Earlier today, Southeastern Rail in the UK conducted the first trial run of its "Olympic Javelin" service based on its new Japanese-built electric class 395 trains. The service will shuttle passengers from St. Pancras station in downtown London to the sports arenas being constructed for the 2012 summer Olympics near Stratford station on HS1, the UK portion of the high speed line to France. Each of the the 28 trainsets consists of 6 cars and is capable of a top speed of 140mph. Together, the fleet will transport up to 24,000 passengers per hour (!) during the games.
This news led me to the following question: Should California bid for the 2020 summer Olympics?
By tradition, the event is nominally awarded to a single city. In practice, the number of events is so large venues can easily be spread out over a much wider area, especially if fast, high-capacity public transportation is available. It just so happens that California is on track to have just that for much of the state by 2020: bullet trains between San Francisco and Anaheim plus upgraded Amtrak California services to Sacramento and San Diego. Metrolink service in the San Gabriel Valley could also be beefed up for the occasion.
The last time the summer Olympics were held in
Of course, there would be quite a few obstacles to overcome:
- First, the IOC has never awarded the Olympics to an entire state or country. However, there's no fundamental reason it could not break with tradition if presented with an attractive, innovative bid.
- Second, the state of California is effectively broke, so virtually all of the up-front investments in sports venues etc. would have to come from individual counties, cities and private investors. The feds would chip in via their contribution to the HSR network. For the next governor of California, that would create an opportunity to take an active marketing role on behalf of a no doubt popular bid without having to actually fund anything over and above the $9.95 billion in prop 1A(2008) bonds that voters have already approved for HSR.
- Third, the HSR starter line and its feeders would have to be fully operational in time for the games. IMHO, this is actually a great argument for submitting a bid, since delays invariably come with cost overruns and carry opportunity costs.
The IOC will render its final decision on the host city for the 2016 games on October 2, 2009. Californians would have to decide soon after that whether or not to reach for the brass rings four years later.