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Lighting the Torch

A closer look at the potential San Diego-Tijuana bid for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games


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Olympics illustration

San Diegans have been abuzz about efforts to land the Olympic Games in America’s Finest City and Tijuana in 2024. And it’s not such a far-fetched idea.

It is a chance for two cities to show they share more than just the Olympic spirit. A bi-national Olympics with Tijuana would display the cultural and economic ties of our two countries. It is, at the moment, not allowed by the Olympic committee—but we have 11 years to change that. While two nations sharing the responsibilities would be a first in Olympic history, it would not be the first time that different countries have partnered to host major athletic events.

Soccer has been coordinated across country lines for years. Last year, the European Championships were hosted jointly by Poland and Ukraine. They set up posts along the border so fans with tickets and nothing to declare could cross quickly. We could set up a similar streamlined and secure process to allow easy passage between San Diego and Tijuana.  

As for the travel distance, San Diego and Tijuana are next-door neighbors. Compare that to the Games in London. Sailing events were held more than 100 miles away, in Weymouth. In Beijing, getting to equestrian events required a three-and-a-half-hour flight.  

Some worry about the safety of Tijuana. But crime statistics do not match those fears. Recent data from The Citizen Council for Public Safety and Criminal Justice shows that New Orleans, St. Louis, and Oakland all have more murders per capita than Tijuana. In fact, Tijuana didn’t even make the list of the 50 most violent cities in the world.

"Picture beach volleyball in the shadow of Navy SEALs training in Coronado, or basketball games on the flight deck of the USS Midway. What about finally making surfing an Olympic sport?"

Apart from the bi-national appeal, many things about San Diego make it a natural fit for hosting the Olympics. Of course, we have ideal temperatures (and who can compare Athens’ gyros to our fish tacos?). More importantly, we know how to manage epic events. We’ve hosted the Super Bowl, the U.S. Open, the America’s Cup, and a national political convention. If we can handle Comic-Con, with visitors from other planets, visitors from other countries should be easy.  

Let’s dream for a minute of what might be: Picture beach volleyball in the shadow of Navy SEALs training in Coronado, or basketball games on the flight deck of the USS Midway. What about finally making surfing an Olympic sport? Some Europeans might feel at home watching surfing at Black’s Beach. How about CrossFit? The fitness craze with a massive local following has gone global, and its competitions are now broadcast on ESPN. It’s only a matter of time before the title of “Fittest on Earth” is accompanied by a gold medal.  

The Olympics are all about far-reaching dreams and achieving the impossible. They take the greatest parts of overcoming adversity, achievement, and perseverance, and then mix in some national pride that produces moments for the ages. Think about the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin, which Adolf Hitler intended to be a tribute to the superiority of the Aryan race. American Jesse Owens, the son of an Alabama sharecropper and grandson of slaves, took home four gold medals. One of my favorite Olympic moments is when the U.S. hockey team, made up of amateurs and college students, overcame the heavily favored Soviet team. A true win for the good guys—we won the gold medal and the Cold War. (And it sure felt good in the movie Miracle!)

A joint San Diego-Tijuana bid to host the Olympics may seem a lofty goal to some, but that is what the Olympic spirit is all about. It is what we are all about. It is time to light the torch, San Diego. Let’s go! 

By Nathan Fletcher
He may not have won the mayorship last year, but the Qualcomm innovator and UCSD professor still has ideas for our city. He shares them here every other month.

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