Talk of Dallas serving as a potential host city for the Olympics has ramped up in recent weeks, in part because Dallas attorney Matt Wood has begun work to woo the 2024 Summer Games, and partly because Dallas, along with Tulsa, Oklahoma and Rochester, New York, was one of an elite group of 35 cities the U.S. Olympic Committee invited to bid on the games.
The prospect has undeniable allure, what with the attention of the world, not to mention thousands of lithe young athletes, descending upon the city for the better part of a month. And an Olympic host city is nothing if not world-class.
Then again, Dallas is blessed with scorching summer heat and ungainly sprawl. In other words, a tremendous long shot, albeit one that has the Morning News' official blessing. Yesterday, the paper penned an editorial exhorting planners to forge ahead with an Olympic bid.
To its credit, the News acknowledges that sponsoring an Olympics would require mountains of cash ($3 billion for operating costs alone); that there's a real possibility of epic failure, a la Athens 2004; or that Dallas might have to swallow its pride (and slight revulsion) by partnering with Houston. But:
That said, the many pluses are worth considering. Top on the list is the vast expanse of available, cheap land just across the Trinity River and Interstate 30 in southern Dallas. It is an area long neglected by developers that could reap enormous benefits from an Olympic Village site construction, which later could be converted into low- or moderate-income housing, recreational venues and commercial facilities.
For last year's London Olympics, a vast, run-down industrial neighborhood on the east bank of the Thames River was transformed and is now being used for thousands of affordable homes, new parks and a large school complex. Southern Dallas needs exactly this kind of large-bore investment.
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Hmmmm. Construction of athletic facilities as a game-changing investment southern Dallas? Sport as a vehicle of urban transformation? It all sounds eerily familiar.
The Olympics are, of course, much bigger than a golf course and concentrating the associated development along the Trinity and in southern Dallas could have a much longer-lasting impact.
More often, though, the Games seem to have the effect of screwing over the poor, either through the razing of low-income neighborhoods to make way for new venues or, in London's case, skyrocketing rent prices that force poor families out.
Careful planning could help mitigate such effect, but let's be clear: the Olympics are a vanity project. There are reasons, both in terms of economics and prestige, Dallas might pursue them, but the idea should not be sold on southern Dallas' back.