As the 2016 games begin, I find myself wondering that one thing I wonder every two years. No, not when NBC might start doing decent coverage of the games; I gave up on that dream long ago. Instead I find myself asking, “Why not Phoenix?”
I’ve lived in Phoenix, Arizona, for the last 11 years now, and one thing that constantly surprises me about this city is its lack of ambition. We never really seem to push to get seen on the national or international stage. In fact, until I moved here I had no idea that this is the sixth largest city in America.
We’ve hosted the Superbowl a few times (well, Glendale has, but same thing), and so we’ve proven that we can handle a large sporting event. So why not try for the Summer Olympics?
There are a few arguments here, and they basically boil down to heat, traffic, and money.
The heat part is very easy to overcome. All you do is hold the Olympics in April. Problem solved. There’s plenty of precedent for the Olympics to be held in months that are outside the standard for the season the games are supposed to relate to. April here isn’t bad at all, with only a couple 100 degree days, and mostly pleasant weather.
As for the traffic, yeah, that’d certainly be a problem, no denying it. But it doesn’t have to be that big of a problem. If this happened, it would happen a decade or two hence, and that’s plenty of time to continue to expand the light rail system. If we did that, and added a lot more buses, and also widened the freeways where we could, that would not only alleviate traffic concerns for the Olympics, but it would also alleviate them for the city in general.
Now I can’t escape the fact that this would cost money. We do actually have several decent athletic venues here in Phoenix, and the greater Phoenix area. Chase Field, Talking Stick Resort Arena, Sun Devil Stadium, the arenas over in Glendale, etc, etc. We have plenty of space for water venues, too. I’m not sure how much we’d have to build, but I bet we’d have to build less than other cities might.
Of course, even then we’d still have to pay for what we build. But you know, I’d be happy to pay an extra .5% sales tax if it went to the Olympics. I’d even go as high as 1%. Because not only would it leave us with, in theory, a better infrastructure, it would also help showcase on the national and international stage, and it would be positive focus, unlike so many times when we’re in the news for various negative reasons.
I’d really like to see this happen, but I know it won’t. Phoenicians just don’t really seem to want anything big here, and that’s a shame, because our lack of ambition will cost us in the end.