Tulsa hosted the Bassmaster Classic in February, drawing the event’s second-largest crowd ever with 106,000 people. But more than 8 million tickets were sold at the 1996 Atlanta Games, the last Summer Olympics held in the U.S., and nearly 7 million were sold at Beijing in 2008.
Smaller cities often host Winter Games, such as Lake Placid, N.Y., and Squaw Valley, Calif. But it’s far rarer for the Summer Games. St. Louis hosted the 1904 Summer Games, though it was the country’s fourth-largest city at the time.
Mavis argued that Tulsa is about the same size, infrastructure-wise, as Atlanta was in 1988, when it successfully submitted its bid for the 1996 games.
However, the Atlanta metropolitan area had about 4 million people at the time of the games — roughly the same as Oklahoma’s entire population — and was home to the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons and Major League Baseball’s Atlanta Braves.
Atlanta farmed out events to other sites in Georgia; Mavis would do the same in Oklahoma. Mavis also noted the city already has suitable venues for several sports, listing 25-plus sites for everything from badminton to the marathon to table tennis.
Clay Bird, the city’s chief economic development officer, admired the groundwork laid by Mavis and others. But he cautioned that city officials were approaching the opportunity merely to “see what’s out there” and not because they think Tulsa has a decent shot at landing the 2024 Olympics.
“I don’t want people to think that we have such rose-colored glasses on that we’re going to jump into this with everything we have and compete,” Bird said. “We believe in our community, but we don’t want to be a laughingstock. We don’t want to lose credibility.”
City Councilwoman Karen Gilbert described the prospect of Tulsa being considered to host an Olympics as “a good kind of crazy.” Two years ago, the city dreamed of obtaining a retired space shuttle — perhaps a piece of the “Altius,” part of the Olympic theme: “Citius, Altius, Fortius.”
“It’s going out there and saying, ‘We want the big stuff,”’ Gilbert said. “It doesn’t hurt to shoot for the stars, you know?”