the bid effort--the task of coming up with enough hotel rooms to accommodate all the visitors the Olympics would bring represents a massive undertaking in itself--but winning the games for Tulsa isn't the only prize at stake, in Jones' mind.
"Exactly," he said, referring to the publicity the bid would bring to the city and, perhaps more important, how pursuing a project the size of the Olympics might change the way Tulsans think about their hometown. "It's how you play the game, not necessarily if you win."
Share this article: