Winter Olympics in Oregon? It's a good idea

While watching the Olympics from relatively balmy Sochi, one might wonder: why not here? Wouldn't Oregon make an excellent winter Olympics host?

It's easy to visualize: Portland could be the host city. The big audience events — hockey, figure skating — could be held at the Moda Center. The old Memorial Coliseum could also be utilized, say, for speed skating and curling.

The skiing and other outdoor events could be split between the Bend area and Mount Hood, giving the Olympics a true Oregon Cascades aura.

Can you imagine? The world, literally, would be coming through Central Oregon.

The opening/closing ceremonies would be an issue. The now-Providence Park (home of the Timbers) is likely too small for such an event. Autzen Stadium in Eugene is too far from a potential Olympic Village in this imagined Portland-based epicenter. But, the Portland metro area has long been targeted for an outdoor stadium worthy of luring the A's out of Oakland, or Rays out of Tampa. Such a facility will someday be built in the region. An Olympic designation may hasten that eventuality.

Whether or not the investment to bring an Olympics would be worth it, of course, is the key element. According to Wikipedia, all of the Olympics, summer and winter, held in the U.S. since the '84 summer games in Los Angeles have been profitable.

The 2002 Salt Lake City games continue to pay benefits to the state of Utah. The games cost about $2 billion to put on (far less than the shattering $50 billion of the Sochi games) and they are estimated to have brought in $4.8 billion in sales, provided 35,000 job years and $1.5 billion in earnings for workers.

A decade after the games, Utah's ski industry enjoyed 45 percent more business than it was seeing in the years right before the Olympics, even facing a recession. Outside investment ignited by the 2002 games helped keep the state's economy stronger during the recession as well. A games with a major Mount Bachelor/Central Oregon element could pay dividends to our tri-county region for decades.

The games also helped Utah become more of a world economic partner. Utah was the only state in the union to double exports over a five-year period in years following the '02 games.

The Vancouver games in 2010 cost about $5 billion. A ton of infrastructure was built, with the large majority of the expense ($12 to $1) from federal government sources compared to local taxpayers' burden. Thankfully, our federal system wouldn’t absorb anywhere near that chunk of the cost. Corporate partnerships are more the American way of keeping local taxpayers from taking on too large of a load.

A winter Olympics in Oregon would seem a great vehicle for Nike, Oregon's most visible corporate power, to expand its winter apparel appeal. Maybe Nike could take a lead role, along with Portland and state officials, on bringing the winter Olympics to Oregon.

South Korea will host the next Winter Olympics, in 2018, and the 2022 games have yet to be awarded, though several cities/countries (none from North America) are deep in the process of applying.

We'd like to see Oregon deeply research making a play for 2026. Salt Lake City and Denver have already made enroads to do so. Come on, Portland and Nike -- take the lead.




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