More than a decade ago, Olympic fever seized the Washington business, sports and entertainment communities. Led by the visionary Dan Knise, a broad-based coalition of local leaders pulled together to make a serious bid to host the 2012 Olympics in the greater Washington region.
The 2012 Olympics have come and gone on delayed-broadcast from London. We knew the results long before Bob Costas played his tiresome game of psueudo-suspense that USA women's soccer triumphed again, that Misty-May and Kerry retired as champions, and that Felix is very fast, indeed.
Olympic envy seeped into our very bones again during the last few weeks, and the long-dormant urge to stand atop the podium of winning cities is stirring new thoughts of regional glory. We're scheming already even as Olympians now look to Rio (Brazil) for the 2016 summer games.
Is it realistic, responsible or even remotely useful for D.C. -- or, more appropriately, the Washington-Baltimore regional corridor -- to make a new Olympic bid, vying against the likes of Paris, Toronto, Chicago and New York for the 2024 summer games?
The odds are very long; the expense of putting together a credible bid package is considerable. Economic conditions remain delicate; we have so many other funding needs in this region.
And yet, and yet... a city can dream! Despite the considerable risks of actually hosting the Olympics, there's something to be said for the boost a great bid can bring to a region that always needs to work on its communal elan.
Ironically this year, as we marvel at the stunning achievements of women athletes in just about every Olympic venue at the London games, a genuine legacy of D.C.'s 2012 Olympic bid thrives right here on the campus of Trinity Washington University: The Trinity Center for Women and Girls in Sports.
This major athletics complex -- opened in 2002, at that time one of the largest sports facilities devoted primarily to women's sports in this region -- emerged conceptually during the days of the Washington Olympic bid as Trinity found a way to leverage its long desire for great indoor athletic facilities (the college had no gym for its entire first century) with the Olympic vision for D.C. While the larger universities were all lining-up to be part of the Olympic bid, we knew that Trinity could not stand on the sidelines just being a cheerleader -- we needed to get some "skin in the game" and the alignment of our plans for athletic facilities and the Olympic organizing drive propelled the concept forward.
Along the way, we met up with the Women's Sports Foundation, a natural partner for Trinity's essential mission as a women's college. The Women's Sports Foundation, founded by Billie Jean King in 1974 to promote athletic equality for girls and women, envisioned the "Women's Global Challenge" as a prelude to the Olympics if D.C. won the bid. As we worked with the coalition of leaders from the Greater Washington Board of Trade, the 2012 DC Coalition, and the Women's Sports Foundation, our Trinity team was able to clarify and focus the ways in which Trinity could have athletic and recreational facilities that would support our expanded athletics programs while also encouraging the long-term interests of girls and women embracing competitive sports as well as health and wellness activities for all ages.
When we broke ground for the Trinity Center in 2000, the Washington regional Olympic team was with us: Dan Knise, Donna Lopiano of the Women's Sports Foundation, Olympic Champion Benita Fitzgerald Mosley, Susan Williams of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, and many others. The Olympic leadership coalition inspired Trinity's donors and propelled our vision to fulfillment in ways that reap many benefits for our campus and community today.
D.C. didn't get the Olympics, but the Trinity Center for Women and Girls in Sports stands as a thriving legacy of that effort, providing opportunities for competitive sports and recreational activities not only for girls and women, but for neighbors and friends throughout the D.C. community. As I watch some of our Brookland seniors doing water aerobics in the pool on any given morning, or several thousand Girl Scouts step dancing in the arena, or hundreds of children from the city playing soccer on Trinity's competition field during a D.C. Scores tournament, I can see the tangible evidence of the legacy of once-grand Olympic dreams for our region.
Should we go for it once more?
Perhaps. In this case, the journey may be even more important than the destination. Leaders in the Washington-Baltimore region always talk about regionalism and forging greater cooperation on our thorniest issues -- transportation and other shared infrastructure challenges being atop the list. Few other endeavors have as much power to pull disparate interests together as an Olympic bid.
Our leaders should weight the costs of putting a bid package together, of course, but also articulate with clarity and some passion the results we can actually achieve when we work together to envision a more effective region spanning multiple states and major cities. With that vision, we don't need to wait for the Olympic laurel wreath to get to work improving regional infrastructure. As we did for 2012, the Baltimore-Washington region could make our own 2024 Olympic legacy even without the spectacles, the crowds, or the parachuting queen.