Glamour, celebrities, perfect weather. A revitalized and growing downtown. Iconic venues and political support. With these virtues, Los Angeles looks like an ideal fit to host the 2024 Olympics.
And then, there is history.
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Whether the city’s long past with the Olympics will help or hurt is a topic the U.S. Olympic Committee must reconcile as it decides whether to give Los Angeles a shot at hosting its third Summer Games.
The 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles are widely credited with saving the Games as we know them – turning a profit after a series of tragic, money-losing and morale-sapping Olympics in Munich, Montreal and Moscow.
But the International Olympic Committee had been to London three times and will stage its second Olympics in Tokyo in 2020. Will it want another repeat four years later, or seek something new, the way it did for the 2016 Olympics, which were awarded to Rio de Janeiro?
Los Angeles has made some inroads since it tried, and failed, to become America’s candidate for 2016. (Chicago won, then got eliminated first in the international voting.) It will host the U.S. Olympic marathon trials in February 2016, and next year it will stage the Special Olympics World Summer Games, which include 7,000 intellectually challenged athletes competing in 25 sports.
From Mayor Eric Garcetti on down, there is widespread political support for the idea of hosting another Olympics.
This time around, the mayor’s office is overseeing a possible bid while maintaining a low profile, honoring the USOC’s attempt to keep the vetting process hush-hush.
Casey Wasserman, the 40-year-old grandson of the late studio chief Lew Wasserman and owner of a sports and media company, is quietly working with Garcetti on the bid.
”Los Angeles is the ideal Olympic city, with endless diversity, attractions and scenic beauty,” Garcetti said in a statement. ”Casey Wasserman and I have enjoyed working with USOC chairman Larry Probst, CEO Scott Blackmun and their talented and experienced team to explore how we can present the strongest possible bid for our nation.”
Politics is another sport in the Olympic world, and Los Angeles has an edge there, too. IOC members Anita DeFrantz, the senior American in the IOC ranks, and Jim Easton live here. More former Olympians live in the region than anywhere else, too.
Here are some things to look for with Los Angeles’ bid:
GLITZ AND DIVERSITY:
The bid tells a story of this glamorous city’s reinvention in recent years. Its downtown has become a hipster haven, with housing, restaurants and entertainment that didn’t exist at the turn of the century. It boasts a diversity of people and languages. Technology and creativity abound in a city imbued with optimism that anything is possible, whether it’s stardom or reinvention.
The proposal calls for four main clusters that include such iconic, sun-splashed locations as the Hollywood sign, Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Santa Monica beach and Riviera Country Club. The downtown Los Angeles cluster would contain 12 venues hosting 19 events, including the glamour sports of track and field, gymnastics and swimming. The athletes village and the media and broadcast centers could potentially be located here. The main stadium would be an expanded Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the centerpiece of the `32 and `84 Games.
HOW IT’S FUNDED:
Good question. The mayor’s office has declined to reveal a proposed budget or much of anything else at this stage. However, the city boasts an enviable track record of hosting two Olympics with little public assistance. The 1984 Games, which turned a struggling franchise into the multibillion-dollar business it has become today, produced a revenue surplus that was used to fund amateur sports in the city.
The city has invested hugely in public transportation since 1984, with a new crosstown light-rail line, new carpool lanes on Interstate 405 on the traffic-choked westside, and a renovation of Los Angeles International Airport. Already under construction is a surface line to the city’s westside and a subway extension through Beverly Hills recently broke ground. Designated lanes for Olympic transit could lessen the traffic crunch, which proved non-existent in 1984, when flexible work schedules, staggered delivery times and vacations helped keep roadways clear.
The idea of another three-time host looms over everything. Conversely, there are new IOC members since 1984, many of whom have not been to LA before. The size of the city (3,792,621 people in LA and 13 million in the region) and its sprawling nature could create a security challenge. The city alone is 469 square miles, while Los Angeles County stretches over 4,083 square miles, making it larger than the combined states of Delaware and Rhode Island.