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Volume 26 No. 85
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Four-Year Delay In L.A. Hosting Olympics Could Bring Unforeseen Challenges

If the IOC awards L.A. the '28 Games instead of the '24 Games that the city has been seeking, it would raise vexing questions never contemplated before this week, Olympics insiders and business veterans said. IOC President Thomas Bach last week said he is contemplating major changes to bidding rules and did not rule out awarding two Games at once. If the IOC were to call both L.A. and chief rival Paris winners, it might prevent one from permanently abandoning Olympic ambitions, but the order of events would still be crucial, experts say. “The city that doesn’t get '24 is still going to feel they lost out,” said St. Lucia IOC member Richard Peterkin. “But maybe at least, you can live with it.” On one hand, it would undeniably be a victory for the USOC, fulfilling its top strategic goal of returning the Summer Games to U.S. soil for the first time since '96. But the four extra years would throw planning into turmoil. LA 2024’s team has been lobbying government agencies and politicians, negotiating rental agreements and venue plans with private owners and building public support based on a precise timeline leading up to summer '24. Also, the bid committee would confront the question of sustainability. Whichever organizing committee is given the ’28 Games would have to either attempt to sell sponsorship rights for an event a decade away, find additional private philanthropic funding (which is currently supporting LA 2024) or temporarily halt operations.

FOCUSED ON '24: A spokesperson for the Paris '24 bid said, "Paris is in this for 2024. A 2028 bid would certainly require a different Games plan. The land planned for the Olympic and Paralympic Village, for example, is located in an area that is so attractive for future projects that it would be difficult to hold beyond 2024. We are fully focussed on this bid.” LA 2024 would have different issues, relying mostly on rentals and little new development. But L.A. and the USOC say they are focused exclusively on ’24. “We are absolutely laser focused on bidding for the 2024 Summer Games, and no thought or consideration is being given to any future games, whether it’s ’26, '28 or beyond,” said USOC Chair Larry Probst. "Our goal is to win the bid, to have the Olympic Games in Los Angeles 2024.” An L.A. bid spokesperson said, "We are only bidding for the 2024 Games."

TRYING NOT TO LOSE POTENTIAL HOSTS: From the IOC’s perspective, the argument in favor of the radical reforms is straightforward. L.A. and Paris are on a shrinking list of cities with both the capability and desire to host the Olympics, and a traditional all-or-nothing vote would alienate the loser at a time when their continued enthusiasm for the Olympics property is crucial to the broader industry, veteran sports marketer Patrick Nally said. Also, it would spare the cost and hassle of new ’28 bid race, freeing up IOC team to deal with the Russian doping scandal and other strategic concerns. It is not clear how quickly the IOC or Bach intend to pursue these changes, and Bach was vague on exactly how he would accomplish his stated goal of creating fewer losers in the bid process. In theory, Nally said, the IOC could conduct the current bidding race under current rules, then declare in short order that the runner-up in '24 would be given the ’28 Games. But that would require extensive talks with current bidders, members and lawyers, all well in advance of the scheduled September vote on the ’24 Games. “(Bach) wouldn’t have said that if they weren’t a lot farther down the path of considering this than we all realized,” Nally said.

CREATING AN EVEN BIGGER WINDOW: Researchers have identified the long window (usually seven years) in between selection of a host city and the Games as a key driver of cost escalation and blown budgets, as economic and political circumstances change in ways difficult to foresee. This change would put the '28 Games 11 years out from selection. “If you get ’28, there’s now a lot more uncertainty about what government’s going to be in place, are people going to still be interested?” Peterkin said. However, Smith College economist Andrew Zimbalist, a frequent Olympic critic, praised Bach’s concept, saying both L.A. and Paris require relatively little new construction, which usually causes the overruns. Zimbalist also speculated that LA 2024 could come to new terms with major rental partners UCLA or USC relatively easily. “There’s always more risk if you push it four years out, but I don’t think it’s a large risk,” Zimbalist said. He also said the Olympics as a whole would benefit avoiding the costs of a new round of bidding for ’28.