San Francisco withdraws bid to host 2016 Olympics

Updated: November 13, 2006, 8:10 PM ET
Associated Press

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.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

ALSO SEE