Urban Politics #46: Olympic Games Special

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By City Councilmember Nick Licata.

Urban Politics (UP) blends my insights and information on current public policy developments and personal experiences with the intent of helping citizens shape Seattle’s future.



  • Results Of My Email Poll
  • Statewide Polls
  • Schedule Of Public Input Opportunities
  • Final Comments

Results Of My Email Poll

This was the first time I’ve conducted an email poll through my Urban Politics and I was honestly amazed at the level of participation – 952 responses, representing a 67% return on the original number receiving the poll. However, I know that a number of people emailed it to their own email lists.

Aside from individual lists, the following groups were also polled: the Capital Hill Chamber of Commerce, The Wallingford WEAVE (community residents and businesses), Friends of Athletic Fields and The Green Party. So it is possible that between 2,000 and 3,000 people received the poll.

I don’t pretend to present the poll as scientific in any sense, but it certainly reflects an opinion shared by many people from a broad band of political views.

The Results: 80% opposed to holding the Olympics in Seattle; 12% in favor and the rest undecided.

The poll asked if one would support a Seattle Olympics bid, knowing the City of Seattle would be required to provide funding, make up any financial deficit for the games, and cover any lawsuits against the sponsoring US and International Olympic Committees.

Please don’t send any more responses – the poll is now over!!

Statewide Polls

I then commissioned a professional scientific poll from the Elway Agency to ask State voters the same question, except posing the State rather than the City as the guarantor of the proposed obligations.

Although the “Bid Committee Agreement” requires that both the host city and the state cover the financial obligations, the Seattle Bid Committee has indicated it will seek satisfaction of these requirements from the State of Washington only. Consequently it was important that we know what the attitude of those outside of Seattle would be once they knew of the financial obligations.

The Elway poll indicates substantial public concern about the financial conditions required for a Seattle bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics. After hearing a summary of the conditions, 51% of those polled said they would not support an Olympics bid; 32% said they would.

This contrasts sharply with an earlier poll conducted for the Seattle Bid Committee which asked about support for a bid with no mention of the financial obligations, to which 70% said yes, 17% no.

The results of the Elway poll thus show a 50% drop in support, and a tripling of opposition, when the obligatory financial conditions are included in the question.

The Elway poll was carried out September 18-20, and has an error margin of +/- 4.5%.

Schedule Of Public Input Opportunities

There are a growing number of opportunities to state your opinion on the possible Seattle bid for the 2012 Olympics. Here’s a quick listing:

1) Call-in show on KUOW’s “Weekday”, 9-10 a.m. Monday, Sept. 28 (call in line # is 543-5869). Guests will be Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata and Kathy Scanlan of the Seattle Bid Committee.

2) Seattle City Council Public Hearing on the proposed resolution in support of an Olympics bid; 5 p.m. Monday, Sept. 28 in Council Chambers, on the 11th floor of the Municipal Building at 600 4th Ave., between James & Cherry. Sign- up sheet available at 4:30 p.m.

3) Thursday, October 1, 8-9 p.m. Call-in show on Channel 28, the City of Seattle’s TV station (apologies to those without cable TV). Guests will be Seattle City Council President Sue Donaldson, and Councilmember Nick Licata. Call-in line # is: 206-684-TV28 (8828).

Final Comments

From what I hear, Seattle residents are not interested in hosting the Olympics because of the obligations mentioned above and also because of the possible strain on our public resources.

The President of the Montlake Community Club expressed this last attitude. He wrote “In recent Trustee and General meetings, we have been discussing, with some concern, the proposed application to host the Olympic Games in Seattle in 2012. I think that most of our 1,200 residents are in agreement with the “Seattle Times” editorial position that, while the games themselves may be laudable, this is not a time to subvert our regional planning efforts or to add a back-breaking burden to our already creaking infrastructure.”

I also received comments about the direct impact on downtown. A West Seattle resident wrote, “After the 1990 Goodwill Games, it took the City two years to clean up the downtown drug dealers. The games divert police attention to an extraordinary extent. Mayor Rice had to use special funds to deal with the drug problem at that time. I believe we can expect the same result after the Olympics leaves town.”

A review of the city documents supporting the Goodwill Games, showed that 16 different city departments were involved in helping support the logistics for those games. And that level of city support represents only a small fraction of what would be needed for the Olympic Games.

Downtown could be impacted in another unexpected way. Since we do not have enough hotel rooms, the current planning calls for cruise ships harbored in Elliot Bay to make up the difference. Sydney, Australia, with a population more than twice ours, is expecting to have 14 cruise ships when they host the upcoming Summer Games.

An environmentalist wrote on this situation, “The 1992 Barcelona games were no friend to that cities harbor. Short of hotel space, the Harbor became a floating hotel dotted with cruise ships and private yachts. By opening day the harbor was a cesspool of bilge and wastewater – harbor services could not meet pumpage needs and scofflaws abounded. Once again, the Puget Sound rivers would be at low flows, unable to provide the natural mixing needed to treat raw sewage.”

The same environmentalist points out that our water supply could also be impacted: “Seattle’s summer water supply is always precariously balanced. Summer daily consumption is already high at 175 million gallons per day. A massive influx of tourists, who use five times as much water on vacation than when they are at home, would easily drain our Cedar and Tolt water supplies. Water rationing would be implemented before the games, and depending on how dry a summer it is, continue after the games until the September rains.”

On October 5, the Seattle City Council will vote on a resolution endorsing the Bid Committee Agreement. If approved, the Bid Committee Agreement would authorize the Seattle Bid Committee to move forward with a Seattle bid.

Once the resolution passes, city staff time will be spent supporting the bid process for the next two years. During that time, corporate sponsors will get on board and they will fund a full time staff to organize a small army of supporters. I predict that the ensuing momentum for pursuing the Olympics will overcome any opposition to it being held here in 2012.

On the other hand, if the City does not vote for the resolution on October 5th, Seattle’s bid for the 2012 Olympics is dead and no more staff time will be spent trying to solve the numerous problems listed above.

Keep in touch…



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Comment from Huck
Time October 28, 2010 at 5:32 pm

Nice, but too bad I was too late to vote on the poll.

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