Friday, May 21, 2004

900,000 people needed for a Boston Olympics

The ire of the German sports world is focused on its national Olympic committee, which failed to get one of the top four spots on the short list of possible venues for 2012. Applicant city Leipzig was sixth, with Moscow ahead of it in the second tier.

The reason has shocked Germans: Leipzig is too small. According to the director of the IOC, a city must have a population of at least 1.5 million in order to have sufficient accommodations to host the games. Leipzig, the capital of Saxony, had been as large as 750,000 before WWII, but fell due to the war. Conditions under the DDR did not allow for recovery. Today it stands at 500,000. (I am not certain, but I suspect that the city planned to pool resources with nearby Dresden, also 500,000). Leipzig was chosen on the strength of its financial planning, which was stronger than other applicant cities (Frankfurt, Hamburg, and Dusseldorf) (another source suggests that the committee memebers ties to the Stasi were damaging).

The vice president of the German Olympic committee, Dieter Landsberg-Velen, Germany "has been duped. This is grotesque. Had we known this before, we would have spared the effort." Knowing the criterion of the IOC, only two German cities could ever hold the games: Berlin and Hamburg.

This flies in the face of reason. 500,000 may be too few. The cities that were chosen by the IOC--Paris, London, Madrid and New York--are all cities of gigantic proportion. Metropolis is too small a word to describe them. But Munich, a city with a population of 1.3 million, held the Olympics. The major glitch of 1972 was security, a problem that all the larger applicants would be at pains to solve. Leipzig also has a significant cultural tradition that betrays its size.

According to the IOC criterion, only five US cities would be good candidates for the Olympics: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and Philadelphia. One American city that held the games, St. Louis (1904), would not qualify. New York is currently a top choice. Los Angeles has held them twice. Houston would never qualify for a variety of social and cultural reasons. Philadelphia would likely be at financial pains to mount the games. San Francisco--an international city of great renown, a former world capital, and recognized as having the best organized application of any US city (having lost to NY for sentimental reasons)--would not qualify. Boston would never qualify despite its international reputation.


At 2:20 PM, Blogger johnny two-cents said...

Yeah, but just look at how difficult it's proving to be for Boston to host a measly political convention.

Can you imagine the utter chaos if they tried to shoehorn hundreds of thousands of atheletes and spectators into the Boston area with good security? With the downtown sports arenas, the BU, BC, Harvard, and Northeastern sports complexes in use all at the same time, there'd be massive issues that the city simply can't address.

A larger burgh like New York can simply absorb more people than Boston. Leipzig can't be that different-- it's an old city with a small core.

At 8:39 AM, Blogger Nathanael said...


You are quite correct: the logistical and infrastructure problems would make a Boston Olympics nearly impossible. But with a little imminent domain, anything can happen ...

I am concerned that the same places will end up with the games from now on. New York holds everything--does it need the Olympics as well? London and Paris have already hosted, and Spain held them in 2000. Current host Athens was an unimaginative choice. Istanbul had a strong big for 2008, but it fell further down the list this time around.

Who is dreaming up an application for the future? Here are cities considering bids: Santiago (Chile); Brussels; Dehli; Dubai; Hamburg; Milan; Lisbon; Rotterdam; St. Petersburg; Twin Cities, USA; Tel Aviv; Cape Town; Prague. My faves are Dehli and Rotterdam.

At 7:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boston's pop. is 600,000 people, but Boston is only 43 square miles. Houston has 2 million people, but Houston is 600 square miles. While Boston has a small core, no city hosts its Olympics right in downtown. There is a huge new convention center, Gillette Stadium, and Harvard and Boston college both have fairly large stadiums.

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