The U.S. Olympic Committee is talking to 10 cities about a possible bid for the 2024 Summer Games, including a joint proposal from San Diego and Mexican neighbor Tijuana.
Following failed bids for the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, the USOC sent out letters to 35 American cities in February to gauge interest in a potential run for 2024.
“We’re in discussion with about 10 cities actively now,” USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun said in an interview after speaking to the Associated Press Sports Editors in New York. “The process is really working the way it was supposed to.”
Los Angeles, which hosted the 1932 and 1984 Olympics, and Philadelphia have announced their interest. Blackmun said San Diego and Tijuana have also approached the USOC about a joint bid.
Blackmun declined to identify the other cities considered as potential candidates, saying they preferred to keep it confidential for now. He said three cities, including Chicago, have formally said they are not interested in bidding.
Blackmun said he would be surprised if any other cities came forward at this point.
“We don’t want to submit a bid we don’t think we can win,” Blackmun told the APSE gathering. “We have to assess our chances. … We want this bid to be a national bid, an American, bid, not just a city bid. We want to make sure we have been as inclusive as possible.”
The United States hasn’t hosted a Summer Olympics since the 1996 Atlanta Games. New York mounted a failed bid for the 2012 Games, which went to London, and Chicago suffered a stinging first-round defeat in the IOC vote for the 2016 Olympics, which were awarded to Rio de Janeiro.
The USOC has since reached a revenue-sharing agreement with the IOC, ending a long-running dispute that contributed to the failed bids. With relations back on track and the USOC working to increase its international presence, the chances for a successful U.S. bid in 2024 are considered vastly improved.
“We’ve got plenty of time,” Blackmun told the AP. “There are no specific deadlines on this process.”
The USOC official said a joint bid can work in some geographical areas, citing the Bay Area and the cities of San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose as a “natural” possibility.
As for San Diego and Tijuana, he said, “That would have its challenges. We haven’t looked at it carefully. We just learned about it.”
Blackmun said he understood why Chicago is not interested in bidding again. The city spent about $90 billion on the 2016 bid and not even the presence of President Barack Obama at the IOC session in Copenhagen, Denmark, was enough to prevent the humbling defeat.
New York, meanwhile, could be a strong contender in 2024, Blackmun said.
“New York is a global iconic city with a very diverse population and could do a fantastic job of hosting the games,” Blackmun said, adding a bid will likely depend on the result of the Big Apple’s mayoral election in November.
The USOC has said it plans to decide by the end of 2014 whether to submit a bid. The International Olympic Committee will select the 2024 host city in 2017. Other potential 2024 contenders include Paris and a city in South Africa.
“The games should definitely go to Africa someday,” Blackmun said. “If we bid for 2024, I hope they don’t go to Africa in 2024.”
On other issues, Blackmun said he supports keeping wrestling in the Olympics after the sport was removed from the program of the 2020 Games by the IOC executive board in February. Wrestling is now competing against seven other sports for an opening on the 2020 program.
Blackmun said he also supports the inclusion of women’s softball. Baseball and softball, which have been out of the Olympics since the 2008 Beijing Games, have merged to mount a joint bid for 2020 reinstatement. The IOC board will decide next month which sport or sports to recommend for inclusion, with a final vote by the IOC assembly in September.
“Softball needs the Olympics,” Blackmun said. “I feel strongly that both wrestling and women’s softball should be in the games. You can’t get both. It’s not a perfect world.”
Blackmun said he’s confident NHL players will take part in the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. NHL players have participated in the past four Winter Games, shutting down the league for two weeks.
Negotiations between the league and international ice hockey officials have yet to produce an agreement for Sochi, though the signs are positive.
“I know the players want it — both the players who would go to Sochi and those that would get two weeks off,” Blackmun said.
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