Madison’s Olympic Opportunity

It’s hard to get excited about something that may or may not happen seven years from now. But then again, it’s hard not to get excited that Madison, Wisconsin might be a part of the 2016 Olympics.

Madison will never host a Super Bowl, Academy Awards presentation, or a World’s Fair. We’ll never host an Olympics — the most prestigious event of them all — either, but we can come very close. (If our neighbor to the south gets its bid, we’ll be a significant part of it).

Full disclosure: I’m on the board of the Greater Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau, and thus can be expected to be excited about such possibilities. But my Madison pride was in place long before I got involved with the GMCVB. Visitor spending helps us maintain our great quality of life, contributes to tax revenues, and provides jobs.

The event would showcase Madison internationally, bring thousands of visitors to the area, and establish us as a world class cycling venue for the future.

Madison’s previous hosting of the Ironman competition gives us the credibility for consideration as an Olympic venue. The cycling course starts on the UW campus, winds through Madison and on to Blue Mound State Park. The mountain bike course would be at Tyrol Basin near Mount Horeb.

Chicago 2016, the organization making the bid, has already spent millions in detailed planning as part of its pitch for the $4-billion games. Because there’s no suitable site for cycling in Chicago, an auxiliary facility called the Wisconsin Olympic Village would be constructed on the UW-Madison campus in the Natatorium area. “For the mountain bike and road cycling competitions, cyclists and officials will stay in a brand-new student residential complex at the University of Wisconsin in Madison on the beautiful shores of Lake Mendota,” offers Chicago 2016’s bid book.

We’re not talking about tents or mobile homes. The renderings in Chicago 2016’s literature depict a beautiful complex of buildings, tracks, and grandstands. It notes that the auxiliary villages are required to have “all the amenities, services, and space enjoyed in the Central Village.” The detailed plans show everything from media facilities to “doping control and blood testing” rooms. The permanent structures would be financed by the UW and would become part of the campus infrastructure following the games.

Madison area officials and organizations were requested to sign a letter indicating general support and have done so.

Local venues have been asked to agree not to gouge visitors. One thing organizers seem to be concerned about is “ambush marketing.”

Local venues have been asked not to allow non-sponsors to use local media (billboards in particular) to profit from the Olympic aura without anteing up.
We’ll find out in October if Chicago gets the bid over Tokyo, Madrid, and Rio de Janeiro. I’ve heard that Chicago’s chance is excellent.

For now, mark your calendars (in pencil) for July 2016.