- Written by Ben Jacklet
- Category: News
- Published: February 27, 2014
- Last Updated: February 28, 2014
Matthew Subotnick is a 42-year-old lifelong Oregonian with a massive dream: to bring the Winter Olympics to Portland in 2026.
Imagine luge runs down Skibowl, figure skating at Memorial Coliseum, Olympic slopestyle on Paintbrush, a ripping downhill course down ... I don't know, Elevator? Reynolds? Palmer? Somewhere on Bachelor? Help me out here...
How about biathlon at Teacup, curling in Beaverton, big-time ski jumping on the old Jump Hill at Multorpor, Olympic hockey at the Rose Garden?
It's definitely fun to picture, but it doesn't take long before imposing questions come to mind.
Like who pays for all this? And how much?
And what about the potential environmental impacts to Mount Hood and its surroundings?
And even if you found a perfectly green way to make it all happen, how could you ever expect to win timely approval from federal bureaucrats?
The big questions don't seem to phase Subotnick, a full-time student and "huge Olympics junkie" with three kids, a love of skiing and a background in film, radio and marketing. He's got a website, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account, and he's working all three of them to drum up support. He's also meeting with reporters, curious business leaders and anyone else who can boost his cause for "the greenest Winter Olympics ever.".
He says that most people look at him like he's crazy when he makes the case for bringing the Winter Olympics to Portland, but the more you investigate the notion, the more sense it makes, especially if you consider Bend/Bachelor as a satellite location for Nordic and Alpine events.
"The timing is right, Portland is the right size, and we have the infrastructure to pull it off," he says. "We also have the benefit of learning from Vancouver and Sochi, so we could manage the pitfalls... We could do things sustainably and fiscally responsibly."
The going estimate is that Russia spent a whopping $50 billion on the Sochi games. Subotnick, who is no economist, estimates that Portland could pull it off for $1.5 billion, with funding from private industry as well as the U.S. and International Olympic Committees.
In Subotnick's view, that would be money well spent on infrastructure and legacy: Highway 26 road improvements, a Mount Hood gondola, Olympic lodging to be converted into low-income housing after the games, new athletic facilities that would give kids and fans access to sports like speed skating, ski jumping and luge. The phrase he uses for all this is "Olympic investment."
"Let's face it, the Olympics are an indulgence," he says. "They are games. But on the other hand, the point is to show the best of us. And we can show the best of us not just from a sporting perspective, but from what the community has to offer, what Portland has to offer. What we have to offer is our environmental awareness, our frontier spirit."
Again, fun to imagine, but... how do you actually make it happen?
Subotnick says he is fully aware that to launch a true campaign he will need three things he does not yet have: broad-based public support, people with money and people with authority. If he can get a serious Olympic exploratory committee assembled by this fall, they could shoot for an initial bid by 2017, and try to win support (and funding) from the U.S. Olympic Committee. The site of the 2026 games will be decided in 2019.
Competition is bound to be tough, with Anchorage, Reno/Tahoe, Boston and Denver all vying to win support from the USOC for hosting the games in 2026.
Subotnick is optimistic that Portland would have "as good of a shot as anyone else."
Portland has tried to host the Olympics in the past, most notably in the 1960s, when Mayor Terry Schrunk and the Portland City Council endorsed a 60,000-seat Rose City Olympic Center at Delta Park but failed to win over the USOC. Pacific University's Jules Boykoff argued in a recent guest column for the Oregonian that failing to bring the Olympics to Portland was a good thing for the city, because the Olympics are inherently tainted by "corporate schmaltz" and "astronomical costs."
Subotnick says it doesn't have to be that way: "We can make the Olympics what we want them to be."
So how about you, dear reader?
What do you think of the idea of bringing the Winter Olympics to Portland in 2026?