With IOC in town, L.A. sells itself as ready-made for 2024 Olympics
los angeles — For members of the group trying to lure the 2024 Summer Games to the United States, courting the powerful International Olympic Committee hasn’t always been easy, largely because of procedural rules that restrict their contact and communication.
“It’s like dating with a straitjacket,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti joked. “It’s a little difficult to wrap your arms around each other.”
But when the IOC’s evaluation commission finally came to town this week, members of the LA 2024 committee tried to put their best foot forward. They took IOC members to a baseball game and treated them to Dodger Dogs. They gave them a customized surfboard to take home. There was a private dinner that included Sylvester Stallone, Kobe Bryant and Plácido Domingo. They toured the region from Pasadena to Long Beach, USC to UCLA, the Rose Bowl to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, meeting Olympians along the way, including Brandi Chastain, Allyson Felix and Michael Johnson.
But glitz and glamour weren’t the bid’s biggest selling points. On the contrary, the LA 2024 group continually tried to impress the evaluation commission with its fiscal restraint, the city’s existing infrastructure and the fact that most key buildings and venues are already in place. While the Olympic bidding process is in a state of peril following the voluntary withdrawals of several candidate cities fearful of high costs and low returns, the LA 2024 bid bills itself as a road map for the future.
“We don’t want to be a one-off bid,” Garcetti said. “We want to have lessons from Los Angeles that are replicable to other cities as well.”
Los Angeles is competing with Paris to host the 2024 Games. While Paris might be pegged by some as a sentimental favorite — the 2024 Olympics would mark the 100th anniversary of the 1924 Paris Games — the LA 2024 committee tried last week to show off its preparedness and an Olympic
that was born for many in the region by the 1984 Games here.
Given recent turmoil over the bidding process, it’s possible both cities are awarded an Olympics — one in 2024 and the other four years later — when the IOC convenes in September to make its selection. And while the process has highlighted some inherent problems, LA 2024 thinks its bid points to solutions.
Hosting an Olympics typically means building new venues for competitions, housing and infrastructure to accommodate the crowds. An Olympic Village for athletes and compounds dedicated to broadcasting and media workspace tend to drive up the costs.
Rather than build from scratch, the LA 2024 bid proposes utilizing existing buildings. For example, the IOC evaluation commission visited USC’s communication school, which would serve as a media center. They toured the residence halls on UCLA’s campus, which would house athletes, and dorm rooms at USC, which would house the international media.
“These were really impressive because these two beautiful campuses, they have everything,” said Patrick Baumann, chair of the visiting IOC commission.
Said Casey Wasserman, the LA 2024 chairman: “It wasn’t about greenfield sites or blueprints. It was about touching and feeling.”
The evaluation commission — short two members because of health issues — spent a full day meeting with the LA 2024 bid committee and another touring the region. They headed to Paris this weekend where they would learn more about that city’s bid.
In Paris, the commission members are expected to meet with newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron. In Los Angeles, however, U.S. politics were mostly kept far in the background.
President Trump is a possible wild card for LA 2024, and many fear his comments and policies could impact the bid. Baumann said the president was not a discussion point during their meetings here.
“No points were raised in any way in political matters in our scope of discussions,” Baumann said.
In Garcetti’s opening remarks to the commission Wednesday, he didn’t mention Trump’s name but seemed to allude to concerns that might be on the members’ minds.
The evaluation commission seemed impressed with much of what it saw, and Baumann said there were “no major risks to highlight.” The group will report its findings to the full IOC, which is prohibited from touring the two finalists. Baumann said having Los Angeles and Paris as options is “clearly a win-win situation” for the IOC.
The LA 2024 bid also promises to keep costs down, both the inienthusiasm tial estimates and the final price tags. According to a governmentfunded report related to Boston’s since-abandoned 2024 bid, since 1960, the Olympic Games experienced average cost overruns of nearly 180 percent. The most recent Summer Olympics last year in Rio de Janeiro started with a bid of $14.4 billion and included substantial infrastructure projects and construction. The final cost was expected to be around $20 billion. The Tokyo 2020 Games could end up costing $30 billion, approximately four times higher than the initial estimate.
By comparison, LA 2024 has proposed a $5.3 billion budget, which includes $492 million in contingency funds for unforeseen problems. “The bid we submitted is the Games we will deliver,” Wasserman said. “That’s really what we mean when we say low-risk.”
Because of the nature of the proposal, the LA 2024 committee wasn’t simply sharing blueprints with the evaluation commission. The members shot baskets at Staples Center downtown, traveled to Pasadena to see where soccer would be played, Long Beach to see where open-water swimming would be contested, Santa Monica to see the beach volleyball grounds. They visited the Los Angeles Rams and used virtual-reality headsets to “tour” the stadium, which is under construction and would serve as home to Opening and Closing Ceremonies. At other stops, such as the Coliseum, they utilized “augmented reality,” panning a tablet over the horizon to see exactly how an area will look in 2024.
But mostly, LA 2024 was hoping the city’s energy and blue skies would make it easy for IOC members to envision a Los Angeles Summer Games.
“The Olympics asked us not to buff this city up,” Garcetti said. “I mean, this is Hollywood — we could’ve had the best show, the cutest kids lining up; we could’ve had the most amazing fireworks. We didn’t change a single thing.”
Other 2024 candidates have come and gone: Boston, Hamburg, Budapest, Rome. Only Los Angeles and Paris remain. Garcetti says it’s “an important moment” for the IOC. It will not simply be choosing a 2024 host, but it could be setting a precedent for what future Olympics should look like, what they should cost and whether hosting an Olympics helps or hurts a city.
“We want every city in the world in 2025 to line up and say, ‘The Olympics are something we want to have in our town, too.’” Garcetti said. “That is the value proposition to the movement in Los Angeles. We can create that again.”
The Los Angeles bid committee for the 2024 Olympics plans to use existing infrastructure, including Staples Center, to host events such as basketball and gymnastics.