Will Don­ald Trump help or hurt L.A.’s 2024 bid?

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Ed­die Pells

Four years ago, an un­ex­pected guest crashed a cel­e­bra­tion in Man­hat­tan so he could hang out with U.S. Olympians who were on their way to the Lon­don Games. The guest: Don­ald Trump.

Four years ago, an un­ex­pected guest crashed a cel­e­bra­tion in Man­hat­tan so he could hang out with U.S. Olympians who were on their way to the Lon­don Games.

The guest: Don­ald Trump.

The pres­i­dent-elect, who also car­ried the torch in the lead-up 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 U.S. 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 U.S. gov­ern­ment will not bankroll an LA Olympics — that’s left for lo­cal and state govern­ments — 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. (Bu­dapest, mean­while, is con­sid­ered a long shot.)

In con­sid­er­ing how much weight to throw be­hind the Olympic bid, Trump will have to de­cide which vi­sion of the move­ment he be­lieves in more.

AP FILE

In this 2004 file photo, Don­ald Trump car­ries the Olympic Flame on New York’s Fifth Av­enue dur­ing day 15 of the 2004 Athens Torch Re­lay. Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump has been a long­time ad­mirer of the Olympics. He also likes win­ning. That should make him a nat­u­ral sup­porter of the ef­fort to bring the Olympics back to Los An­ge­les in 2024.

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