The Norman Transcript

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April 28, 2013

Tulsa weighing 2024 summer Olympic bid

TULSA — Buoyed by its success hosting a major fishing tournament this winter, Oklahoma’s second-largest city is now dreaming of something faster, higher, stronger: the 2024 Summer Olympics.

Local officials acknowledge the idea is a bit far-fetched, but Tulsa was among several small cities that received letters from the U.S. Olympic Committee asking whether they might be interested in hosting the games.

“Some people think of Tulsa as a flyover, Dust Bowl town,” said Neil Mavis, a member of the Tulsa 2024 Olympic Exploratory Committee. “Many people think of cowboys and Indians. ... Bidding for the Olympics is the one way to change those stereotypes.”

The USOC recently wrote to the mayors of nearly three dozen cities seeking potential hosts after New York and Chicago lost bids for the 2012 and 2016 games. Most inquiries went to major metropolitan areas, but a handful landed in smaller cities including Portland, Ore., and Memphis, Tenn.

Tulsa, home to about 400,000 people, was among the smallest on the list. The USOC says it was one of 10 cities to say it’s looking into a bid.

“I see this as a great opportunity, I really do,” Mayor Dewey Bartlett said. “If we come off looking a little lighthearted on it, so much the better, but we are serious about putting our name out there.”

The city would have a lot of work to do just to meet the USOC’s hosting standards.

The Tulsa area has around 13,000 hotel rooms, far fewer than the 45,000 required, and Mavis said the city would have to finance and build an Olympic stadium to host major events. Tulsa’s largest facilities now are the 30,000-seat Skelly Field at H.A. Chapman Stadium on the University of Tulsa’s midtown campus and the 19,000-seat indoor arena at the BOK Center downtown.

And the price tag? It’s steep: Mavis estimates it would take a $3.5 billion budget to host the Summer Games, though he insisted no local tax dollars would be used.

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