Could Philadelphia Host the Super Bowl? The Olympics? The Pope?

Considering Philly’s chances at landing the world’s biggest events.

popelympics

Could Philadelphia be the host with the most?

You might wonder, since recent weeks and months seem to regularly bring news that the city is in contention for one high-profile event or another: Everything from the Olympics to a Super Bowl to a papal visit has been mentioned, but nothing’s been nailed down yet.


Is Philly ready to host all these high-profile events? Should we pick and choose? Should we quietly back out of contention with a “thanks but no thanks” smile on our faces? Or are we prepared to take on some of the world's highest-profile events?

Here’s a rundown of the events we’re rumored to desire, and which would be the best fit.

The Event: The 2024 Summer Olympics
Will Philly Get It? Probably not.
Would It Be a Good Fit? No. It’s too damned expensive — this winter’s Sochi Olympics are costing $50 billion. That’s an outlier, but consider this: Montreal’s 1976 games lost $2 billion; the debt from that event wasn’t paid off for 30 years. Until we can reduce the city’s poverty level from its current obscene levels — or get the school district functioning properly — staging the Olympics would be an expensive, hubristic statement of municipal pride we simply cannot afford right now.

The Event: The Super Bowl
Will Philly Get It? Unlikely, but never say never.
Would It Be a Good Fit? No. Sure, New York and New Jersey hosted this weekend’s Super Bowl without it becoming the frozen disaster everybody feared — at least, until after the game when New Jersey suddenly forgot how to provide transit— and that’ll increase pressure by owners in other un-domed northern NFL cities to get their own chance at hosting. But for attendees, warm-weather Super Bowl sites are always going to be more popular; all it takes is a mis-timed snowstorm or cold front to turn the event sour. Philly might reap some benefits from hosting, but there’s also the danger that we’d end up with hundreds of cranky sportswriters dissing our hometown A) making us fight them and B) doing unspeakable damage to the city’s tourism industry. Skip it.

The Event: 2016 Democratic National Convention.
Will Philly Get It? Maybe. Bob Brady seems to want it, and we don’t generally like to get between him and things he wants.
Would It Be a Good Fit? It’s weird that Philadelphia, such a solidly Democratic city, hasn’t hosted a Democratic convention since 1948. On the other hand: It’s a huge pain — security precautions and protests mean that life for any Philadelphian in the vicinity of the event would get much more difficult. Still: Bringing in thousands of outsiders to consider the future of the nation in the home of American Democracy is probably something that should happen more often. It’s a bit of a close call, but yes: It’s probably worth it.

The Event: The Pope visits for World Meeting of Families in 2015.
Will Philly Get It? Very likely.
Would It Be a Good Fit? Yes, but on one condition: Philadelphia has been one of the of the church’s outposts most hurt by revelations of priestly child abuse — along with Boston and Ireland. Pope Francis has already made a name for himself as a reformer, capable of reaching out to constituencies in and out of the church that felt alienated from previous regimes at the Vatican. A visit here—and a high-profile attempt at amends, a public penance of sorts — might go a long way to healing the deep hurt that remains. A visit here without acknowledging that hurt, though — it might not be counterproductive, exactly, but it would suggest the church has some work to do.

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  • g.

    This is one of those things that really sound great, but is one very, very big mistake. The only people who make out are the people in city hall (lining their pockets) and the already rich businessmen downtown. Everyone else suffers: Much higher taxes, even more crowded roads, and the bill for cleaning up when it is over.