This Might Be The Biggest What-if Of All

Speaking of Portland’s rejection of the Delta Dome, co-worker Paul Danzer ran across this fascinating blog post from somebody named Dan Haneckow.

In 1962, led by Gov. Mark Hatfield and mayor Terry Schrunk, Portland made a bid to host the 1968 Summer Olympics, which eventually were awarded to Mexico City. Haneckow includes the portfolio — titled “Portland Invites the XIX Olympiad” — the Portland group presented to the committee that would select the U.S. city to bid on the Games.

The Rose City Olympic Center, including the main stadium and the natatorium, would cover Delta Park and apparently what is now the Expo Center area. The open-air stadium would have seating for 60,000, with 20,000 additional temporary seats and standing room for 10,000 more. The then-new Memorial Coliseum would have been used, and the boating center would have been down in the Sellwood area.

The committee ended up selecting Detroit for the U.S. bid. Detroit! For the 1968 Olympics! Yeah, that would have gone well, following the riots of the previous year. Nothing says “welcome” to the world like burning down 2,000 buildings.

It’s amazing to think that Portland once had world-sized dreams. Now it can’t even get a stadium for a minor-league baseball team. Of course, knowing Portland, it probably would have been awarded the Olympics and the voters still would have turned down a stadium.

That happened to Denver with the 1976 Winter Games.

With the Winter Olympics taking place just hours away in recent weeks, I got to thinking about the possibility of Seattle someday making a bid for the Summer Games. This could actually work, if there’s any political will to support it.

The primary benefit would be that the University of Washington could finally get its new football stadium. Think about it. Husky Stadium could be renovated as the main Olympic stadium, and the Huskies would be left with a world-class facility. Otherwise, UW is left asking for a $350 million handout from taxpayers.

Qwest Field could be used for soccer. KeyArena could be renovated and used for basketball. Hec Ed could host volleyball. There’s a world-class natatorium in Federal Way, although it couldn’t accommodate Olympic-sized swimming crowds. But the 2008 U.S. Olympic swimming trials were conducted in a temporary pool set up in a parking lot in Omaha, so maybe they could do that for swimming. ShoWare Arena in Kent could be used for something. There’s plenty or water around for the rowing and sailing competitions. Memorial Stadium at Seattle Center could be used for field hockey, etc., etc.

Many of the facilities are already in place and would require only renovation. The Olympics have grown exponentially over the past five decades, to the point where it’s now laughable to think of Portland making a bid. But Seattle? Seattle could do it. After all, it managed to build the Kingdome and Safeco and Qwest, while Portland’s dreams seem to end with Major League Soccer.

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