Thursday, February 21, 2013
Opinion: What would the world remember about the 2024 Dallas Olympics?
Furthermore, is that the story we want to be told?
DALLAS As you know, because you may live in Dallas or otherwise, Dallas is pursuing an Olympic bid for 2024. Before we go running off and making plans to house German tourists, we've made a cut of 35 American cities, including Tulsa.
Dallas seemingly always chases the Olymipics. Of course it does. It's Dallas. It's what we do (though that doesn't mean we can't land it). We try to get into the party with London and Barcelona and Seoul and Vancouver, but we're not allowed because we're just not pretty enough. So we're forced to wait outside the club in line. It's a wonderful irony. There we wait, bitching about the cities that get to cut in line. So we adjust our outfit to show a little more leg and curve. That still doesn't work. Until we bum a cigarette from Atlanta, the worn out wait staff out on break sharing a smoke with Salt Lake, who gives us the one and only necessary piece of advice: "Just slip the door men a hundy if you want into the club so bad."
Now, I loathe gargantuan boondoggles of the highest order more than just about anything else. Though I'm not opposed to the idea of the Olympics here in Dallas if only for the sheer nihilistic wonderment and entertainment value. Or better put, it would be held in the metroplex. Yes, I know you hate the term "the metroplex" -- hate it for its honesty, hate it for what it implies, hate it for the placelessness it describes ... because it's true.
That won't stop the IOC from awarding the Olympics to DFW, as Atlanta can attest. We just have to do what is necessary. Like offering free tuition to IOC offspring to Georgia Tech or Emory. Oh wait, that's Atlanta. But you get my point. And if you don't, it is: We can make it happen if the chips fall in place and the timing is right given whoever is on the various national and international selection committees at a given time. Keep in mind, many other cities will also do what it takes to get it, so it often falls to whims and endless, ever-fluid dealmaking.
Cities want the Olympics because it is the new urban renewal. A chance at "free money" to overhaul parts of their city they are less proud of, if not ashamed of (particularly if they're afraid of the truth that those realities are of their own doing). So, whoosh. Wipe it all away with one fell swoop without regard to repercussions or things like, "What happens afterwards?" In urban renewal you don't think about repercussions, externalities, or spin-off effects. Just focus on the illusion to help sell the dream.
However, London did specifically address those issues. As I commented on D's article:
The lesson of the prior and most recent Olympics is that 1) Don't worry about the money to build facilities, it will appear - these are boondoggles of the highest order - and (more importantly) 2) What happens to all of those generally narrow use, single-purpose facilities afterwards. The most interesting thing about London is they specifically addressed this point in their bid and subsequent planning. All of the facilities had to have long-term utilization strategies. Many of which included disassembly and relocation as smaller facilities for local athletics programs around England as smaller venues.
My concern about the Fair Park as Olympic Village idea (though I do believe it to be a good use for Fair Park) is that Fair Park can (and must) redevelop as a village with or without the Olympics. The Olympics and its financial weight can be used to leverage more difficult problems if we so choose. Why wait 10 years to start repurposing Fair Park as multi-purpose, full-time neighborhood (ie by infilling the parking lots)?
The other issue about repercussions is always, "How will the Olympics be remembered?" As I've written before, my fondest memories of Olympics generally fall in line with how integral the context is to a particular event. The three that jump out in my mind immediately: 1) Diving in Barcelona from atop Montjuic with the entire city in the background; 2) Beach volleyball in London set at the horse stables; and 3) Running of the torch through the rainy city of Vancouver with seemingly the entire drunken city running behind.
Of course, those are my biases. But, they all have a direct connection between what I guess is globalism of the Olympic stage with the local context -- intertwined. The funny thing about the Olympics though, are the ones that are seemingly most fondly remembered by history are those in the best, most interesting cities/places. They are representations of that particular place in time and they do not lie.
Beijing was bloated fabrication as preposterously over the top and disingenuous like a North Korean missile parade. Sydney was suburban and vapid. Atlanta was in budget because it was a done on the cheap. A throwaway Olympics for a throwaway city. Athens? Well, that was all done on borrowed money of course. A cocaine and stripper party in the Hamptons from ill-begotten insider trading.
What would the Olympics tell the world about us? And is it a story we want told?*
*Caveat: The story you tell others isn't always the one they hear.
Pegasus News Content partner - Walkable Dallas-Fort Worth