Locked in a holding pattern for the past several weeks, a group pursuing the idea of bringing the 2020 Summer Olympic Games to Tulsa will know by Friday, Oct. 2 whether its effort will move ahead or come to a halt.
On that day, the International Olympic Committee, meeting in Copenhangen, Denmark, will announce which city has been awarded the 2016 summer games. One of the four finalists for that slot is Chicago, and if the Windy City's bid is successful, the Tulsa group will abandon its effort to win the 2020 games, according to Michael Jones, one of the two founders of the local group.
Jones has said previously if Chicago wins the right to play host to the 2016 Olympics, the summer games likely would not return to North America before 2032, thus eliminating any opportunity for Tulsa to put together a successful bid for 2020.
But in the event one of the other three finalists--Tokyo, Madrid or Rio De Janeiro--is chosen, Jones plans to move ahead with what he freely admits is a long-shot plan to bring the world to the banks of the Arkansas River in a little more than two decades.
Jones and his friend Neil Mavis, who co-hatched the idea of bringing the Olympics to Tulsa, went public with their plan in August, making a presentation to the City Council. Since then, at the request of the U.S. Olympic Committee, they've bided their time, waiting on the Oct. 2 announcement to see if there's any point in pursuing their plan further.
"From what we're hearing, we're not seeing an indication one way or another (about Chicago's chances)," Jones said. "The two main contenders seem to be Chicago and Rio de Janeiro. Obviously, we're rooting for Chicago, and I think that would be great."
Coincidentally, Jones will be in Chicago the day the announcement is made. If that city's bid is accepted, he'll have a first-hand look at the celebration that unfolds.
But if the games are awarded to one of the other three finalists, "we'll be trying to gear up for our own effort," he said.
Jones and Mavis have been working on the plan since the middle of 2008, compiling a 23-page feasibility study laying out their idea in depth, and have encountered plenty of skepticism along the way. But not everyone is laughing. A Tulsa 2020 committee has been formed to formally pursue the idea of putting together a bid, a group that counts District 7 City Councilor John Eagleton among its members. And Jones was encouraged by the public's reception of the proposal in August.
Should the opportunity for the 2020 games present itself, the committee will first need the approval of the City Council to officially submit a bid, Jones said.
The cost of any such bid promises to be substantial. Atlanta spent $7 million on its successful bid for the 1996 Summer Olympics, but Chicago reportedly has spent close to $50 million on its bid for the 2016 games. Jones hopes to raise the money for Tulsa's possible bid through private sources.
And if Tulsa does get into the competition for the 2020 games, it likely will have to get past the Windy City. Jones said Chicago officials have already made clear their intention to enter the competition for those games if their 2016 bid is not accepted.
"They're going to gear up for 2020 if they lose," he said. "They'll just continue to put a plan in place and roll it over."
But Jones believes Chicago officials might encounter some push-back if it comes to putting together another costly bid with no guarantee of success.
"Before the current economy, people were a lot more willing to put in that kind of money," he said.
As for Tulsa's chances, Jones was heartened by last week's announcement that the BOK Center had been named a host site for the 2011 NCAA First-Second Round Division I Men's Basketball Tournament, an event that will draw national attention to the city. He also was pleased to note the recent reopening of downtown's Mayo Hotel and the continued renovation work on the Atlas Life Building into a Courtyard by Marriott location, since one of the perceived weaknesses of a prospective Tulsa bid is a lack of hotel rooms.
"Yeah, that's what I mean," Jones said. "The more these things (develop), the more people can see these things can come together."
Even if Chicago is awarded the 2016 games, and the work he and Mavis have done on a 2020 bid goes for naught, Jones said he will consider it time well spent.
"Yeah, actually, I think we will, for any number of reasons," he said. "The research we've done has been good to determine what we can and can't do. If this doesn't happen, we'll probably try to figure out where else in this community can we involve to possibly help when 2032 rolls around."
That means Jones is interested in putting together a bid for those games if his current effort is thwarted. After all, it's never too early to start planning, it seems.
"We may not be ready for 2020; it may be 2032 before Oklahoma can put in a bid for something like this," he said. "But we think it will have been a good use of our time anyway. These are the directions this community needs to steer itself in to handle an international competition."
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