A Davis man is launching a campaign to bring the Winter Olympics to Northern California.
California last hosted the Winter Olympics in 1960 at Squaw Valley. The United States hosted them in 2002 at Salt Lake City.
A local Olympics would create an enormous amount of state and national pride, Faust said, but he stressed how the Games also would galvanize a regional economy currently plagued with unemployment flirting with 13 percent.
“The economic impact of this thing is going to be dramatic; it’s going to be huge,” said Faust, who works as president and CEO for the Northern California World Trade Center and as the senior vice president at the Sac Metro Chamber. He also serves as the vice chairman of the city of Davis’ Business and Economic Development Commission.
The boost would not be contained to the site of Olympic events, which would include the Sierra Nevada mountains in both California and Nevada.
“People aren’t going to just come to the events,” he added. “They’ll spend time in Napa Valley; they’ll spend time at Disneyland; they’ll be exposed to things like UC Davis as part of their journey through California.
“Anything we can do to help the state of California and the community at large is good for the city of Davis,” Faust said. “We’re not an island by ourselves; we’re part of the larger California fabric.”
A group of private businessmen and politicians started informal talks late last year, Faust said, and things got serious in January. The committee, which includes Sacramento developer Angelo Tsakopoulos and Sacramento City Council member Rob Fong, conducted polling to see if anyone else was excited about the idea. The answer was yes, Faust said, and they plan to release the data in the near future.
The idea is already getting some big-time press. The New York Times published an article Tuesday.
“It took off like wildfire,” Faust said. “It was insane. It was a testimony to the fact that people are excited about the opportunity to have a Winter Olympics in Northern California.”
There are challenges, however. While 2022 is more than a decade away, imminent deadlines loom and require swift action, Faust said. Beyond that, any region bidding for an Olympics must pump a lot of money and energy into transforming sports venues, housing, security and transportation systems into something that passes muster with the U.S. Olympic Committee and then the International Olympic Committee.
“It is a huge undertaking for any region,” Faust said. “We’ve got to get organized and the effort starts now. And between now and 2012, an enormous effort has to occur.”
That’s when Faust predicts the U.S. Olympic Committee will call for bids to host the 2022 Olympics. He expects the committee to decide a year later. Then the U.S. bid would compete against the top contenders from around the world. A winner would be selected around 2015, seven years before the games.
These are all guesstimates based on timelines from the past, Faust said, like the one that led to the 2010 Vancouver Games.
The effort is capturing political support as well. State Senate Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg penned a letter to the California Travel and Tourism Commission backing the project and Faust’s committee.
“A concerted effort to bring the Winter Olympic Games to the Lake Tahoe region would greatly benefit California’s tourism industry,” Steinberg writes. “There is considerable public support for this effort.
Ninety-five percent of 1,000 Californians polled in early March believe hosting the Olympics in Lake Tahoe would boost the state’s economy, Steinberg writes, citing polling data provided by the California Winter Games Committee. Ninety-three percent think tourists would visit other attractions and destinations outside of Lake Tahoe. And more than 90 percent think business, nonprofit and government leaders should try to win a Winter Olympics bid.
Faust is on board. “We’re fired up about that opportunity.”
— Reach Jonathan Edwards at [email protected] or (530) 747-8052.