Prom­ise from Los An­ge­les of another Olympics on the cheap


The last time Los An­ge­les hosted an Olympics, the city won the games largely be­cause it promised to do them on the cheap. The 1984 Games were a suc­cess, even with the Soviet Union and oth­ers boy­cotting. Peter Ue­ber­roth and his team de­liv­ered on their prom­ise of bare-bones games, and 32 years later the sur­plus keeps pay­ing div­i­dends for South­ern Cal­i­for­nia sports through the well-funded LA84 Foun­da­tion.

Now Los An­ge­les wants to do it again. And the play­book looks strik­ingly fa­mil­iar.

The city’s plan to host the 2024 Olympics is au­da­cious not — like most Olympic bids — be­cause of the gran­deur and spec­ta­cle it prom­ises. Rather it’s be­cause it prom­ises to do some­thing most Olympic cities have failed to do in the mod­ern era — de­liver a de­cent Olympics while stick­ing to a rea­son­able bud­get.

If Los An­ge­les gets the nod, or­ga­niz­ers prom­ise this would be an Olympics done on bud­get and with lit­tle build­ing nec­es­sary. It would cost just $5.3 bil­lion, a frac­tion of the $20 bil­lion Tokyo or­ga­niz­ers want to spend on the 2020 Games.

Of course, it’s all prom­ises and glitzy pre­sen­ta­tions now. And the lat­est plan un­veiled last week to put on an Olympics with­out huge cost over­runs is as much a strat­egy for beat­ing Paris out for the 2024 Olympics as it is for putting on the ac­tual games them­selves.

But LA has done it be­fore, and done it well, turn­ing a profit in 1984 when it was said that couldn’t be done. And there are some smart peo­ple be­hind it, in­clud­ing the city’s mayor and Casey Wasser­man, an en­ter­tain­ment and sports in­dus­try fig­ure who is ac­tive in all the right cir­cles in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia.

More im­por­tant, it might be com­ing at just the right time, when the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee is look­ing to reign in some of the ex­cesses of the games. On the same day Los An­ge­les un­veiled the lat­est ver­sion of its plan last week, an IOC vice pres­i­dent warned Tokyo or­ga­niz­ers that

a $20 bil­lion plan for the 2020 Olympics was un­ac­cept­able.

“If LA is cho­sen to host the 2024 Games, the IOC does not have to worry about chang­ing or evolv­ing bud­gets, shift­ing com­pe­ti­tion venues or un­cer­tainty about the de­liv­ery of the games,” said Wasser­man, the LA 2024 chair­man.

To prove the point, LA24 sub­mit­ted its bud­get to the ac­count­ing firm KPMG for eval­u­a­tion. The ac­coun­tants de­clared the plan rea­son­able with the im­por­tant caveat that “any changes to the bud­get af­ter this date are out­side the scope of this project.”

Se­cu­rity is also out­side the scope of the project. It will be hugely ex­pen­sive, though or­ga­niz­ers be­lieve the fed­eral govern­ment will pick up the tab as it did for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Prom­ises are eas­ier bro­ken than kept, but Los An­ge­les has some things go­ing for it. The big­gest is that the LA metropoli­tan area al­ready has al­most all the sports fa­cil­i­ties to host an Olympics, though Paris also plans to use mostly ex­ist­ing fa­cil­i­ties.

Still, what bet­ter place to cen­ter the Olympics than the LA Coli­seum, a beau­ti­ful and his­toric sta­dium built for the 1932 Games and used again in 1984.

Soc­cer would be in the iconic Rose Bowl, and basketball at Sta­ples Cen­ter, home of the Lak­ers and Clip­pers.

Swim­ming would be one of the few things needed to be built, and it would be a tem­po­rary open air fa­cil­ity on the USC cam­pus that would be torn down af­ter the games were over.

Best of all, per­haps, is that there’s al­ready an ath­letes vil­lage. The plan is to use stu­dent hous­ing at UCLA to house the world’s best ath­letes, and if dorm rooms don’t sound that great they will cer­tainly be an up­grade on the ac­com­mo­da­tions in Rio.

Not to worry, there are also plenty of Bev­erly Hills man­sions and ritzy ho­tels to house even the pick­i­est mem­ber of the U.S. basketball team.

Why any city would want an Olympics in an era of bloated com­pe­ti­tions and sus­pect ath­letes might be the one ques­tion LA res­i­dents should be ask­ing. The peo­ple of Bos­ton, you might re­mem­ber, rose in re­bel­lion last year and quashed that city’s bid for the games.

It’s ba­si­cally be­tween Paris and Los An­ge­les (Bu­dapest is not thought to be a winnable bid, and Rome re­cently dropped out) when IOC mem­bers meet next year to de­cide the site of the 2024 Games. Paris is thought to be the front-run­ner but with pol­i­tics in­volved — the pres­i­dency of Don­ald Trump is a wild card — and the usual in­trigue and shenani­gans that go with a bid, it’s any­one’s guess what city will win.

But LA has a plan, and it’s sim­i­lar to one that worked be­fore.

Right now, a third Olympics in Los An­ge­les doesn’t sound so bad at all.

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