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Summer Olympics? L.A.’s Got This … Again

July 10th, 2017 · No Comments · Los Angeles, Olympics, Paris

I covered the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

(I was a teeny bit too young to see the 1932 L.A. Games, back when the Memorial Coliseum was “only” 11 years old.)

And I can vouch that things went off quite well, in 1984. From Opening Ceremonies and the 84 grand pianos and right on down to the traffic, which was lighter, during the Olympics, than it had been for decades before or since. True story.

Ahead of those 1984 Games, which the International Olympic Committee gave to Los Angeles because they were the last bidder standing after the Shah of Iran was driven out of Iran, and those 1984 Tehran Olympics went down the drain and on over to L.A. — and organizers went on to make $250 million in profit.

So.

Here we are in 2017, and Los Angeles is about to be awarded with the Summer Games for the third time. London is the only current three-time host.

The weird thing, about the next L.A. Games?

We do not know if they will be the 2024 Olympics … or the 2028 Olympics. One or the other. But not till the IOC decides on what it wants to do, in Lausanne, tomorrow or Wednesday.

It’s odd, but this is where the Olympics are, again.

In trouble.

In 1984, it was “last-man-standing L.A.” when Tehran went up in flames — after the debts of the 1976 Montreal Games frightened away other bidders.

This time around, Boston had been awarded, by the U.S. Olympic Committee, the right to be the U.S. bidder bid for the 2024 Games, but the citizens in Bean Town rose up against the real risk of enormous cost overruns and, reacting to public pressure, Boston officials pulled the plug.

The USOC turned to Los Angeles, and there they are.

It was not only U.S. cities that backed away from their original interest in 2024. Rome, Hamburg and Budapest all changed their minds about being the host city. Citizens envisioned enormous expenses and not nearly enough reward for a 17-day sports party. (See: Rio 2016 and Beijing 2008; the latter is thought to have cost China $40 billion.)

Leaving Paris and … Los Angeles, once Boston threw in the towel.

The IOC seems to recognize that cities are not lining up for the privilege of putting on a Summer Games, and it wants both Paris and Los Angeles. Very much so. To the point that it will offer 2024 to one and 2028 to the other.

At first, both cities said they were interested only in 2024. Now, it seems that L.A. is not going to be so tetchy about it, and likely will get the 2028 Games, with Paris doing 2024. This will be decided at the next IOC meeting, in Lima, Peru, in September.

One of the appeals of the L.A. Games is what appears to be a sensible plan to make sure the Olympics come in on budget — if not under, as it did in 1984.

Organizers plan to take full advantage of the multiplicity of sports venues throughout the greater L.A. area.

Opening Ceremonies at the $2.1 billion stadium being built for the Rams and Chargers. Track and field at the Coliseum. (Still standing!)

L.A. officials plan to have the Games in four “parks”.

— The Downtown Sports Park featuring track, basketball, baseball, swimming and more at venues like Staples Center, Dodger Stadium, USC and the Coliseum.

–The Valley Sports Park, where shooting, equestrian and slalom canoe will be contested at the Sepulveda Basin.

–The South Bay Sports Park, where tennis, field hockey and indoor cycling will be held.

–The Long Beach Sports Park, focused on the seaside venues — in my hometown. BMX, water polo, triathlon, sailing and more will be held, as well as team handball at the Long Beach Arena.

Nearly all the facilities needed for the L.A. Olympic program already exist or are on the drawing board. A few temporary structures will need to be put up.

Thus, yes, L.A. is ready to go, once planned improvements to the airport are completed, but it may be forced to wait an extra four years. Which is, in fact, a problem, because staff needs to be kept in place an extra four years. From now till the Olympic cauldron is snuffed in August of 2028 — 11 years hence. Eleven years makes for a long career, at this point in American labor history.

But the notion is that Los Angeles will figure it out. It did in 1932 (while the world was in the great depression) and in 1984 (when no one else wanted the Games).

Bonnie D. Ford, in a big piece on the Olympics bidding she did for espn.com, along with Wayne Drehs, quoted Andrew Zimbalist, a prominent skeptic of the rewards of hosting the Olympics, as saying:

“Maybe L.A.’s place in Olympic history is to come along every 40 years or so and show everybody how to actually do the Olympics right. So far the genesis of their effort and the specifics of what they want to do has been remarkably responsible and level-headed.”

Been there, done that. Twice.

If it were me, I’d want L.A. to have the Games asap. But if it is 2028 … Los Angeles will find a way to make that work, too. I hope to see it in person.

 

 

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