Los Angeles Goes Against Paris In Olympics Bidding War

May 12, 2017
Originally published on May 12, 2017 6:17 pm
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Los Angeles is a city of auditions, and today LA is hoping it will make the cut with the International Olympic Committee. A team of evaluators from the IOC wrapped up a tour of the city, where they heard LA's pitch to host the 2024 Summer Games. Paris is also in the running. Joining me to talk about the competition is NPR's sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Hey there, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hi, Audie.

CORNISH: So first, what's the IOC actually saying about its visit to LA?

GOLDMAN: Positive things. Patrick Baumann, head of the IOC delegation, spoke at a press conference in LA today, and here a couple of his quotes. "Los Angeles is already a great Olympic city, and after three days, we now realize that is an understatement. In Los Angeles, there is no major risk that we can highlight right now." So the IOC liked what it saw. Probably, didn't hurt either wining and dining with Kobe Bryant and Placido Domingo or hanging out at Santa Monica beach.

CORNISH: Now, I assume local boosters raved about their bid, right? That's what they always say. So give us some objective analysis. Does LA actually have a shot at hosting the 2024 Games?

GOLDMAN: It does. It is considered a strong bid because it's largely ready to go with venues like the Rose Bowl and The Forum in Inglewood, housing at UCLA and USC transportation. All of this is in place, very little new construction is necessary. And this is what the IOC says it wants going forward - more streamlined, cheaper and sustainable games. Now, economist Andrew Zimbalist - he's been a critic of the bid process and the cost of hosting the Olympics. He agrees the LA bid has a minimum of risk, and he thinks a proposed $5.3 billion budget probably is doable without the usual enormous cost overruns you see it Olympics.

Still, that's obviously big money that could go to other things. The protest group No Olympics LA points out Los Angeles has the highest number of chronically homeless people in the U.S. The U.S. Census says LA has more people living in poverty than any other major U.S. city. No Olympics LA says those and other problems are where that money should be going.

CORNISH: You've laid out a tough case there. So now I want to ask about the competition because, as I mentioned, Paris is one of those cities - right? - that's looking to host the Games. What about their chances?

GOLDMAN: Yeah, they're a strong bid, too, which the IOC's Baumann noted today. Paris says it has 95 percent of existing Olympic infrastructure in place. It says it could offer a compact Olympics, not hugely spread out. Paris, of course, is a city with so many recognizable landmarks. TV will love it. And 2024 would be the centennial of the 1924 Paris Olympics in case the IOC is into historical symmetry.

CORNISH: Now, I don't want to be a winner-take-all type, but I know there's talk of awarding Summer Games to both cities. How would that work?

GOLDMAN: Yeah. Yeah, the IOC is considering an unprecedented double award when it votes in September on the 2024 bid. So whoever doesn't get those games, LA or Paris, will get the 2028 games. Today, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti said he's open to a 2028 bid. And the IOC likes this idea because it gives consecutive summer games to financially-stable cosmopolitan cities that can handle the Olympics because the Olympic bid process has been anything but stable.

A number of cities pulled out of recent Olympic bid processes. An Oxford University study from last year said the Olympics average 156 percent cost overruns. That's more than any type of mega project. And, of course, we've seen the trail of white elephant facilities - most recently, in Rio - expensive venues standing unused after an Olympics that grabbed the world's attention less than a year ago.

CORNISH: That's NPR's sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Tom, thanks so much.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome, Audie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.