After fin­ish­ing 2nd, huge ‘thank you’ due to LA

Kuwait Times - - ANALYSIS -

One of the beau­ti­ful things about the Olympics is that the run­ners-up get prizes, too. Which brings us to Los Angeles. The sec­ond choice in its own coun­try to host the 2024 Summer Games took the sec­ond-place prize in the in­ter­na­tional race, too es­sen­tially agree­ing to cede 2024 to Paris and ac­cept the con­so­la­tion prize, which, in this case, is the Olympics four years after that. A city land­ing the Olympics used to spark par­ties in the street. On Mon­day, the news slowly leaked out of the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee head­quar­ters and from city hall in LA, where it was met with about as much fan­fare as a bro­ken-down car being towed off the 405 at rush hour.

This has been a joy­less, process-de­fy­ing, mis­tak­erid­dled ex­er­cise that will be for­mal­ized six weeks from now in Peru, with the win­ners and losers al­ready long de­cided. Hard to re­ally pick on LA, though. Thank­ing them would be more ap­pro­pri­ate. After the hu­mil­i­a­tions of Chicago for 2016 and New York for 2012, the US Olympic Com­mit­tee’s re­jec­tions of San Fran­cisco and Wash­ing­ton for the cur­rent race and the clue­less hand­wring­ing the USOC went through with its first choice, Bos­ton, the fact that any ma­jor US city, let alone one with LA’s ca­chet, was still will­ing to put it­self out there, ab­sorb the cost of the bid­ding process, and still say ‘yes’ to 2028 is, well, kind of re­mark­able.

The LA bid­ders did the USOC a fa­vor after its board point­edly re­jected them, in­stead choos­ing Bos­ton, as if the board mem­bers, after a year’s worth of vet­ting, were the only ones on earth who didn’t know that Bos­ton is known as the city that won’t take ‘Yes’ for an an­swer. After Bos­ton bailed, Los Angeles gladly stepped in and played all the games the way the IOC wanted them played: Most of its venues are built, it prom­ises to keep costs down and ad­here to IOC pres­i­dent Thomas Bach’s vi­sion of less-grandiose, les­s­ex­pen­sive, less-bloated Games.

Now, it will take 11 years - in­stead of the usual seven - to see which prom­ises are kept and which are bro­ken. That’s 11 years for the USOC lead­ers to send thank-you cards; one of their main mis­sions has been to bring the Summer Olympics back to the United States for the first time since 1996, and they have done that, al­beit four years later than planned. And that’s 11 years for Bach to send as many flow­ers as pos­si­ble to Los Angeles.

He had to have been em­bar­rassed by the slow drop­ping out of can­di­date cities that left the 2024 race with only two bid­ders: Paris and Los Angeles. Bach de­cided to change the bid­ding process and award the next two games this year be­cause, in his words, the sta­tus quo pro­duced too many losers even though, deep down, he may have known the big­gest loser un­der the ex­ist­ing sys­tem would’ve been him.

The 2028 bid­ding could have come down to Toronto (safe if not scin­til­lat­ing), South Africa (if the prob­lems in sec­ond-world Brazil didn’t teach the IOC a les­son, what­ever will?) and Rus­sia, a coun­try whose dop­ing vi­o­la­tions have made it a pariah to much of the Western sports world out­side of IOC head­quar­ters in Lau­sanne. Not want­ing to see that con­test take place on his watch, Bach changed the rules. The IOC will give a king’s ran­som - to the tune of at least $1.8 bil­lion - to Los Angeles in ex­change for this com­pro­mise. Some will go to­ward fund­ing youth sports in the city and some will be wran­gled over with the USOC, which has given away a lot of cash and swal­lowed a lot of pride to im­prove in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions over the last eight years.

What­ever the IOC pays won’t be enough. Los Angeles bailed out the Olympic move­ment in 1984, when Tehran was the only in­ter­ested bidder and the pre­vi­ous three games had been dev­as­tated by ter­ror­ism (Mu­nich), red ink (Mon­treal) and a boy­cott (Moscow). Peter Ue­ber­roth’s vi­sion put the mod­ern­day model in place, turn­ing the Olympics into a mass­mar­keted, slickly spon­sored event that is now worth tens of bil­lions.

The Summer Olympics be­came a crown jewel of sports thanks to the 1984 Games, and host­ing them put your city at the top of the list of world’s great­est des­ti­na­tions. Not true any­more. Ev­ery­thing from cost over­runs to ter­ri­ble traf­fic, pol­lu­tion, hu­man-rights abuses and mos­quito-borne ill­ness in places as wide rang­ing as At­lanta, Athens, Bei­jing and Rio de Janeiro punc­tured the myth of the Great Olympic City. No ma­jor, demo­cratic, Western me­trop­o­lis wanted to host these games any­more. — AP

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