Houston congresswoman: 'We want the Olympics'

Sheila Jackson Lee
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee says Houston has “gotta get in the queue” to make an Olympic Games bid. (AP Photo)

HOUSTON – In the middle of denouncing President Trump’s executive order temporarily banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee made a pitch to the entire world.

“We want the Olympics,” she said Sunday. “We think we’re ready. We will be able to be ready.”

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Jackson Lee stood in the arrivals hall at her city’s international airport, consulting with lawyers about the Trump order. She was clearly bothered by the decree, handing out a statement calling it a “radical departure” from the principles of the Constitution.

There is some concern about how the president’s stance will affect Los Angeles’ bid for the 2024 Games. One anonymous Olympic official told USA Today the executive order “is not helping L.A.’s chances.” The IOC pulled together a team of refugees for the Games in Rio de Janeiro last summer, and surely some will be troubled that the U.S. is turning refugees away, albeit on a short-term basis.

Still, 2024 is far in the future and any Houston bid would have to target years after that – probably 2032 or later. So Jackson Lee is thinking well beyond the current geopolitical climate.

“We gotta get in the queue, we know that,” she said Sunday.

The city certainly would be a viable candidate. It made an effort to host in 2012, it has hosted the Junior Olympics, and the U.S. team was processed here on its way to Rio last year.

This will be Houston’s third Super Bowl and it has hosted everything from the Final Four to an annual rodeo that has brought in as many as 2.5 million people in the past. It has a growing reputation as an international destination.

“We certainly could do it,” Janis Schmees Burke of Harris County recently told KHOU. “We are a world class city, we do mega events.”

There is a discussion to be had about whether and how much the Olympics would help Houston. Recent Games have left the wrong kind of legacy in major world cities. Brazil’s famous Maracana stadium has fallen into disrepair and had its power cut off last week in part because of bills owed by Rio 2016 organizers.

Houston is certainly in better financial shape than Rio, but Boston’s retracted 2024 bid shows the appetite for the Olympics in this country is not without limit.