By Duncan Mackay

USA flag with ringsFebruary 19 - The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) have today taken a significant step in launching a bid for the 2024 Olympics and Paralympics by sending a letter to 35 cities to gauge their interest in putting themselves forward.

The US have not hosted the Summer Olympics since Atlanta in 1996 after New York City and Chicago both failed with bids for the 2012 and 2016 Games respectively. 

But, with relations improving with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), there is renewed hope that a US bid would be received more favourably.

The letter has been sent to the 25 largest cities in the US, plus those that have previously expressed an interest in bidding.

"As you may know, the United States Olympic Committee is currently considering a bid for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games," Scott Blackmun, chief executive of the USOC, wrote in a letter to the city's Mayors. 

"As we explore this exciting possibility, we are actively seeking to gauge the interest of US cities that may have the ability to host an event with the scope and scale of the Olympic Games.

"To that end, we are reaching out to cities that have previously expressed an interest in bidding as well as the cities in the largest 25 US markets."

The letter has been sent to the Mayors of Phoenix, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Denver, Washington, Jackonsville, Miami, Orlando, Atlanta, Chicago, Indanapolis, Baltimore, Boston, Detroit, Minneapolis, St Louis, Las Vegas, New York, Rochester, Charlotte, Columbus, Tulsa, Portland, Philadelphia, Pittsburg, Memphis, Nashville & Davidson County, Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Seattle.

Muhammad Ali lights Olympic torch Atlanta 1996Atlanta was the last American city to host the Summer Olympics in 1996, when Muhammad Ali lit the flame during an emotional Opening Ceremony

"As you saw in London, the Olympic and Paralympic Games bring people together in a magnificent celebration of sport and the human spirit, unifying disparate cultures and beliefs around a shared set of values.

"For 29 magical days, differences are forgotten and human achievement becomes the theme.

"Win or lose, joy springs from the effort to be the very best we can be, and sport makes the world a better place.

"Now more than ever, we need to use the power of the Olympic and Paralympic Games to encourage our youth to be active and engaged in sport.

"Based on expected International Olympic Committee deadlines, we have 2+ years to decide whether we want to submit a bid for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games.

"We would like to begin having discussions with interested cities about possible bid themes as well as the infrastructure, financial resources and other assets that are required to host the Games.

"Our objective in this process is to identify a partner city that can work with us to present a compelling bid to the IOC and that has the right alignment of political, business and community leadership.

"We are seeking a partner that understands the value of the Olympic Games and the legacy that can be created not only for their community, but for our country."

Blackmun warns in the letter that any city bidding will need an operating budget of at least $3 billion (£2 billion/€2.5 billion), not including costs associated with venue construction and other infrastructure.

Among the requirements laid out by Blackmun are a city that has 45,000 hotel rooms, the ability to build Olympic Village that sleeps 16,500 and a 5,000-person dining hall, an operations space for over 15,000 media and broadcasters, an international airport that can handle thousands of international travelers per day, public transportation service to venues. roadway closures to allow exclusive use for Games-related transportation and a workforce of up to 200,000.

Barack Obama addressing IOC Copenhagen October 2 2009Chicago's bid to host the 2016 Olympics ended in humiliation four years ago despite the presence of US President Barack Obama at the final vote in Copenhagen

"While the Games require a formidable commitment, they also provide an unparalleled opportunity for a city to evolve and grow," writes Blackmun.

"The Games have had a transformative impact on a number of host cities, including Barcelona, Beijing and London. 

"They enable the creation and implementation of a new vision and provide a powerful rallying point for progress."

Blackmun also signalled that the USOC would adopt a different process to selecting a bid city than they have reviously.

"Both New York and Chicago had to participate in a domestic bid process that cost upwards of $10 million (£6.5 million/€7.5 million) before they were designated by the USOC as an IOC Applicant City," he writes.

"Moving forward, we are going to select our Applicant City through a thoughtful but more efficient process.

"The first step in that process is to have discussions with interested cities."

The US has staged the Summer Olympics four times in its 117-year history.

Besides Atlanta in 1996, it was hosted in St Louis in 1904 and Los Angeles in 1932 and 1984. 

Los Angeles will be among the early favourites to be selected as the bid city and have already expressed an interest in putting themselves forward.

Los Angeles 1932 OlympicsLos Angeles, which hosted the 1932 and 1984 Olympics, are expected to be among the US cities interested in bidding for 2024

But New York and Chicago will prove contenders if they are prepared to try again while Dallas, Houston and Tulsa have all claimed in recent times that they want to bid.

The IOC is open the bidding process for 2024 in 2015, shortly after choosing a host city for the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics. 

But cities from around the world interested in bidding are expected to start emerging later this year after the IOC has chosen Istanbul, Madrid or Tokyo to host the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics at its Session in Buenos Aires on September 7. 

A decision on which city hosts 2024 would be due in 2017.

Patrick Sandusky, the USOC's spokesman, claimed that the letter "does not guarantee the USOC will bid for the 2024 Games, but rather is an initial step, in evaluating a bid".

Nevertheless, the fact that the USOC has launched even a tenative process will cause excitement among several US cities interested in bidding. 

"Our objective in this process is to identify a partner city that can work with us to present a compelling bid to the IOC and that has the right alignment of political, business and community leadership," said Sandusky.

"The process we've devised thus far will help all of us determine the right way forward, and will do so in an economically efficient way, something that's critically important for everyone involved."

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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