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Pittsburgh’s Olympic dream is just that

Commentary

February 25, 2013
By John Mehno , The Altoona Mirror

PITTSBURGH - At long last, Pittsburgh is thinking big. No sooner had the crackpot discussion of hosting the Super Bowl faded that news broke suggesting the city was a candidate to host the Summer Olympics in 2024.

The U.S. Olympic Committee sent a letter to gauge Pittsburgh's interest. The same letter was sent to 35 mayors, which reminds that the late Ed McMahon used to send letters saying, "You may already be a winner." So regular mail is sometimes no more trustworthy than those email messages from Nigerian noblemen.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's response was tepid, perhaps because he was distracted by the FBI dropping by to investigate the city's police department.

"Pittsburgh is on the map," county executive Rich Fitzgerald said, and it's hard to argue with that. Thanks to Rand McNally, you can see it right below Zelienople and just to the left of Export. He didn't mean that literally, of course, but in the broader sense that Olympic officials are at least aware that Pittsburgh exists.

The fact that Rochester, N.Y., got the same letter might curb your enthusiasm just a bit.

The biggest obstacle -beyond the basic $3 billion nest egg required - is a lack of hotel rooms. The Olympics likes the host city to have 45,000, and Pittsburgh offers about 24,000. Unless someone gets a sweet deal on 20,000 bunk beds, that's a problem.

The only thing we have in a quantity of 45,000 is neighborhood pizza shops. And while many of them would be willing to arrange the pepperoni in the pattern of the Olympic rings, that really won't help anything.

It would seem as though we would need more than 11 years to get ready. We'd have to secure parade permits, reschedule the Regatta, order fireworks and get all the Orie sisters paroled to throw a party this big.

Pittsburgh doesn't like to admit that certain things are beyond its grasp, but the Olympics might be too big. Let's remember this is a city that had a crisis when a Pirates game, a concert and the Arts Festival all happened on the same Saturday. The spirit may be willing, but the infrastructure is weak.

But it's flattering to be asked, and it's fun to dream of days when scalpers might be doing a brisk business in badminton tickets. Relax, Pitt band members. There's no need to brush up on the national anthem of Botswana.

If nothing else, the letter proved this: In a world increasingly reliant on texting and Tweeting, it's still fun to get mail.

Mehno can be reached at johnmehnocolumn@gmail.com.

 
 

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