L.A., at starting line, has to hustle
IOC imposes Aug. 18 deadline for city to OK financial pacts to host 2028 Olympics.
Los Angeles is on track to host the Olympics four years later than it originally planned, yet it is hustling to approve a new deal within days.
City officials say the International Olympic Committee imposed a deadline of Aug. 18 to approve agreements that spell out their financial responsibilities for hosting the 2028 Games. The City Council is scheduled to make its decision Friday, a week before that deadline.
The schedule leaves L.A. leaders with less time than they had to scrutinize the bid for the 2024 Olympics. They endorsed the bid in January after receiving a budget and an independent analysis of the spending plan, which were provided more than a month in advance.
This time, council members will vote several months before they have a revised
budget for the 2028 Games. Nor will they have an independent evaluation of that updated budget. The council received a report on the various agreements Wednesday, two days before its anticipated vote.
LA 2028, the committee pursuing the Olympic bid, says little has changed from the 2024 plan, which included a budget and an independent analysis vetted by city lawmakers. State analysts have described that plan as “fairly low risk” because it uses existing venues, such as the Coliseum and Staples Center, rather than relying on expensive new construction projects.
“The 2028 plan is the same as the 2024 plan,” said Jeff Millman, spokesman for the L.A. bid committee. “The venues are the same. We don’t have to build any new venues, housing or infrastructure.”
Critics contend the city is rushing to meet “an imaginary deadline” set by the IOC. They want the city to delay the vote, hold community forums and look closely at how the Olympics could affect renters, homeless people and other “marginalized” communities.
“We should be critically asking, ‘What will the Olympics do to our city?’ ” said Anne Orchier, a Boyle Heights resident and one of the organizers of NOlympics LA, an activist group opposing the Olympic bid.
Olympic Games have had a history of going over budget in other cities. An Oxford University study found that nine of 19 Games ended up costing at least twice as much as planned.
Organizers say the L.A. Olympics budget will include a 10% contingency — for 2024, that figure was estimated at $487.6 million — to absorb potential cost overruns. The bid committee also would purchase a range of insurance policies to protect the Games in case of such incidents as terrorist acts, cybersecurity breaches, an earthquake or added construction costs.
If those measures aren’t enough and the Games go significantly over budget, the city ultimately would be on the hook for debt that organizers cannot pay. L.A. would be responsible for the first $250 million of any shortfall.
State legislators previously agreed to cover the next $250 million for the 2024 Games. But new legislation to renew that promise for 2028 is still needed. After that, responsibility for any additional cost overruns would fall back on the city.
Zev Yaroslavsky, a former county supervisor and council member, said Los Angeles is taking on some risk when it guarantees to cover potential overruns. A huge economic downturn, for example, could significantly drive down Olympics ticket sales, depriving organizers of needed revenue, he said.
Yaroslavsky, who directs the Los Angeles Initiative at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, said he would feel more comfortable if the council had an updated budget and outside analysis.
“As a former public official, the thing that infuriated me more than anything was being asked to approve things without complete information — and with a gun held to my head,” he said.
Others say fears about the lack of an updated budget are overblown.
“If you were not worried about the 2024 budget, you should not be worried about 2028,” said Victor Matheson, an economics professor at the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts. “And if you were worried, four more years isn’t going to help you.”
The IOC is scheduled to meet in Lima, Peru, on Sept. 13. In an unusual move, the committee will consider awarding the 2024 and 2028 Games simultaneously, choosing Paris for the first and Los Angeles for the second. Under the Olympic charter, IOC members are supposed to get a written report assessing the host city candidates a month before their decision. That requirement has been described as a basis for the Aug. 18 deadline facing L.A.
The council is slated to vote Friday on whether to authorize Mayor Eric Garcetti and Council President Herb Wesson to sign a “tripartite” agreement between the cities of Paris and Los Angeles, each nation’s Olympic committee and the IOC. That document is needed to ensure that Paris and L.A. are awarded the two Games simultaneously, city officials said.
Lawmakers also will be asked to authorize Garcetti and Wesson to sign the host city contract and provide a written guarantee that the city will cover any potential financial shortfall incurred by the Olympic organizing committee while staging the 2028 Games.
Councilman Paul Krekorian said he would have preferred to have more time to review the proposal in the way the city did for the 2024 bid. But pushing the IOC for additional time probably would trigger “an entirely new process” of bidding for 2028, he said.
“We would miss the opportunity to be approved for the 2028 Olympics in Lima,” Krekorian said, and risk having “other cities jump in in competition.”
“So in a perfect world, it would be great if we had more time,” he added. “We don’t — if we want to take advantage of this opportunity.”
COUNCILMAN Paul Krekorian would have liked more review time.