The architecture firm Populous, though, designed the London Olympics with Beijing's faults in mind. It's the first so-called "the temporary Olympics." In London, Populous built the Olympic Stadium to hold 80,000 seats for the games, and then to shrink down to 20,000 afterward. Two-thirds of the inflatable basketball arena, designed by London firm WilkinsonEyre.Architects and nicknamed "the marshmallow" will be dismantled or reused after the games. And the volleyball arena is in the middle of the historic Horse Guards Parade, where the queen's brithday is celebrated each year—and where it would be impossible to build otherwise. "London said, we're only going to build new if it's going to be long term," Keas said.
Beyond the benefits of temporary structures to the city, Washington, D.C., has neighborhoods that could gain from some Olympic love. As happened with East London, a more-neglected Washington neighborhood could be turned into a more-developed and better-connected place to live and enjoy.
Washington also has needs for stadium upgrades. The Washington soccer team, D.C. United, wants to put a new stadium in up-and-coming Southwest D.C., which would automatically create a sportscentric vibe; and an Olympic Stadium could easily double as a new soccer playfield. This would leave D.C. United's current stadium, RFK Stadium, in an underdeveloped Capitol Hill neighborhood, up for rehab for other Olympic sports. Another option is to renovate RFK to become an Olympic stadium itself, and then use it to bring the Washington Redskins back to city center, a dream of Gray's and other D.C. politicians. Kill a flock of birds with one stone by creating a world-class Olympics stadium that could transform into an arena for a local sports team.
Some of the obstacles that Gray sees are actually opportunities. Yes, security would need to be watertight for a D.C.-hosted games, but what city in our country has a better start on security than the capital? Superficially, road blocks, bollards, and Secret Service abound. Substantially, underground bunkers, cameras, and plans are already in place for preventing attacks and unwanted disruptions.
And as for the expected overwhelming influx of people into the city., D.C. has two answers: One, London's influx of people didn't occur in the numbers expected; and two, D.C. population triples daily already as people commute to work. In addition, efforts are under way to add a streetcar connecting one D.C. neighborhood with downtown; the streetcar could be pushed along to aid in Olympics transportation. There has also been a plan afoot for years to redevelop a 25-acre portion of D.C. called the McMillan Sand Filtration Plant; a national Olympics committee could easily step in with funding to develop the area for the Olympics in 2024, and for residents in 2025 and beyond.
Lastly, for those who want D.C. to gain statehood, and thereby have their own elected representatives, a Washington Olympics would call attention and possible support to their plight. My brother-in-law, for one, wants to take the statehood issue even further: If D.C. residents can't get their own representatives, then he says that they should at least get their own Olympics team—as does the unincorporated United States territory of Puerto Rico.
Add to all that the advantage of all the nearby embassies: athletes would have built-in support from their home counties. (Bonus for locals: embassy-watching parties!)
Gray may be a dissenter, but the idea of hosting the games in our area has support from other officials, including Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who said that D.C. "would do a phenomenal job" hosting the games. The most important reason, though, to host the Olympics in the United States capital, is for the same reason that it's important that this summer's games are held in the United Kingdom's capital: national pride. As columnist Robery McCartney wrote in The Washington Post today, "the challenge is enormous, but the rewards could be golden." (And isn't it always challenging to host the games, no matter what city you are?)
I can already see it now from my TV: a new swimming pool, red-white-and-blue on its façade, with the Capitol dome in the background, silhouetted by the morning sun. And crowds cheering the next Michael Phelps to gold, chanting, "USA! USA! USA!"