SAN DIEGO -- Horrendous waits to enter the United States. A lack of sporting venues. Scarce hotel rooms during peak tourist season.
As they mount a longshot bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics, San Diego and Tijuana are playing down their shortcomings by playing up a new spirit of cross-border civic pride.
San Diego Mayor Bob Filner said he and his Tijuana counterpart, Carlos Bustamante, hope to name a cross-border planning committee within the next week and unveil a logo. He appealed to Mitt Romney to serve as honorary chairman, but the 2012 Republican presidential nominee declined with an offer to provide advice.
For Filner, the bid is part of a broader effort to build closer ties with a Mexican border city separated by an overwhelming presence of Border Patrol agents and two fences -- one topped with coiled razor wire. A bid would force the cities to examine their strengths and weaknesses together and assess infrastructure in a region of about 5 million people.
"Even if we lose, we win," said Filner, a former congressman who was elected to a four-year term in November.
The U.S. Olympic Committee is talking to 10 cities about a possible bid, including San Diego-Tijuana. Scott Blackmun, the chief executive, said last week that the committee hadn't looked carefully at the cross-border proposal but that it would "have its challenges."
The International Olympic Committee does not allow for bordering countries to host Summer Games, an apparently insurmountable hurdle unless the charter is changed. Two countries can host the Winter Games "on an exceptional basis" when geography or topography prevent one country from holding certain events.
San Diego philanthropist Malin Burnham said the U.S. Olympic Committee doomed a bid he led to bring the Summer Games to San Diego-Tijuana in 2016, determining 10 years ahead of the date that there wasn't enough time to amend the IOC charter. A planning committee had raised $300,000 and hired architectural firm HOK to develop a proposal, which Filner says will serve as a starting point for the 2024 bid.
Waiting times that often exceed three hours at the nations' busiest border crossing present another potential deal-breaker. Mexico completed a major upgrade last year of the San Ysidro port of entry, but the United States has yet to fully fund its part of the project.
"If we had the Olympics tomorrow, we could not operate it across the border in its current environment," Burnham said.
The 2016 plan, never formally submitted, called for $1 billion to build sport venues, said Brad Raulston, who served as the committee's staff director.