No Olympics for Houston again

I had a post drafted last night about this story concerning the US Olympic Committee’s intent to trim two potential host cities from its list of 2016 hopefuls, but other events overtook my ability to finish and post it in time. Just as well, because as with the 2012 Games, we lost. We may be in line for a consolation prize, however.

Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco were named as finalists for a potential U.S. bid for the 2016 Games. Houston and Philadelphia, the remaining candidates, “will step to the sidelines at this time,” USOC board chairman Peter Ueberroth said during a news conference at a Denver airport hotel.

The USOC has plans, however, for its sidelined suitors. USOC chief executive officer Jim Scherr will visit Houston later this year to discuss Houston’s potential to bid for 2008 U.S. Olympic trials and world championships in 2009 and beyond, and Houston businessman George DeMontrond III floated the possibility that Houston will bid for the 2011 Pan American Games.

“We need to work on our international appeal, and the way to do that is to aggressively go after events to host so that we can show off the city in an international sports context,” said DeMontrond, who chaired Houston’s 2012 bid and helped coordinate the 2016 bid along with Mayor Bill White and Astros owner Drayton McLane.

“The Pan Am Games are out there for 2011 (after Rio de Janeiro beat San Antonio for the right to host the 2007 games), and it’s a major multi-sport event. I haven’t put a pencil to the economics, but it’s an intriguing possibility.”

I think either the Olympic Trials or the Pan Am Games would be about as good for Houston from an exposure and economic perspective, without all of the baggage that the full-blown Olympics brings with it. I’m guessing they cost a lot less to prep for. So even though I’ve been rooting for Houston in this, count me as un-brokenhearted by this development.

Houston’s elimination hinged on the fact that, based on the USOC’s survey of 58 members of the International Olympic Committee and 42 leaders of international sports federations, it lags badly behind Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco as a perceived center for international sports.

“Even though Houston is a great international city and highly respected, it’s not that well known as the other cities (among international sports leaders) as the cities that are going forward,” Scherr said. “That’s a critical factor.”

That perception, Ueberroth said, was enough to sink Houston as a 2016 candidate despite strengths in several areas, topped by the leadership of White and Harris County Judge Bob Eckels, who met with USOC officials in May in Houston and in June in San Diego to discuss the city’s bid.

“They (White and Eckels) were spectacular. They were in a class by themselves in terms of administration,” Ueberroth said. “They were just so far ahead of any other city, it wasn’t close. … If that were the only criteria, they (Houston) would have won.”

Can’t say I’m surprised by that.

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