We interrupt your Kentucky sports news for a head-scratching announcement regarding the future of the Summer Olympics (which I sorely miss this year- I completely forgot how barren the summer is with just baseball on 24/7). Olympic cities are chosen with many variables in mind: space for sports venues, tourist attractions, ability to accommodate hundreds of thousands of visitors, history, beauty, and more. Naturally, when running through the list of possible places for future Olympics one city springs out from the rest: Tulsa, Oklahoma, the second-largest city in Oklahoma. The city, whose name comes from an Indian phrase meaning “old town,” has started trying to drum up support for a 2024 Olympic bid.
Greater cities, such as Chicago, Madrid, and Tokyo most recently, have tried and failed to host the Olympics. But don’t worry, those relentless Tulsans are ready to plead their case. As Mary Pilon wrote in the New York Times, “In some ways, Tulsa has become a sports town. It has embraced the W.N.B.A.’s Shock, even though they are in last place in the Western Conference. Tulsa has hosted several major golf tournaments and the Bassmaster Classic, an elite fishing competition.”
And how will Olympic spectators spend their time while not at the events? Look no further than the Golden Driller, “a 76-foot-tall oil worker with cheese-color skin and a giant belt buckle that proudly declares, “TULSA.” The main media center would sit at its feet and Olympic medals would hang from its neck.” I could just stand there and stare at that all day.
Neil Mavis, who has spearheaded the movement, also had grand plans for converting the the site of the annual Tulsa State Fair into a journalistic center (not to pick fights, but Tulsa isn’t technically a state) and proposes that athletes cool off (pun intended) at the Big Splash Water Park in the vicinity. Try and tell me you wouldn’t love to see a picture of Nerlens Noel and Anthony Davis going down a twisty waterside in a two-person inner tube.
In all seriousness, Tulsa’s bid is largely sentimental and symbolic– not really unlike if Lexington were to make a bid. The city’s residents see themselves as pioneers in America’s heartland, keepers of both American and Native American history. Ten years ago, Tulsans approved a measure called “Vision 2025” to drum up the tourism industry, and the results have included the BOK Center, a multi-purpose arena for the city’s minor league hockey and arena football teams as well as concerts and conventions.
Will Tulsa actually get the 2024 Summer Olympics? Hell, no- although personally, I think it would be worth it just to hear Garth Brooks and Hanson sing the National Anthem atop an Oregon Trail-style wagon. But as Mavis declares in a somewhat futile statement, “We’re going to stay in the race. There’s no reason to give up.” There’s that American spirit we love to celebrate this week.