But for Philadelphia to even put in a bid - a lengthy process that could cost more than $10 million - several elements must be in place, including leadership development and regional cooperation.
"For this to happen, first there must be leadership in the private sector," said Jim Kise, a principal with Kise Straw & Kolodner. The Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau chose the Center City architectural firm, along with the nonprofit Pennsylvania Economy League, to conduct the $82,500 study.
"Secondly," Kise said, "we need tristate support and cooperation between governments in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. Thirdly, we have to close the gap on some of the missing venues, and then, most importantly, we need improvements to the transit infrastructure. That's absolutely essential. The just-in-time games of Athens will never happen again."
At this point, all Olympic plans are merely investigatory, with no firm public- or private-sector backing. Government officials in the city, Pennsylvania and New Jersey are taking a wait-and-see attitude. "The governor believes that hosting the Olympics could showcase the Philadelphia area to the world. However, there is much thought that must be given to any offer that is to be made," said Chuck Ardo, a spokesman for Gov. Rendell, who will be 80 in 2024. Camden County and city officials voiced similar sentiments. None had seen the William Penn study.
Completed in June, the study, titled "Philadelphia 2024: Assessing a Bid for the Olympics Games," found that:
Philadelphia has 17 of the 31 required sports venues and can readily provide temporary venues for 7 more, including 5 at the Convention Center. By comparison, Paris - the top-ranked contender for the 2012 games - has only 11 existing venues.
The most serious concern is a need for a 60,000-seat stadium for the track and field events. While Lincoln Financial Field provides up to 75,000 seats for World Cup soccer events, the field is too small for track and field. The same holds for Franklin Field.
A majority of the sports events and the Olympic Village could be concentrated in two or three clusters within a five-mile radius. Clusters of venues are preferred, as proposed in the 2012 bids of Paris, Madrid and London, compared with a string of venues in New York's bid.
The city and region have an excellent existing transportation infrastructure, especially transit, allowing the rapid movement of athletes, coaches and spectators to venues on systems separate from each other. Improvements and planned additions will enhance that capability. This is one of the two most heavily weighted criteria.
The other heavily weighted criteria is accommodations for visitors to the games. The athletes are housed in the Olympic Village, but 40,000 additional hotel rooms are required. The region has 38,000 rooms now.
In addition to an Olympic stadium, the biggest venues Philadelphia would have to build would be an Olympic Village, a swimming facility, a tennis venue, and a velodrome, Kise said.
Possible sites for the Village include a portion of Franklin D. Roosevelt Park in South Philadelphia and space on the western bank of the Schuylkill across from Sunoco Inc. land.
The Phillies say they would support the use of Citizens Bank Park - which will be 20 years old in 2024 - as an Olympic baseball venue, even though that may require the team to take an extended road trip.
As for infrastructure improvements, a great deal of thought is being given to extending the Broad Street subway line through the Navy Yard and into New Jersey, an Olympic project that would have a lasting impact, according to the report.
Earlier reports on the feasibility of an Olympic bid were done by the Ernst & Young L.L.P. accounting firm in 1994, by Wharton professor Kenneth Shropshire in 2001, and by Kise's University of Pennsylvania students in 2002. Each study said that Philadelphia had a solid enough base to contemplate a bid, but that it would need to augment some facilities to land the games.
As part of its current assignment to probe interest in the Olympics, the Economy League recently mailed letters asking business leaders to join a 20-member working group.
The group would take six months to determine if there is enough interest and money to move on the bid, given the costly nature of hosting the games.
Athens spent nearly $9 billion to get ready for this year's Olympics.
The group's findings would be released early next year, said Larry Needle, executive director of the Philadelphia Sport Congress, the division of the Convention and Visitors Bureau that is shepherding the process.
Economy League deputy director Steven T. Wray said experience shows that the region can pull off big events.
"The Republican National Convention was an example of that," Wray said. "Three governors had to work together to bring that event" here.
Wray, however, acknowledged that even a massive event such as the 2000 GOP convention pales in comparison to the Olympics.
And, he said, there are challenges to convincing Olympic organizers that Philadelphia is the best host city. "Do we have the reputation" that the International Olympic Committee and United States Olympic Committee would want? he asked.
First, he said, traditional Philadelphia problems - the region's can't-do attitude, its parochial politics, labor conflicts - would have to be overcome.
Wray was quick to stress that these issues, along with many Olympic demands for improved mass transit, have to be dealt with to promote the region's economic well-being, even without an Olympic bid.
"A bid helps focus these issues," Wray said.
There are skeptics. "Philadelphia does not think or act like a region very often," said Sam Katz, two-time mayoral contender and a businessman familiar with municipal finance. "The city hasn't gotten any stronger in Harrisburg, and it is decidedly weaker in Washington, where transportation funding comes from. It is a tough road, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be pursued."
Even if Philadelphia determines that going for the Olympics is not worth the effort, or if its bid fails, there is a lot to be gained from the process, those involved with the study say.
"Houston was unsuccessful in its bid for the 2012 games," Wray said. "But the effort they put into trying to get the games helped them get a world boxing championship, a Super Bowl, and other events."
The latest effort, said William Penn Foundation program officer Shawn McCaney, grew out of the foundation's study last year that showed Pennsylvania lagging behind other states in economic growth, partly because of the city and state divide.
"Getting the Olympics is the endgame," McCaney said. "Even if we don't get them, greater regional planning and cooperation that results from the pursuit will help."
Based on her experience, Athens Olympic Organizing Committee president Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki has some advice for Philadelphia if it really wants to go for the gold.
"It's never too early to begin planning," she wrote in an e-mail from Athens. "The games are a massive project and, like massive projects of every type in every country, they are subject to unexpected delay."
Contact Howard Altman at firstname.lastname@example.org.