Pittsburgh is virtually a shoo-in to host the 2024 Summer Olympics

| Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Only 11 years 'til torch time.

People are reeling over the news, as they should be. The 2024 Summer Olympics are Pittsburgh-bound, a stunning development made all the more flabbergasting by the fact the U.S. Olympic Committee came to us.

The organization sent city officials a letter asking if we would be interested in hosting the games. Would we? Heck, yes!

It's unfortunate that some cynics always attempt to engage in parade precipitation, and are doing so amid the jubilation and celebration over this incredible coup.

Naysayers note the deal technically isn't official. They point out the committee sent the same letter to 34 other cities. They say that even if the committee backed a Pittsburgh bid, we'd compete for the games with second-rate foreign cities such as Toronto, Paris, Rome and Berlin.

As if any of that matters.

There are complaints that Pittsburgh doesn't meet the requirements stipulated in the letter for hosting the event. Let's refute that ugly falsehood by addressing each essential element the committee listed:

• An international airport

Pittsburgh International has extremely limited international service and offers nonstop flights to just 37 cities, but that hardly puts us at a disadvantage. We can sell the fact that lengthy layovers will provide athletes from distant locales a chance to see a greater number of American attractions, such as the Philadelphia International Airport Saladworks.

• Approximately 45,000 available hotel rooms

The region falls short of that requirement by about 15,000 rooms, but that's no biggie. Simply house folks in the many empty buildings the Pittsburgh Public Schools closed in recent years.

The accommodations might not be four-star. But a certain Findlay-based company probably would donate a sufficient number of tents to serve as sleeping quarters for everyone, as long as the event is rechristened “The Dick's Sporting Goods Games of the XXXIII Olympiad.”

• An Olympic Village for 16,500 athletes and officials

No need to construct an Olympic Village when we can simply retrofit the cavernous, recently shuttered Parkway Center Mall near the city-Green Tree border. This 19-acre slice of urban blight easily could be transformed into a bustling, centrally located Olympic campus with this bonus: With a Giant Eagle supermarket being the last surviving business on the property, the athletes won't risk running out of Gatorade and protein bars.

• A workforce of 200,000

Assuming Western Pennsylvania's 10-county population base of 2.6 million remains constant, that's doable with one minor caveat: It might prove difficult to find someone to perform the requisite shovel duty after equestrian events.

• A $3 billion operating budget

True, raising that amount seems daunting. But by dipping into the secret Pittsburgh Police Bureau credit union accounts the FBI is investigating, the city should be able to come up with the money.

Eric Heyl is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7857 or eheyl@tribweb.com.

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