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Olympic Committee Eyes Dreamy 2024 Games; Los Angeles Pitches 'No Risk'

A delegation from the International OIympic Committee is visiting Los Angeles this week, as the group ponders who should host the 2024 Summer Games.
Image: The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is the first stadium to have played host to the Summer Olympics twice, in 1932 and 1984. It has now been proposed as a venue for the 2024 Summer Olympics.FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP - Getty Images

LOS ANGELES — As Los Angeles prepares to roll out the red carpet for the International Olympic Committee delegation arriving in the city this week, one IOC member mused that the winner of the right to host the 2024 Summer Games must tend to "emotions and making people dream."

Mayor Eric Garcetti and the team trying to land the games sound a different note. They say that Los Angeles has put forward a "no risk bid" — a proposal that has wide public support, facilities already in place and the best chance of turning a profit and reversing a recent Olympic history of red ink.

The collision of the sometimes dreamy aspirations of the international organizers and the pragmatic realities offered by the Los Angeles bid committee could be the most important dynamic as the 13-member Olympic delegation tours L.A.

The competition for the 2024 Olympic Games pits Paris, with its abundant charms and offer to return as the Olympic host 100 years after its last outing, against Los Angeles, which says it showed in 1984 that it can renew the Olympic movement through efficiency, business savvy and a bit of Hollywood pizzazz.

Image: Los Angeles' Olympic bid committee rendering shows how beach volleyball at Santa Monica beach would look like
A Los Angeles' Olympic bid committee rendering shows how beach volleyball at Santa Monica beach would look like after receiving an Olympics-style makeover.LA 2024 / Reuters

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"We have a superb bid and, privately, many of the committee members are saying ‘We know you have the bid that is strongest, it’s the most feasible economically, and we think it can reboot the Olympics best,’" Garcetti said, days before the IOC group’s Tuesday arrival.

The Olympic leaders plan to spend Wednesday through Friday in meetings and touring proposed venues, from the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum — previously home base for the 1932 and 1984 Summer Games — to Staples Center, StubHub Center in Carson and the Inglewood construction zone where the Los Angeles Rams are building an NFL-quality stadium.

The 11 voting members of the Olympic Committee visiting Los Angeles will then travel to Paris on Sunday for a similar three-day immersion. Unlike L.A.’s pledge to use private money, France intends to spend $3 billion in taxpayer funds for new venues and buildings.

"L.A. does this without sweating. We do this without missing a beat."

The two contenders will have a final chance to persuade the IOC when they address a July conference in Switzerland. The final decision by the full 90-member Olympic Committee is due to be announced Sept. 13 in Lima, Peru.

The winner will follow a 2016 Rio de Janeiro games that had to be rushed to completion and left a huge debt and abandoned facilities sprinkled around the Brazilian city. Organizers of the upcoming 2020 Games in Tokyo already report cost overruns for a lavish stadium.

Those experiences have not been lost on other cities pondering Olympic bids. Twice as many cities (eight) have dropped bids in the last two cycles as have remained in the competitions — with Rome, Hamburg and Budapest among those pulling out this time. Los Angeles became the U.S. Olympic Committee’s bid city after Boston dropped out for lack of public support.

Los Angeles officials contrasted those difficulties with what they said is the welcoming reception the Games would receive in Los Angeles. L.A. bid chairman Casey Wasserman cited a survey that showed 88 percent of the public supported the Games, calling that "virtually unanimous public support … truly unique in Olympic bid history."

Garcetti added that the city has shown its big event chops repeatedly, with two previous Olympics but also regular events like the Academy Awards. "L.A. does this without sweating. We do this without missing a beat," said the mayor, recently elected to a second term, which will end in 2021. "We know how to throw safe, good, economically viable Games… and that’s what the Olympics needs right now."

Image: Los Angeles' Olympic bid committee rendering shows how L.A. Stadium at Hollywood Park would look like
A Los Angeles' Olympic bid committee rendering shows what L.A. Stadium at Hollywood Park would look like after receiving an Olympics-style makeover.LA 2024 / via Reuters

The IOC has thrown a wrinkle at competing cities this year by suggesting it might award the 2024 games and, at the same time, give the 2028 games to the runner-up. Neither Los Angeles nor Paris has welcomed the idea of going second, though after initial balking by Paris they have not rejected the idea, either.

"If they chose to award two cities, we are happy to listen," said Wasserman, a sports and entertainment investor, "but we are very focused on what we are doing and that’s bidding for the 2024 Summer Olympic and Para-Olympic Games."

L.A. officials want to keep secret some of their plans for the IOC visitors this week, but they acknowledged they will host the committee members at a Dodgers game and an outdoor dinner. A pop-in by a celebrity or two is to be expected.

Besides the sports arenas and stadiums, the committee will visit UCLA, proposed location of the Olympic Village.

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"We are not going to have a huge Olympic Village that is going to be abandoned right afterwards," Garcetti said. "We have UCLA, which is extraordinary, with beautiful rooms [and] which can feed 10,000 people a day already. So we don't have to work out any kinks."

Garcetti’s comments about the campus locale sought to draw a clear contrast with facilities in Rio that went without users after the end of the 2016 Games.

L.A.’s plan to take advantage of an expanding subway and light rail system also has some appeal, said the IOC’s Executive Director, Christophe Dubi, who said "the Games will certainly benefit from these."

Some critics have suggested that President Trump’s attempt to restrict travel to the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority nations could deter athletes from those countries and potentially dampen enthusiasm for awarding the games to Los Angeles.

Image: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti
Los Angeles Mayor Eric GarcettiLUCY NICHOLSON / Reuters, file

Garcetti, who opposes the travel ban, called the White House "extremely supportive" of the L.A. Olympic efforts and said the IOC has been assured "that will not be a problem at all that those athletes will be assured 100% of getting in."

L.A. organizers believe the welcome reception will be particularly notable for one member of the IOC visiting this week. Nawal El Moutawakel competed in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics for Morocco in the 400-meter hurdles. She became the first woman from a Muslim country to win a gold medal. Her event was one of several added for the first time for women in the Los Angeles games. Wasserman said Nawal’s return to L.A. will be "a great way to celebrate that history."

The host committee will depict L.A. as one of the most welcoming cities in the world to outsiders. Garcetti noted that 39 countries have more nationals in the city than anywhere else in the world, outside their own borders. He said immigration has been a benefit both to the newcomers and to Los Angeles.

"Do we want an America that turns into itself, that goes further away from its ties globally? Or do we want to turn the United States back open?" Garcetti said. "The Olympics ... can help remind us, as they did in 1984, that we are part of a global community. We need the Olympics to help us just like we can help the Olympics."