Kristina Vicario

Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016

LA taking stock of Rio with sights on 2024

RIO DE JANEIRO — The Los Angeles Olympic bid committee is taking notes.

The group is in Rio de Janeiro watching the Summer Games, with an eye on bringing the Olympics back to the United States for the first time in what will be 28 years, in 2024.

“You can never replace first-hand experience,” Casey Wasserman, chairman of the LA 2024 candidature committee said. “Seeing an event of this magnitude and this complexity for this many days is truly unique in the world of both sports and live entertainment. This is a Super Bowl every day for 17 days. You need to see it from every different perspective and it’s something we’re thrilled to be a part of.”

Los Angeles will need to beat out a formidable field of Paris, Rome and Budapest, Hungary, by Sept. 13, 2017, when the host of the Summer Games will be announced in Lima, Peru, at the 130th IOC Session.

This would be the third time the Olympic torch would flicker over LA – the city hosted the games in 1932 and again in 1984.

Most recently, New York (2012) and Chicago (2016) failed in their attempts to bring the Summer Olympics back to the U.S. for the first time since the Atlanta Games in 1996.

Rocky road

The U.S. bid for 2024 traveled a rocky road before landing in Los Angeles . Boston received the original mandate from the United States Olympic Committee, beating out both LA and Washington.

However, the USOC dropped its Boston bid on July 27 of last year after a series of cost-related issues and a lack of public support demonstrated by a March 2015 MassINC poll that showed 52 percent of Boston-area residents opposed the effort.

Once Boston’s bid was dropped, LA stepped up, and on June 2 the IOC confirmed that the nation’s second-largest city would continue to the second bidding stage.

Janet Evans, former vice chair and director of athlete relations for the LA movement, said the committee is confident in its bid because of the infrastructure already in place.

“LA has 97 percent of our venues built and 88 percent support from our citizens,” said Evans, a four-time gold medalist in swimming.

The Games would stretch across four areas in the Greater Los Angeles area – the San Fernando Valley; a cluster adjacent to the Pacific coast that would include parts of Santa Monica, Culver City and Beverly Hills; the South Bay area that extends from Inglewood down to Rancho Palos Verdes; and downtown LA.

On July 29, just one week before the Summer Games opened here in Rio, the LA bid committee released highly detailed artist renderings of what a renovated Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and other venues would look like if the city were to host the 2024 games.

Built to last

Existing buildings that would be used also include the downtown Staples Center, the Convention Center, the Microsoft Theatre, the Galen Center at USC, several stadiums on the UCLA campus, the Rose Bowl in Pasadena and the Forum in Inglewood.

One of the few buildings in the bid that is yet to be completed will be the new home of the recently relocated Los Angeles Rams of the NFL. Adjacent to the Forum in Inglewood, the stadium is reported to cost about $2 billion and is expected to be finished by 2018, regardless of the outcome of the city’s Olympic bid.

Wasserman said this existing infrastructure will allow his 2024 LA bid committee to spend the seven years between the time the IOC awards the games to the time the Olympics actually would arrive in the city focusing on feedback from athletes that can help improve the overall Olympic experience.

“We have such an incredible foundation of infrastructure, housing and facilities, we can spend seven years worrying about delivery,” Wasserman said. “When we engage with athletes and ask them their opinion, we can actually follow up with that and deliver against that promise, as opposed to other cities, who all would like to deliver against that promise (but) are stuck building buildings and managing budgets.”

Athlete engagement and the use of existing venues are the central elements to the IOC’s Agenda 2020, a strategic roadmap for the future of the Olympic movement, according to Olympic.org.

The LA bid committee has put athlete engagement at the top of its list. Members have been traveling around, hosting town halls and gathering input from both American and international Olympians and Paralympians. Among the wishes are better public and community spaces, better food, 24-hour room service, open bars and more support for family and friends trying to attend and watch the Games.

Romanian former gymnast and LA Advisory Commission member Nadia Comaneci was at the last Olympics hosted in LA. Comaneci, who burst onto the international stage as a 14-year-old at the 1976 Summer Games with her seven perfect 10s and three gold medal gymnastics performances, said turning to the competitors themselves is the best way to improve host cities in the future.

“I was contacted by Janet Evans when all this happened and I was very impressed because she wants to know from former athletes,” Comaneci said. “(She said,) ‘Tell me something crazy that every athlete wants in the Olympic Village so we can create that, so we can make that better for the athletes so they have a great experience.”

Evans said athletes appreciate the opportunity to have their voices heard.

“The athletes love it because they leave and they say thanks for listening to my mind, thanks for listening to me,” Evans said. “It’s pretty cool.”

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