Will Trump help or hurt LA’s bid for Olympics?

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -


Four years ago, an un­ex­pected guest crashed a cel­e­bra­tion in Man­hat­tan so he could hang out with US Olympians who were on their way to the Lon­don Games. The guest: Don­ald Trump. The pres­i­dent-elect, who also car­ried the torch in the leadup to the Athens Games, has been a long­time sports fan and ad­mirer of the Olympics. He also likes win­ning, which is what has at­tracted him, over the years, to a US team that rou­tinely dom­i­nates the medals.

It would be no stretch then to imag­ine Trump as a nat­u­ral sup­porter of the ef­fort to bring the Olympics back to Los An­ge­les in 2024. But Olympic bid­ding is a con­test de­cided more by se­cret hand­shakes than a score­board. Though it claims to be above pol­i­tics, the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee is teem­ing with them and many of its 98 mem­bers fac­tor in geopo­lit­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tions when de­cid­ing which city to en­trust with their most sa­cred and valu­able prop­erty, the Olympic Games.

No sur­prise then that Trump’s elec­tion sent a rip­ple through Los An­ge­les bid lead­ers. They rec­og­nize that if the United States is viewed as an un­steady player on the global stage when the games are awarded next Septem­ber, it will give IOC mem­bers not his­tor­i­cally a pro-Amer­i­can group any­way - one more rea­son to fa­vor Paris or Bu­dapest over LA. “We just fin­ished our pres­i­den­tial elec­tion and some of you may ques­tion Amer­ica’s com­mit­ment to its found­ing prin­ci­ples,” Amer­i­can sprinter Allyson Felix told IOC mem­bers last week at a Los An­ge­les bid pre­sen­ta­tion. “I have one mes­sage for you: Please don’t doubt us. Amer­ica’s di­ver­sity is our great­est strength.”

The US gov­ern­ment will not bankroll an LA Olympics, which makes it more of a side player when it comes to bid­ding. But ev­ery bid needs some amount of buy-in from the top, and for a long time, a di­rect ap­peal from a head of state was thought to be a key way to bol­ster a bid. Con­vinced this was the case, Pres­i­dent Barack Obama flew to the IOC’s fi­nal bid meet­ing in Copenhagen in 2009 to sup­port Chicago in its at­tempt to land the 2016 Olympics. He got burned when his home city was the first one elim­i­nated in the vot­ing. Re­flect­ing on that last month, Obama told New York Mag­a­zine, “I think we’ve learned that the IOC’s de­ci­sions are sim­i­lar to FIFA’s de­ci­sions: a lit­tle bit cooked.”

Trump has no ap­par­ent bag­gage with the IOC, and, in fact, an IOC mem­ber - Amer­i­can hockey player An­gela Rug­giero - is one of a hand­ful of Olympians to ap­pear on Trump’s re­al­ity TV show “The Ap­pren­tice” back in the day. She got fired. But if there’s any real fence-mending to be done, it might be be­tween Trump and the LA bid it­self. Los An­ge­les Mayor Eric Garcetti, a Democrat with ties to Hil­lary Clin­ton, said over the sum­mer that a Trump vic­tory could turn off vot­ers. “I think for some of the IOC mem­bers, they would say, ‘Wait a se­cond, can we go to a coun­try like that, where we’ve heard things that we take of­fense to?’” Garcetti said.

Trump won, and op­er­a­tives in the LA bid have had what they’ve described as “pre­lim­i­nary” dis­cus­sions with the in­com­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion. They have not of­fered de­tails. As­sum­ing Trump doesn’t im­pede LA’s progress, the IOC could be faced with a choice be­tween two lead­ers whose pop­ulist, na­tion­al­ist mes­sages have won over vot­ers, while caus­ing some in­ter­na­tional dis­com­fort: LA’s big­gest chal­lenger is Paris, and French polling shows far-right pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Ma­rine Le Pen has a rea­son­able chance in that coun­try’s elec­tion next spring. — AP

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