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 Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Emily Alpert Reyes and David Zah­niser

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.”

Al Seib Los An­ge­les Times

COUN­CIL­MAN Paul Kreko­rian would have liked more re­view time.

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