S.F. abandons bid for Olympics


SAN FRANCISCO -- San Francisco withdrew its bid for the 2016 Olympics on Monday just days after the city's professional football team said it would not build a new stadium that would have been a centerpiece of the bid.

City officials envisioned a new stadium at Candlestick Point between San Francisco's airport and business center as the venue for Olympic opening and closing ceremonies and other sporting events.

But those plans collapsed when the 49ers of the National Football League, the only professional team playing there, abruptly announced last Thursday that they would move the team from a famed but aging stadium to Santa Clara in California's Silicon Valley by 2012.

"In talking with all of the folks I work with on a regular basis within the Olympic movement, damage has been done and the damage can't be pulled back," Scott Givens, managing director of San Francisco's 2016 Bid Committee, told reporters in announcing the withdrawal decision.

"It was done at a pivotal time in our development and for these reasons, we've decided on behalf of the city of San Francisco to withdraw from the competition for the 2016 Olympic Games."

The 49ers timing was particularly embarrassing because it came midway through a two-day seminar hosted by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) for the three potential U.S. candidates.

Givens said the city had received no warning of the 49ers decision after months of talks together: "The reality of the way it was delivered is what is killing the bid."

He cited Olympic organizers' wariness following New York City's bid for the 2012 Games that ended when plans for building a new stadium in Manhattan collapsed.

"We are shocked, we are numbed, we are very disappointed," said Anne Cribbs, a winner of a gold medal in the 1960 Olympics who had supported the San Francisco bid.

In a statement, the 49ers said city officials did not heed their warnings that the Candlestick Point stadium plan might not work out.

"We all love the Olympics, but even Olympic dreams need to be rooted in reality," the team said. "The team strongly encouraged the city both verbally and in writing that it had not completed its feasibility study and was not certain if the project would proceed."

"The 49ers are disappointed that the city and its Olympic bid committee did not heed the team's warnings."

Their Candlestick Point stadium has a rich history. It hosted the last scheduled Beatles concert in 1966, a rally by Pope John Paul II in 1987 and was long the home of baseball great Willie Mays.

But with their base now 46 years old, 49er officials see their future south of San Francisco in Santa Clara.

USOC will decide whether to continue a 2016 bid by the end of this year, with a candidate city to be selected in April.

"Our evaluation process will now continue with two cities - Chicago and Los Angeles - as we work to find the one U.S. city that has the best opportunity to compete in the international race," USOC Vice-President Bob Ctvrtlik said in a statement.

The International Olympic Committee plans to choose the 2016 host city in 2009. The city of Madrid may bid and there also is interest in Italy, India, Japan and Brazil.

San Francisco has never hosted an Olympics but had hoped that the city's natural beauty, high-tech image and links to Asia would help make the city a winner in its 2016 bid.