Friday, Oct. 9, 2009 | 3 a.m.
One of Nevada’s greatest tourism opportunities has been discussed by forward-thinking industry leaders for several years.
Now, the state’s bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympic Games is at a crossroads.
The Reno Tahoe Winter Games Coalition has quietly worked behind the scenes, coordinating with Lake Tahoe-area groups that have had some Olympic experience when Squaw Valley, Calif., hosted the games in 1960. Just think, the medals handed out to winning athletes could be manufactured with gold and silver mined in Nevada.
When Salt Lake City bid for the 2002 Winter Olympics, I was a news editor for the Standard-Examiner in Ogden, Utah, and had a front-row seat for all the preparations that went into getting ready for the arrival of thousands of international guests.
The cities along the Wasatch Front debated back and forth about the best location for the various event venues. One of the reasons the International Olympic Committee awards the Games so far in advance is so that the host city can get the added infrastructure in place and make a first-class impression.
Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, who chairs the Nevada Commission on Tourism, is chairman of the Reno Tahoe Winter Games Coalition. He’s said for some time that Nevada’s chances for hosting the 2018 Games rested in part with Chicago’s effort to secure the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Gentleman that he is, Krolicki never rooted against Chicago. He did share a few scenarios about what could happen, win or lose.
If Chicago got the 2016 Games, maybe the local group would step back and wait for 2022. If the Windy City didn’t get them, the group would be ready with bid book in hand to share the benefits of one of the most beautiful locations on Earth, which Nevada shares with California.
Last week, we all saw what happened.
Chicago, which many considered to be the front-runner for hosting the 2016 Games, was eliminated in the first round of voting by the International Olympic Committee. The ultimate winner was Rio de Janeiro, which will become for first South American city to play host to the Games, summer or winter.
The run-up to the final selection saw a celebrity-studded bid to bring the showcase international sporting event to Chicago. Oprah Winfrey was there. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley made a pitch. And the final push was made by President Obama, who flew to Copenhagen with first lady Michelle Obama to support his adopted home and the state that made him a senator, greatly advancing his astonishing political career.
But the reaction to the Obamas’ pitch was second-guessed by many Monday-morning quarterbacks. Did the International Olympic Committee view the Obamas’ whirlwind trip to Copenhagen as a snub because they only spent enough time on the ground to shake a few hands, spread a little charisma, eat a little frikadeller and be on his way back to the United States?
Obama has been a hit in Europe. Is the global honeymoon over already?
At home, he was criticized for spending thousands of taxpayer dollars to make the international trip at a time when health care was being debated and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were on people’s minds.
Meanwhile, some American sports enthusiasts were calling out basketball legend Michael Jordan for not joining the effort to boost Chicago. Widely considered the best basketball player in history, Jordan played in the Olympic Games in 1984 and 1992 winning gold medals in both..
Now that Chicago is out of the picture, it would seem that Lake Tahoe is in position to make its bid for the 2018 Games as planned. Not so fast.
Krolicki said the U.S. Olympic Committee put all its efforts into winning the Summer Games for Chicago and there isn’t much in the tank for making a Winter Games bid for 2018. In fact, Krolicki said he has been told the United States wouldn’t even try to host in 2018. That would not only be a disappointment for the Reno Tahoe Olympic hopefuls but also for a contingent in Denver that has expressed interest in hosting the 2018 Games.
In the next few days, Krolicki said the USOC would assess the future. If the U.S. committee wants to bid for the 2018 Games, the local group will be ready. Several committee members already are on record as saying they’d try again in 2022.
But part of the assessment will include an examination of what happened with the Chicago bid and whether that city would look ahead to the 2020 Games. There’s a history of some unsuccessful cities regrouping and coming back with another bid on the next try. But there also have been instances where a rejected city says it’s had enough.
If Chicago decides to try again, it could make for some uneasy moments for the Reno Tahoe group. If Chicago wants to try again for 2020, would the USOC put all its efforts into that and forget about the Winter Games for 2018? If that happens, Reno Tahoe would endure the same frustration it had this time, quietly sitting on the sidelines wishing Chicago well and wondering whether their dreams of bringing the event to Nevada would ever be realized.
If the Reno Tahoe group does end up getting the chance to bid for the Games it would first have to convince the USOC that it has the United States’ best bid. Denver won a bid to host the Winter Games in 1976 but gave it up after environmental concerns forced the city to abandon the plan.
But Denver is once again in the game today and don’t forget that the USOC is based in nearby Colorado Springs, not that that would have any influence on the final decision.
But let’s assume that the Reno Tahoe group is successful. What can be learned from Chicago’s failed effort?
Would Nevada’s political leadership lead the charge to secure the Games? Who would be the state’s best bet to accomplish that? Sen. Harry Reid? Sen. John Ensign? Gov. Jim Gibbons? On second thought, maybe a Nevada politician shouldn’t do this.
How about recruiting President Obama? He could improve his Olympic batting average with a successful promotion of the bid. And he could repair some of the damage his unfortunate remarks about not using government money for extravagances that the public incorrectly interpreted as “don’t go to Las Vegas,” which has negatively affected the state’s meetings and convention business.
My nomination would be California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. His Hollywood persona would certainly get some mileage in the bid for Olympic gold.
Nevada’s best known Olympic champion is also one of the state’s great humanitarians — Andre Agassi. Unfortunately, he competed in the Summer Games, not the Winter, but he lived the Olympic Games experience and I’m thinking a strong appeal from him would be well received by the IOC decision-makers.
There’s a lot on the Reno Tahoe group’s plate and it has nothing to do with eating frikadeller.
Paris flights: It’s official
Officials with Paris-based XL Airways last week confirmed a story first reported locally in In Business Las Vegas’ sister publication, the Las Vegas Sun.
Beginning in May, XL, a small charter airline, will begin twice-weekly nonstop flights between Paris and Las Vegas.
Flights will be operated on twin-engine Airbus A330-220 jets with a capacity of 333 economy-class seats and 21 “comfort seats.”
The days and times of flights are ideal for local resorts. The flights will operate Thursdays and Sundays, leaving Paris’ Charles de Gaulle International Airport at 3:30 p.m., arriving at McCarran International Airport at 5:45 p.m. The return flight leaves Las Vegas at 8 p.m., arriving in Paris the next day at 3:15 p.m.
It will be the first regularly scheduled nonstop flights to and from France. The operation will be similar to flights to and from Germany on Condor, which operates nonstops to Frankfurt.
It will be interesting to see how the nonstop Paris service does against British Airways, which is starting daily nonstop flights between London’s Heathrow International Airport and Las Vegas later this month.
British Airways has a vast network of flights in Europe and much of the appeal of that service will be BA’s ability to offer one-stop connections from virtually every major city in Europe, including Paris.
XL is a small operator — it only has five planes in its fleet while BA is one of the world’s largest carriers.
But any traveler will tell you that, especially on overseas flights, nonstop travel is the better way to go.
Richard N. Velotta covers tourism, technology and small business for In Business Las Vegas and its sister publication, the Las Vegas Sun. He can be reached at 259-4061 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.