Olympics Committee heads to LA as 2024 race heats up
Mark RALSTON (AFP)
The race for the right to stage the 2024 Olympics heads into the home straight this week as a team of International Olympic Committee delegates arrives in Los Angeles to inspect the city's bid for the Games.
With just four months to go until the crunch vote in Lima that will decide the victors of the bidding war, the IOC Evaluation Commission will spend three days running the rule over Los Angeles before heading to rival Paris next week.
The final months of campaigning have been dominated by intrigue over the possibility that the IOC may seek to award both the 2024 and 2028 Summer Games when it votes in the Peruvian capital on September 13.
The IOC has set up a working group to study that possibility, widely seen as a move to lock in what are viewed as two high-quality, low-risk bids at a time when fewer and cities are willing to take on the vast cost of staging the games.
Publicly, however, neither Los Angeles nor Paris bid officials have been willing to entertain the possibility of accepting 2028 hosting rights as a consolation prize for missing out on 2024.
Paris co-chairman Tony Estanguet said in March it was "now or never" for 2024 and that the French capital would "not come back for 2028."
Los Angeles counterpart Casey Wasserman stopped short of issuing an ultimatum, but maintained the city remained focused only on 2024.
"No one's a candidate for 2028. I think that's a hypothetical and it's not worth discussing," Wasserman told AFP in a recent interview.
Raising the stakes
The refusal of Los Angeles and Paris to blink first over 2028 raises the stakes for the visits of the IOC Evaluation Commission to both cities.
Los Angeles 2024 officials will spend this week aiming to demonstrate to visiting IOC delegates, who arrive on Tuesday, why the gleaming Californian metropolis is the right city at the right time.
Front and center of the city's bid is the fact that a 2024 Games in Los Angeles would require no new venue construction, with events held in an array of existing arenas or stadiums that are already under construction.
The historic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum -- the centerpiece of the 1932 and 1984 Olympics -- will once again feature prominently, revived by a multi-million-dollar makeover that is already under way.
The Coliseum will feature in an innovative opening ceremony shared with the glittering $2.4 billion stadium being built on Hollywood Park as the home of the National Football League's Los Angeles Rams, due to open in 2019.
The Olympic athletes village -- often a big-ticket construction project in the past -- will be based on recently renovated facilities on the leafy campus of UCLA, which is presently home to some 14,000 students.
"You can come to LA and sleep in one of the rooms tomorrow if you want," Wasserman told journalists at a recent round-table briefing, in which he spoke of a "very clear line in the sand" between Los Angeles and Paris.
"Los Angeles is a bid that can uniquely connect the Olympic Games with the future," he said. "And the reason we can say that and the reason we can absolutely do that is because we've got universal public support and we've got all of our facilities that exist today.
"And if you take those two things, as risks, off the table, what you can actually do is focus on serving the Olympic movement for seven years. No other city can say that."
No 'fake version'
One potential hurdle for LA 2024 officials to overcome this week as they seek to impress IOC officials is the age-old problem of traffic congestion, a perennial complaint among often-gridlocked Angelenos.
Wasserman is adamant, however, that there will be no rigging of traffic lights to ease the passage of the IOC delegation as it traverses the city this week.
"That's against the rules," he said. "We're not trying to show them a fake version of what LA is -- we're trying to show them exactly what LA is, and exactly the LA they will get."
Los Angeles 2024 officials also point to the $88 billion of expanded subway, light rail, bus and express lane projects that will be operational by 2024, an investment Wasserman described as "the largest ongoing transportation and infrastructure project in American history."
Wasserman believes, too, that the city's notorious traffic congestion issues are overstated in the context of an Olympic fortnight.
"Ask anybody from LA what their best memory was of the 1984 Games and they'll say there was no traffic," he said.
"Because as a city we rallied around that opportunity. Angelenos rose to the occasion."
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