Reno mulls bid for Games
Woodrow Barlettani mans his hot-dog stand just off the River Walk in downtown Reno, Nev., helping a few customers as he contemplates the rush of hungry winter-sports fans he might see some day clamoring into the streets.
Barlettani, also a cartoonist, envisions good business for his stand if Reno were to host a Winter Olympics, an event that the community has tried to capture before and could bid on again.
"The more people that come to town, the more it does for the economy," Barlettani says, asserting that Reno has enough hotel rooms to host an Olympics and that, with ski slopes just outside of the gambling town, there are places to hold the events.
A Reno resident for 29 years, Barlettani expects that the casinos would help pay for an Olympic celebration and that spectators, many of whom would likely be first-time visitors, would be intrigued by Reno’s history.
Having staged the 2002 Winter Olympics, it is unlikely that the International Olympic Committee would award the United States another Games before 2018. But, with the lead time needed to prepare a bid, cities interested in the next domestic Winter Olympics will probably soon start considering their options.
Some in Utah, starting shortly after the 2002 Games, have suggested that the state make another attempt as early as the next time the United States Olympic Committee bids for the Winter Games.
If so, there is a possibility that Salt Lake City, likely again with Park City as a showcase venue, could compete with Reno for the American bid. There are a few places in the U.S. that could stage a Winter Olympics, with the Reno area and the Salt Lake City region being among them.
In Reno, the Olympic boosters have mobilized and had hoped to seek the 2014 Games but now seem to be targeting the 2018 edition, says Harry York, who heads the Reno-Sparks Chamber of Commerce. The supporters have manufactured a pin promoting a 2018 bid, featuring a big question mark.
York says that hosting an Olympics would secure the Reno-Lake Tahoe region’s reputation as a destination for winter sports, a goal of Salt Lake City as it attempted to secure an Olympics. Mountain resorts are sprinkled throughout the area, including Squaw Valley, which hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics and continues to use the Games as a marketing tool.
"It brings a credibility. People still don’t realize we have the largest ski and snow destination in the country," York says.
York describes a potential Olympic bid of staging the indoor events like skating and hockey in Reno while skiing and snowboarding events would be held outside the city, perhaps at Squaw Valley, Heavenly Mountain Resort and Boreal Mountain Resort, all near Reno.
There does not exist in the region a facility like the Utah Olympic Park, where ski jumps and a bobsled track were built in anticipation of the Games, however.
Utah versus Reno?
Soon after the 2002 Games ended, there was talk about hosting another Olympics in Utah.
Those at the time touted successes in 2002 like the venues and the transportation plans as supporting their ambitions for another Games.
The Park City area hosted about half of the competitions during the Games, with Deer Valley Resort, Park City Mountain Resort and the Olympic Park among the key venues of the Olympics.
Deer Valley hosted skiing and freestyle competitions, PCMR staged skiing and snowboarding events and ski jumping, bobsled, luge and skeleton contests were held at the Olympic Park.
Soldier Hollow, outside nearby Midway, was also critical, holding cross-country skiing and Nordic combined races.
City Hall and the Olympic organizers, meanwhile, teamed to turn Main Street into an auto-free party zone, with concerts, fireworks and pin-trading areas.
Myles Rademan, City Hall’s Public Affairs director and an important figure in Park City’s Olympic efforts, says bidding for another Olympics would require business support, including the ski industry.
He says, though, that the Reno-Lake Tahoe region could present a strong bid, noting the ease of flying to Reno and the number of hotel rooms in the area.
"Somebody’s got to devote, full time or mostly full time, over the next 12 years," Rademan says about Reno. "It takes a core group of very strong, involved individuals who are in it for the long term."
He claims that the Reno area is better suited for Olympic logistics than other places that have held the Games, including Turin, Italy, the 2006 host.
"It’s a natural fit for the ski areas, Lake Tahoe and Reno, too," Rademan says.
Like Barlettani, the vendor who sells hot dogs in Reno, Pat Simpson, who owns Arch of Reno, a wedding chapel, is intrigued by the potential of an Olympics.
More sporty people would arrive at her chapel to exchange vows, she surmises, with prices currently starting at less than $100 and climbing to $300.
"I know that it becomes very chaotic for the communities that are hosting, but on the other hand it’s a valuable opportunity," Simpson says.
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