Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti

The International Olympic Committee announced on Monday, July 31, 2017, that Los Angeles, California will be the host to the 2028 Summer Olympics. They are also the second city to be awarded the Olympics three times. London, which last hosted in 2012, also held the Olympics in 1908 and 1948. When Paris is given the official nod for 2020, the City of Lights will be the third city with the right to host three Olympiads.

The announcement on Monday was no surprise as the IOC has been quite public about its attempt to get Paris and LA to agree to hosting either 2024 and 2028. This allows the IOC to skip a (potentially painful) selection cycle that would have started in 2021. This deal buys the IOC time to persuade candidate cities in the future that the Olympics doesn’t have to be such a tremendous burden on the host nation.

What’s interesting about Los Angeles is that in all three cases – 1932, 1984, 2028 – they won the bid without competition.

Paris insisted on 2024, and explained that the land reserved for the new Olympic Village would not be available if they had to wait for 2028. LA would have 2028 if they wanted it. The IOC sweetened the pot financially, and LA willingly sunk their hands in it.

In 1978, two years removed from the financial debacle that was the Montreal Olympics, and only six years after the terror of the Munich Olympics, only two cities were in the hunt for 1984 – LA and Tehran. Tehran was likely feeling the rumbles of the Iranian Revolution, which exploded a year later, so pulled out of its bid, leaving Los Angeles as the only choice.

 

Iranian Revolution
The Iranian Revolution

 

In 1932, it is said, that newly appointed IOC member representing the United States, William May Garland, attended the IOC’s twenty first session in Rome in 1923, and swept the committee off its feet. Garland was a wealthy Californian real estate magnate who saw the Olympics in Los Angeles as drama worthy of Hollywood. According to the book The Games: A Global History of the Olympics, by David Goldblatt, Garland “pitched” the Olympics like a movie script. Goldberg cites the Official Report to the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics as the kind of rhetoric that Garland may have used:

An excited whisper runs like a flash across the stadium.

And then hush.

A voice that fills every corner of the vast bowl breaks forth from the huge electoral announcer.

‘Ladies and Gentlemen, the Vice-President of the United States is arriving to officially open the Games.’

The Vic-President arrives at his box and for the first time is clearly identified to the audience. He waves his hand to acknowledge a renewed outburst of cheers.

His gesture brings a hush to the babble of noises.

The time-table on the daily programme is hastily consulted. What comes next?

Garland sat at the intersection of realtors, oil companies and movie magnates, who, as Goldblatt writes, “in the early twentieth century, as the region’s great historian, Carey McWilliams, put it, ‘began to organize Southern California as one of the greatest promotions the world has ever known’, selling the California good life, the new Mediterranean, paradise on the Pacific. In his letters and interviews with the press, Garland often referred to the athletes as actors and the Olympics as a celebration or a show, the sport itself seemingly ancillary.”

Apparently Garland’s vision was so compelling that, according to the book, The Olympics – A History of the Modern Games, by Allen Guttman, “the members accepted the bid by acclamation.”

william may garland
William May Garland
Advertisements
Garcetti Bach Hidalgo
Eric Garcetti, IOC President Thomas Bach, and Anne Hidalgo

Most Olympians who do not win a gold medal are happy to receive a silver or bronze medal. But in the dramatic selection process, in which IOC members choose an Olympic host city through a series of votes that thousands of people in candidate cities watch with hands clasped in prayer, there has been no silver medal.

Years of planning and millions of dollars spent in putting together a powerful bid can go to waste as a city’s mayor watches powerlessly in a winner-take-all vote by the IOC.

But this year, the mayors of the two top bids for the 2024 Summer Olympics, Anne Hidalgo of Paris and Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, have an opportunity to do something that no other mayor has had: to choose when their city holds an Olympic Games. The choices, albeit, are not that broad – the IOC voted on July 11, 2017 to accept the bids of both Paris and LA for 2024 and 2028.

The bids of both cities were too strong to drop either of them. And the fear of having fewer cities bidding down the road was too great, as cities like Hamburg, Rome and Budapest pulled themselves out of the campaign to host in 2024. They withdrew primarily due to growing local unpopularity of hosting expensive big-tent events. For those reasons, the IOC decided – yes, we have two gold medal winners.

According to this BBC article, “The IOC wants….the cities to reach an agreement on who hosts in 2028 by then.” And if the two cities don’t agree to who hosts in 2028, then the IOC reverts back to the original plan of voting death-match at the 131st IOC session on September 13 in Lima, Peru.

Most pundits are saying that a likely scenario is Paris going first. Both cities have many of the major venues and much of the critical infrastructure in place, unlike Rio and Sochi in recent years. But Paris does not yet have an Olympic Village, and keeping the property available for the building of the Village for a period beyond 2024 would be difficult, Paris organizers say.

According to this ESPN article, the mayors Hidalgo and Garcetti understand that this is a historic moment, when the mayors have the decision in their hands, and that they are willing to work together to make it work.

The IOC is lucky in the sense that it wound up with two 2024 bid committees capable of cooperating and a pair of mayors who have an established relationship. What if the only cities left standing had come from countries with hostile relations or diametrically opposed forms of government? How likely is a repeat of this juxtaposition of two urban areas capable of handling and absorbing the unwieldy event and possibly — an important qualifier — emerging without serious post-Games issues?