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Benjamin Spillman

L.A. Olympics bidders bet on Vegas glitz

28 March 2007

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Backers of Los Angeles' bid for the 2016 Olympic Games are betting on Las Vegas to add glitz -- and about 200,000 hotel rooms -- to their proposal.

Leaders of the Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games visited Sin City on Tuesday to detail just how Las Vegas fits into their pitch for the 2016 summer games.

The California organizers are using the final weeks before April 14, the day the U.S. Olympic Committee is set to select an American contestant for the upcoming event, to polish their bid as much as possible.

They hope including Las Vegas as a venue for preliminary soccer events will add a bit of shine that distinguishes Los Angeles from Chicago, the other American hopeful.

"Southern Nevada will absolutely be central to what we are doing," said Barry Sanders, chairman of the Southern California Olympics committee.

According to organizers, Las Vegas would be one of three cities outside Los Angeles -- San Francisco and San Diego are the others -- that would host preliminary soccer events.

If Los Angeles is chosen over Chicago in April, it would be America's nominee to compete with cities such as Madrid, Spain; Prague, Czech Republic; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Rome; Tokyo and New Delhi.

The International Olympic Committee's final decision on the 2016 games is expected in 2009.

The Las Vegas matches would be at Sam Boyd Stadium, site of University of Nevada, Las Vegas home football games, which could add about 7,500 temporary seats to its 30,000-seat configuration for the events.

Although the schedule for the games isn't complete, organizers estimate Las Vegas would host eight to 12 men's and women's matches before and during the Los Angeles event, which would be from July 22 to Aug. 7, 2016.

The games would be organized through Los Angeles, with support from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority for events in Southern Nevada.

The Los Angeles bid doesn't call for any public financing.

But the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, which is supported by hotel room taxes, would likely spend money marketing Nevada events, said Rossi Ralenkotter, president of the authority.

Ralenkotter said he didn't know how much the organization would spend on marketing.

"It is too soon to speculate on that," he said.

The soccer matches would attract from 250,000 to 500,000 fans to Las Vegas, organizers said.

The higher number would represent more than three times the number of people who attended the recent NASCAR races at the Las Vegas Speedway.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority estimates that by 2016 Southern Nevada's hotel inventory will be about 200,000 rooms, up from about 130,000 today.

Visitation in 2016 is projected to be around 55 million people annually, up from about 39 million in 2006.

About 10 million of those visitors will be from outside the United States, which would fit nicely with the international appeal of the Olympic Games, organizers said.

"The world will want to come here if it is going to the Olympic Games," Sanders said of Las Vegas. "The world will want to come to the Olympic Games because it wants to come here."

If the world does come to Las Vegas in late July and early August of 2016, it will likely be very hot and oppressively humid.

The timing of the games coincides with the annual monsoon season, a shift in weather patterns that brings humidity and thunderstorms to the desert in addition to the typically scorching heat.

Brian Fuis, spokesman for the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Las Vegas, said high temperatures around the dates of the summer Olympics are about 105 degrees and low temperatures are about 80 degrees.

"The temperature comes down, but the humidity comes up," said Fuis. "It is still going to feel hot, but more oppressive."