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San Francisco withdraws bid to host 2016 Olympics

11/13/2006

SAN FRANCISCO -- A city's dreams of Olympic competition in
the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge were dashed Monday when San
Francisco dropped out of the running for the 2016 Summer Games,
leaving Los Angeles and Chicago as the only possible American
candidates.

San Francisco abandoned its bid for the Olympics after plans for
a new bayfront stadium collapsed when the city's NFL team said it
intended to move to Silicon Valley.

John York, owner of the San Francisco 49ers, told city officials
last week he was breaking off negotiations for a new stadium at
Candlestick Point and was considering a move to Santa Clara.

"There's been a tremendous amount of uncertainty created around
the stadium process which has made our bid untenable," said Peter
Ragone, spokesman for San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.

Scott Givens, managing director and chief executive officer of
the San Francisco 2016 Bid Committee, said the 49ers' decision
created a "perceptual gap" that hurt the city's reputation in the
eyes of the Olympic committee.

"The damage has been done and the damage can't be pulled
back," he said.

The International Olympic Committee will select the host city in
2009. Madrid, Spain; New Delhi; Prague, Czech Republic; Rio de
Janeiro, Brazil; Rome; and Tokyo are among those to have expressed
interest. The Summer Olympics will be in Beijing in 2008 and London
in 2012.

The 49ers said Monday they had encouraged the bid committee not
to build its entire proposal around a new 49ers stadium at
Candlestick Point. Still, members of the city's Olympic organizing
panel were jolted by the team's decision.

"We're numb and we're very disappointed at the recent turn of
events," said Anne Cribbs, a committee member who won a swimming
gold medal in the 1960 Games.

Following last week's announcement, the committee said it would
try to find a new location for marquee events, including the
opening and closing ceremonies and track and field competition.

But the options they considered -- including modifying AT&T Park,
home of baseball's San Francisco Giants; expanding Kezar Stadium in
Golden Gate Park; or building a new stadium at Candlestick Point
without the 49ers' help -- all proved unworkable, Givens said.

Another backup plan might have been the refurbishing of an aging
Monster Park, the 49ers' current home. In a September letter to
Newsom that was made public by the team on Monday, York said it
would "seem prudent" for the bid committee to further explore the
Monster Park option.

"This could provide a backup plan," York wrote.

"The bid committee showed no signs of listening to the team's
repeated requests that they consider other plans," 49ers
spokeswoman Katherine Madariaga said.

But city officials said the bid was a long shot at best without
a new stadium.

"We, like everyone else in San Francisco, were under the
impression the backup plan wasn't required," Ragone said. "We
were under the impression the 49ers were committed to staying in
San Francisco."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., a former San Francisco mayor
who strongly opposes a 49ers move and has tried intervening with
team owners, planned to raise the issue at a Senate Judiciary
Committee hearing Tuesday about sports broadcasting, her spokesman
Scott Gerber said. He declined to specify what questions Feinstein
planned to ask.

A spokeswoman for the 49ers said no new talks with San Francisco
officials were currently scheduled.

The U.S. Olympic Committee is eager to avoid a repeat of New
York's failed 2012 Olympics bid. Financing for the New York stadium
fell apart about a month before the final vote, and the city didn't
get nearly the votes it needed to host the games.

All cities were told at the start of the bidding process this
spring that they must "either have an existing Olympic stadium or
financing and approvals in place for a new stadium" to receive
consideration, USOC spokesman Darryl Seibel said.

Now, either Los Angeles or Chicago will be the American
candidate if the USOC decides in December to nominate a city. The
candidates must give a detailed presentation of their plan to the
USOC by March 31. The USOC would choose its candidate in April.

"While the decision to withdraw was undoubtedly a difficult
one, it underscores the commitment made by the San Francisco 2016
bid committee to lend its full support to any U.S. city that may
ultimately be selected," USOC vice president Bob Ctvrtlik said.

Los Angeles is the only American candidate with a stadium in
place. The host of the 1932 and 1984 Games would use a refurbished
Los Angeles Coliseum. The extent of the restoration will depend in
part on whether the NFL returns to Los Angeles.

The city also has permanent venues in place for every sport that
needs them, save shooting. They propose using housing at UCLA and
USC for the Olympic village. They believe the package they offer --
with more venues in place and fewer financial questions -- will
outweigh concerns about bringing the Olympics back to Southern
California a third time.

Chicago proposes a new stadium in its Washington Park area, the
centerpiece of an Olympics that would be based around Lake Michigan
and downtown. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley said before San
Francisco's formal announcement that his city's plan is in "very,
very good shape." He said Chicago's transportation systems,
including two major airports, help give it a leg up on Los Angeles.

Chicago is counting on private financing to pay for its Olympic
dreams, which include building a 95,000-seat stadium in a historic
South Side park.