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Re-light region's Olympic fire

By: Sen. Ted Gaines, 1st Senate District
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Each year, on June 23, people from around the world recognize and celebrate International Olympic Day — a day dedicated to spreading the Olympic ideals of excellence, friendship, peace and respect through participation in sporting events and cultural activities that get people moving. As I reflect on the Olympic spirit and what it means for my Senate District, I am naturally reminded of the historic 1960 Olympic Winter Games in Squaw Valley, which my parents attended. The 1960 Games is considered one of the most romanticized Winter Games of all time, with a number of “firsts” — first to have an Olympic Village, first to use a computer to tally results, and first to use artificial ice for speed skating. Most importantly, the 1960 games brought tremendous economic benefits to not only the Tahoe region, but the entire states of California and Nevada. The infrastructure investments, job creation, tourism and business development advanced countless California communities. More than 50 years later, that legacy continues and a glimmer of that same Olympic spirit can still be felt. In an effort to reignite that excitement and provide a much-needed boost to our economy, I have joined forces with the California Winter Games Committee, an exploratory coalition of leaders from the business community, political arena and non-profit and non-governmental organizations focused on bringing back the Winter Olympic Games to the Lake Tahoe region — which could be as soon as 2022 should the U.S. Olympic Committee choose to move forward. The committee is working alongside Nevada’s Reno-Tahoe Winter Games Coalition to promote both states’ individual and combined interests. Pursuing an Olympic bid offers an opportunity to highlight regional assets and strengths on the world stage. The Northern California region boasts world-class ski and snow resorts, roads, highways and other infrastructure, venues, telecommunications, economic vitality, and many other attributes that make California and Nevada a real opportunity. As we saw in 1960, the impact of the Winter Olympic Games on my Senate District would be enormous. Millions of dollars would be pumped into the local economy, a legacy of infrastructure improvements would be left behind, and the world’s attention would be focused on our majestic Sierra Nevada region. In economic terms, let’s look at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games, which I had the pleasure of attending. The economic impact was valued at $800 million, resulting in rising home values and vastly improved transportation infrastructure. Any bid for the Olympic Games includes an infrastructure plan that is agreed upon by regional, state and federal authorities and other transportation interests. Hosting the games condenses decades of planned infrastructure improvements into a seven-year time period. Projects would improve our air, road and rail systems not only in the Tahoe region, but also gateway cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego. Although a future Winter Games may seem like a long way off, building momentum and support for this effort now will be the key to its long-term success. Placer County and the city of Roseville have already taken the first step and formally endorsed the Winter Games effort with proclamations. I encourage every county and city from here to Lake Tahoe to do the same. I am a tremendous fan of the Olympic movement and marvel at the achievements of the world’s best athletes during the games. Let’s celebrate International Olympic Day by — once again — bringing that level of competition to our region. To achieve this for California and our neighbors in Nevada would be our own gold medal. Sen. Ted Gaines represents the 1st Senate District, which includes all or parts of Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Lassen, Modoc, Mono, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento and Sierra counties.