Something new is needed

Published 10:47 pm Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I just couldn’t believe my eyes when I read Saturday that Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford was proposing to bid for the 2020 Olympics.

My first instinct was to laugh. I mean – Birmingham for the Olympics? No way.

I literally thought that he was just spouting off at the mouth like he’s done ever since he became mayor last year. I didn’t take it seriously and still don’t.

But I’ve come to find out that he in fact said it and that he actually meant it too. I don’t see how that’s possible. First and foremost, Birmingham doesn’t have the facilities to host such an event. Frankly, Birmingham doesn’t even have the facilities to host an NCAA Basketball Tournament much less the SEC Championship Game. So what makes Langford think he can pull this off?

Secondly, you have to have lots of money to do this, and the financial shape of Birmingham is not very good. They would have to get a lot of financial backing from corporations to do that. About 10 years ago, that might have been possible, but now, there isn’t enough corporate headquarters for business located in downtown Birmingham. Thus, there wouldn’t be as much corporate sponsors to host such an event.

Also, Birmingham doesn’t have the infrastructure to hold the influx of people who would be in the Olympic games. The mass transit system is not nearly big enough. There’s not enough hotel space to fit everyone. (And Birmingham isn’t like Jacksonville, Fla., which was able to bring in cruise ships to the city to help give more hotel space.)

Everything is pointing in the direction of saying that Birmingham has no business competing for the Olympic games. While it might not be possible to get the biggest event in the world, it might be possible for Birmingham to step up and to become the Sports Capital of the South again.

Maybe all that Langford was trying to do was to help the city to start looking forward instead of looking at what Birmingham used to be. Many still remember seeing Legion Field being the place for Iron Bowl games, but now the games are gone from the historic stadium. Many still remember when the Barons used to play at Rickwood Field.

Both fields pretty much stay empty now, but it would be nice to see the city build a new football field or a new arena or something. Without something new, the city’s sporting life will die.

I just hope something happens before too long before there’s nothing left to salvage.

Note: Brent Maze is the managing editor for The Clanton Advertiser. His column appears each Wednesday.