Politics & Government

S.F.’s leaders mull bid for Olympics

San Francisco Giants CEO Larry Baer, who is leading the Olympics bid, said that it’s time “for this region to shine on the international stage.”
San Francisco Giants CEO Larry Baer, who is leading the Olympics bid, said that it’s time “for this region to shine on the international stage.” The Associated Press

This tech-booming city, home to Twitter and other innovative startups, is experiencing its greatest growth since the California Gold Rush more than 150 years ago.

With the climate ripe for commerce, local organizers think they can make a strong case to bring the 2024 Olympics here. After all, the San Francisco Bay Area also is where Google, Apple and Facebook are reshaping the world.

“It just seems like it’s sort of our moment in time for this region to shine on the international stage,” said Larry Baer, the chief executive officer of baseball’s World Series champion Giants, who is spearheading San Francisco’s Olympic bid along with Mayor Ed Lee.

An Olympics in San Francisco would have a majestic backdrop: the orange spires of the Golden Gate Bridge rising above the bay’s blue water, steep hills that create a postcard skyline and mountain vistas in every direction.

But the cost of doing business here is also high, something that could work against the city as it competes at a time when both U.S. and global Olympic organizers are emphasizing the need to keep costs down. Getting the regional cooperation needed to bring anything as massive as the Olympics to politically charged and environmentally conscious Northern California also would be difficult.

San Francisco suffered a huge embarrassment during the domestic bidding process for the 2016 Games when a stadium deal for the NFL’s 49ers collapsed the day before a key presentation in front of the U.S. Olympic Committee. Some are still sour about what the America’s Cup sailing event cost the city last year, too.

Baer believes the Bay Area could leverage its recent renaissance to expand the Olympic movement’s reach without spending additional money. Many professional teams and athletes, for instance, visit Silicon Valley companies when they’re in town to learn new ways to market themselves and form business partnerships.

Baer has dreamed of bringing the Olympics to the Bay Area since writing his senior thesis at the University of California, Berkeley, in the late 1970s about Los Angeles’ successful bid for the 1984 Summer Games. He’s trying to draw parallels to the USOC’s decision-makers between that bid and San Francisco’s proposal now.

“L.A. made a very good business case for bringing the Games to L.A. at a time that was somewhat challenging,” Baer said. “Now I think we have an incredibly compelling business case for this region for 2024.”