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Keep the Olympic spirit away

February 24, 2013
By CRAIG HOWELL , Weirton Daily Times

Some excitement spread through the region within the last couple of weeks when it was announced Pittsburgh, as well as several other cities, had been invited to put together a proposal for the opportunity to host the 2024 Summer Olympics.

That's big news and really exciting, even with a lot of competition to be able to land such an event.

The Olympics, with the draw of athletes from around the world and international media coverage, are a big thing for every city which serves as host.

Preparations take years, often with the construction of new stadiums and athletic centers, plans for opening and closing ceremonies, heightened security and increased traffic and thousands -?possibly millions - of additional people will be living in and around the city for several weeks.

It's an opportunity to showcase a city's history, culture and community for all to see.

But, is it really something Pittsburgh, and the Greater Pittsburgh area, wants?

I think it would be a huge honor for Pittsburgh to be selected to host the Olympics.

I know Charlotte, Nashville, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Memphis, Miami, Portland and many others also have been invited, and that's just some of the cities in the United States. Cities in Mexico, Canada, Africa, Asia and Europe also have been invited to submit proposals.

So, the chances are not really all that great for a selection for our metropolitan region.

But, suppose the city of Pittsburgh would decide to submit a bid and it would actually be selected.

Can the Steel City actually provide the type of services needed for the Games of the XXXIII Olympiad?

Let's start with the idea of the development and construction such an event would require.

While I'm sure the rivers and roadways could be used for various boating, marathon and bicycling events, other venues would need to be built.

Look at how much work was needed for Pittsburgh to build separate stadiums and venues for its professional baseball, football and hockey teams.

While I'm sure some of those locations could be used for Olympic events - Heinz Field and the Consol Energy Center in particular - I imagine there still would be a need to build other venues.

Is that really something the citizens of Pittsburgh will be willing to support?

Besides, is there really a location suitable for such a venue to be built? I imagine in a city such as Pittsburgh, demolition of existing structures would need to take place, with the possibility of building in suburban communities as well.

Plus, once it is built, and the Games are over, what will we do with such a stadium or complex?

The infamous Bird's Nest constructed for when Beijing hosted the games a few years ago has mostly sat vacant. We've had enough issues with industrial operations standing unused and rusting for generations before something could be done with the property.

Then, of course, there is the highway system and other forms of infrastructure in our region. Let's face it, the Parkway system is a pain to deal with before and after a Penguins game. How is it going to hold up to the traffic resulting from Olympic athletes, their trainers, families, fans and other spectators and officials trying to make their way to and from the venues?

An Olympic Village would have to be established, but there are limits on who can stay there. Usually it's athletes, trainers and a select few other officials. Where will everyone else stay? Are there enough hotels or rental spaces in our region to support so many visitors? I imagine they'll be looking across state lines in an attempt to find places. That would mean more hotels, which would be great in the short term, but what about after everyone leaves? Could our area support them all?

Having the Olympics in our region would be great. With such a focus from worldwide viewers, there would be a great deal we could do to show ourselves off, and possibly even capitalize for several years after.

But would it be a good fit and is it really something our area wants?

I'm not so sure.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)

 
 

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