Let games begin in Pittsburgh-Cleveland
I’m sleep deprived. And while I enjoy my new job, I try not to work all nighters at it. No, I have been losing sleep over the last two weeks because I love watching the Olympics, and to do so live. The last three Olympics, two winter games and one summer, have been hosted by Northern Asian cities. While that is certainly reflective of the region’s rising prominence, it is going to be good for viewership in the U.S. when the games next go to Europe (Paris and Milan / Cortina, respectively). It’ll certainly be good for my sleep patterns.
Regarding the Milan-Cortina Winter Olympics planned for 2026, it was brave and realistic for two cities in Italy to share in the hosting. Of course, for winter games both a city centre being utilized and a mountain region is not new, in fact these Beijing games are doing similar. But this sharing in the planning, logistics and expense had me thinking — what is stopping a region like Cleveland-Pittsburgh from bidding on hosting a forthcoming summer games? I actually think nothing is.
Hosting an Olympics is a very expensive proposition. In fact the Los Angeles Summer Olympics for 2028 has an operating budget of nearly $7 billion. And LA won in part due to many stadiums and facilities are already built. In context, $7 billion is roughly 1 percent of LA’s annual GDP. That same amount would be closer to 3 percent of the two cities’ combined GDP. But where LA and the Cleveland-Pittsburgh region are alike are in having significant corporate headquarters, foundations, and strong support from their state’s capitals. LA pledges the private sector will support their games, and I suspect similar could happen in NE Ohio and SW Pennsylvania.
In the past, the International Olympic Committee, or IOC, used to award a city based on what transformation would be undertaken for the betterment of the people of the region. In Pittsburgh-Cleveland, the biggest need would be transportation interconnectivity. The timing couldn’t be better. In Ohio, there is excitement over proposed rail service connecting ‘the three Cs’ — Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati. But the reality is Cleveland’s regional economy is not connected to the other two. But it IS connected to Akron’s, Erie’s, Youngstown’s and Pittsburgh’s. This super region has similar industries, cultures, and vibrancy.
In fact the federal government recognized this connection in 2012 when President Obama awarded the region an innovation hub for additive manufacturing (located in Youngstown, by the way). The region has beautiful stadiums and arenas to host summer games. Why not host boxing at the Covelli Centre (a must!), archery at Wean Park, rugby at Stambaugh Stadium and softball at Eastwood Field?
Before regional leaders burn the midnight oil preparing its bid, an exploratory committee should be formed to ask if it’s worth pursuing. If it is, I’m confident the Organizing Committee would be populated with so many of the region’s great leaders — especially no-nonsense, practical Midwest business leaders, that a bid can be made with transparency, efficient use of private sector funds and done so in a way to benefit the people of the region for decades. To witnessing colorful sailboats racing on Lake Erie, to the thrill of seeing equestrian events in the foothills of Pennsylvania, the region would shine for the world to see.
Soon after you read this, the cauldron in Beijing will be extinguished and we will await for the world to come together once again in Paris in 2024. I think the exercise of considering whether to bid for the games can be another unique way for the region to come together and form a greater unified identity. Of course the question remains: which city would host the Opening Ceremony and which the Closing Ceremony? I say in the NFL season that coincides with the bidding, whichever team has the best record at the end of the season, the Browns or the Steelers, gets to host the Opening Ceremony. That should liven things up a bit. Let the games begin!
Eric Planey is a native of the Mahoning Valley, and is currently a clean technology executive living in the Hudson Valley of New York with his wife Jakyung.