TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Could the journey to Tokyo become the journey to Florida? That’s what one top state official is hoping for.
However, the International Olympic Committee says they are pushing ahead with plans to hold the games in Japan.
Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis sent a letter to the International Olympic Committee encouraging them to relocate the 2021 Olympics from Tokyo, Japan, to the Sunshine State.
“Seventy percent of Japan says they don’t want the Olympics,” Patronis said. “My attitude is, come to the state of Florida where our arms are open.”
Patronis said his movement to bring the Olympics to Florida began after reports surfaced recently that leaders in Japan “‘privately’ concluded that they are too concerned about the pandemic for the 2021 Olympics to take place.” Japanese officials have since denied the reports.
In his letter to the IOC, Patronis cites Florida’s tourism numbers, as well as the state’s management of tourist destinations and sporting events during the pandemic as reasons for the committee to consider Florida as a safe destination for the games.
“I think Orlando is very attractive. I think Tampa is very attractive. I think Miami is attractive. All of which have the ability to contribute,” Patronis said.
“This is like the perfect medicine for what our world needs. Let our athletes compete,” said former Olympic swimmer and three-time Gold Medalist Brooke Bennett.
Bennett lives in Florida and runs a swim program the she has had to adapt due to the pandemic. Bennett thinks moving the games to Florida is an outrageous idea, but in the spirit of the games, not impossible.
“In six months time, this is so far fetched. But it’s fun to talk about. It’s fun to wonder! And some have been like, do we even have a pool? And I go we can put a pool anywhere! Throw one in Amalie Arena. Plus we have Raymond James Stadium. A lot of people say Disney would be a good place, too.”
Ed Turanchik believes pulling it off is complicated, especially just months away from the summer games.
“It’s a massive event. Logistically – transportation, security – all those things are just extraordinarily complicated,” he said.
Turanchik is the former president and CEO of the Florida Olympic Bid. For years, he tried to make Florida the host for the 2012 Olympics.
“The Olympics did not like how spread out it is up and down the I-4 corridor and we didn’t have any good transit,” Turanchik said.
Patronis hopes the IOC will consider the idea, especially with Tampa hosting Super Bowl LV.
“I think with the timing, and especially I think exposure that the Super Bowl is about to bring to the state of Florida right now, I think it’s a good compliment,” Patronis said.Southwest Airlines adds extra flights to Tampa for Super Bowl weekend
8 On Your Side reached out to the IOC for a response to Patronis’ proposal.
A spokesperson referred 8 On Your Side to a statement released last month calling recent reports of possible cancelations “categorically untrue.”
Full statement released by the IOC:
“Some news reports circulating today are claiming that the Government of Japan has privately concluded that the Tokyo Olympics will have to be canceled because of the coronavirus. This is categorically untrue.
At an IOC Executive Board meeting in July last year, it was agreed that the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 would be held on July 23 this year, and the program and venues for the Games were rescheduled accordingly. All parties involved are working together to prepare for a successful Games this summer.
We will be implementing all possible countermeasures against COVID-19 and will continue to work closely with the IOC, the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government in our preparations for holding a safe and secure Games this summer.
Together with its Japanese partners and friends, the IOC is fully concentrated on and committed to the successful delivery of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 this year.”
Full letter from CFO Patronis to the IOC:
“Dear President Bach,
I am writing to you as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for the State of Florida. As a member of the Florida Cabinet, I sit on the Enterprise Florida Inc. Board of Directors, which is our state’s business development unit. Today, I am writing to encourage you to consider relocating the 2021 Olympics from Tokyo, Japan to the United States of America, and more specifically to Florida.
With media reports of leaders in Japan ‘privately’ concluding that they are too concerned about the pandemic for the 2021 Olympics to take place, there is still time to deploy a site selection team to Florida to meet with statewide and local officials on holding the Olympics in the Sunshine State. I would welcome the opportunity to pitch Florida and help you make the right contacts to get this done.
Prior to the pandemic, Florida was welcoming 900 people per day to our state, and in the past few years overtook the State of New York for total population. When most of the major states were shutting down their economies, we were fortunate enough to have a Governor that recognized the important balance of fighting the virus with keeping the economy open. Moreover, Governor DeSantis has partnered with the private sector to rapidly distribute vaccines to our most vulnerable populations. Unlike other states, when the COVID-19 vaccine comes to Florida it doesn’t just sit on the shelf wrapped in government red tape; it moves fast to protect our communities.
The State of Florida has successfully allowed sports to take place during the pandemic. When most states shut down their sporting events, the city of Jacksonville hosted the Ultimate Fighting Championship (the UFC) and the National Basketball Association (NBA) set up the “bubble” to hold games in Orlando. Moreover, during football season the National Football League (NFL) and college teams were able to compete on Florida soil. Additionally, our international tourist destinations, like Disney parks have been open and operating safely in Florida for some time. In fact, Disney serves as an incredible model for how to run a complex organization in the midst of COVID-19.
As a tourism state, Florida welcomed 131 million tourists in 2019. Our state has ample hotel capacity and well-maintained transportation networks to accommodate the kind of infrastructure required for a major undertaking of this sort. Florida has 20 commercial airports, 31 urban transit systems, 12 major universities that have existing sporting facilities – and we have world-renowned health care facilities in each of our regions. I think most importantly, however, we have a state with leaders who are willing to get this done.
Although I write to you in a professional capacity, I should also add that I am a father of two boys who love sports, and the idea of canceling the Olympics when there have been so many athletes who have worked so hard for this opportunity is a tough pill to swallow. I’ve always believed that sports and competition makes our world a better place, and these athletes demonstrate to children around the world that when you work hard, and put your mind to something, anything is possible.
Whatever precautions are required let’s figure it out and get it done. Please contact my office at 850-413-4900 to schedule a meeting.
Chief Financial Officer“