Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Opinion

Henderson: Tampa's Olympics lesson — be careful what you wish for

As a spectacle, the Olympiad is irresistible.

You don't have to know a thing about synchronized swimming (whew), gymnastics, or any of the other Olympic sports to be mesmerized by the quadrennial global gathering of athletes from nations large and small. So it will be next month, when all airline routes lead to Rio de Janeiro as the Games begin.

But with all these winners there must also be a loser and the early line has Brazil, the host nation, as a heavy underdog. The pollution, fears of terrorism and militant mosquitoes carrying a dangerous virus are bad enough. Wait until the party ends, though, and Brazilians are handed the check for two weeks of excess.

That nation already has an estimated $14 billion debt from the 2014 World Cup in soccer, but that might seem like tip money by the time these Games are over. So why would any nation volunteer — let alone compete — to host this thing?

It seemed like a good question to ask Ed Turanchik. He was the force behind Tampa Bay's bid to host the 2012 Games. The bid was unsuccessful. Just lucky, I guess. The push to bring the Games here was a fool's errand from the start and the citizenry should be forever thankful it didn't work.

I'm still glad he tried.

"The cool thing about our Olympic bid is that it created such a big buzz for our region," Turanchik said. "I think people really need a vision to rally around. That is one thing we are starved for here."

Tampa Bay's bid to be the United States representative in the 2012 Games was eliminated early. London eventually was named the host. But let your imagination play a little "what-if" game.

High-speed rail between Tampa and Orlando was an essential part of the plan because the bid depended heavily on regional participation. A stadium would have been built at the University of South Florida campus that the football team could now use. An Olympic park and village would have sped up downtown Tampa's redevelopment.

Those things are expensive though, and that brings us back to Rio and the problems there. Many experts also believe the financial problems that have beset Greece date to the 2004 Games in Athens.

I covered those Games and they were beautiful, spectacular, thrilling — and a binge spend Greece couldn't afford. Athens, desperate to show it was a city with more than ancient ruins, threw sanity to the curb and spent itself into near catastrophe.

There was a new airport, massive security, a subway system, and multiple stadiums. I remember wondering what would become of those beautiful venues after everyone left.

Many of them are in decay now, a mere 12 years later. The $6.2 billion cost of the Games has helped shackled Greece's economy and has the nation teetering on default.

The blueprint organizers here envisioned for the 2012 Games could have left us with a much different fiscal outlet today. Much of that construction would have happened during a time of calamitous economic free fall around the world.

Turanchik has maintained there was a way to stage a cost-effective Games, but I think there is a good chance we would have been way over our heads.

I didn't come to condemn Turanchik, though, or anyone who bought into his Olympic vision. We need big thoughts. We need dreamers. It's how we become a real city, not just Mayberry with traffic. Looking at the mess in Rio though, sometimes it's better when the other guy wins.

Joe Henderson's column runs Sundays in the Tampa Tribune. Contact him at [email protected] Follow @JHendersonTampa

Comments
Romano: Forget the sewers, St. Pete has a crisis of trust

Romano: Forget the sewers, St. Pete has a crisis of trust

Imagine what kind of spin the world might have endured had St. Petersburg sewer officials been asked to explain the final Hindenburg flight. • The landing, city leaders acknowledged, was bumpy. • Some passengers chose to disembark befor...
Published: 04/23/18

Correction

CorrectionCircuit Judge John Stargel of Lakeland is a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission who voted against a proposed amendment that would have stopped write-in candidates from closing primary elections. An editorial Saturday inco...
Published: 04/23/18

Leonhardt: A time for big economic ideas

The headlines may talk about growth, but we are living in a dark economic era. For most families, income and wealth have stagnated in recent decades, barely keeping pace with inflation. Nearly all the bounty of the economy’s growth has flowed to the ...
Published: 04/23/18
PolitiFact Florida: Does Gov. Rick Scott want to privatize Social Security?

PolitiFact Florida: Does Gov. Rick Scott want to privatize Social Security?

The president of a PAC that works to protect Social Security says Florida Gov. Rick Scott doesn’t have the backs of senior citizens.Jon "Bowzer" Bauman, the president of the Social Security Works PAC (and a former member of the band Sha Na Na), blast...
Published: 04/23/18
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Perspective: The Heartland to Headwaters Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition finds frustration and fear seeking a safe path for wildlife across Interstate 4

Perspective: The Heartland to Headwaters Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition finds frustration and fear seeking a safe path for wildlife across Interstate 4

The original Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition in 2012 was inspired by how the Florida black bear roamed — and the space it needed to do so successfully. In 2010, expedition team member Joe Guthrie conducted research through the University of Kent...
Published: 04/22/18
Romano: Okay, now who sounds like a hysterical teen talking about guns?

Romano: Okay, now who sounds like a hysterical teen talking about guns?

The writer of the letter sounds hysterical. Perhaps a little desperate. And maybe that’s just who Marion Hammer is these days.Most of the world knows her as the take-no-prisoners maven of the National Rifle Association who directs Florida politicians...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the...
Updated: 1 hour ago