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San Diego 2024 Olympics in Tijuana? How a cross-border Games could work.

Mark SappenfieldThe Christian Science Monitor

Can one Summer Olympics be held in two countries?

That's the question that has surfaced in recent days as a United States Olympic Committee official mentioned Friday that San Diego has submitted a joint bid with Tijuana, Mexico, to host the 2024 Summer Olympics.

USOC Chief Executive Scott Blackmun said the bid "would have its challenges," according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. "We haven't looked at it carefully. We just learned about it.”

Yet the problems might not be so difficult. No Olympic Games have been split between two countries, but the world of soccer has been dividing is major events between countries for years. South Korea and Japan shared the 2002 World Cup, and the European Championships were held in Austria and Switzerland in 2008 and Poland and Ukraine last year.

In Euro 2012, for example, Poland and Ukraine set up special "green lines" at customs posts on the border, which allowed fans with game tickets and nothing to declare to pass through via an expedited process.

Of course, the World Cup and European Championships are spread out at eight sites over an entire month, while the Summer Olympics – while mammoth – want to be as compact as possible to limit travel for athletes, fans, and VIPs. Soccer tournaments are a string of big events evenly spaced out, while the Summer Games are a constellation of small events packed together in time and space.

But San Diego and Tijuana are hardly worlds apart. The driving distance is 17 miles. For the Winter Games, which have increasingly devolved into city sports (skating, hockey) and mountain sports (skiing, sliding), 17 miles would be nothing.

Even the London and Beijing Summer Games were far more far flung. London held its sailing events in Weymouth, more than 100 miles away; Beijing held them in Qingdao, more than 300 miles away. Beijing even held its equestrian events in Hong Kong – a 3-1/2 hour flight away.

And imagine beach volleyball in Tijuana. International Olympic Committee execs wanting to lure young viewers with a dash of X Games cool might be getting goosebumps.

The fact is, the process is just starting – the USOC does not need to submit its 2024 bid city to the IOC until 2017. But whoever the USOC chooses would seem to have a strong chance at winning.

The US has not hosted a Winter Olympics since 2002 and a Summer Olympics since 1996. That's quite a dry spell for the country that is unquestionably the economic engine of the Olympic movement. The reason is that the USOC and the IOC have been fighting over how much money the USOC should share with the IOC.

While that dispute lingered – and grew worse – New York was surprisingly eliminated early in the competition for the 2012 Games and Chicago's bid for 2016 was humiliatingly defeated despite President Obama's personal lobbying. Reading between the lines, the USOC didn't even submit a bid city for the 2020 Summer or 2022 Winter Games.

But a deal was struck earlier this year, and USOC officials are starting the process for 2024 methodically, perhaps sensing the bid is theirs if they present a strong candidate.

Mr. Blackmun mentioned Los Angeles and Philadelphia as other potential bid cities, and the USOC has contacted 35 cities in total as part of a feeling-out process.

But no others would be able to offer the IOC the first ever cross-border Olympics. And for an organization that purports to foster international cooperation and friendship, that could be the strongest selling point of all.