As a deadline to submit its bid approaches, Los Angeles officials are stepping up their efforts to host the 2024 Summer Olympics and overcome perceived obstacles that could keep the International Olympic Committee from looking elsewhere.
But the very assets of the city — its enormous sports infrastructure and a history of staging the Games with little public assistance — could doom its bid in the eyes of the IOC, analysts and sports economists said.
The city plans to submit its bid to the U.S. Olympic Committee for the 2024 Games in September. The U.S. committee will then select a city and likely deliver its recommendation to the IOC by the end of the year. The IOC will announce the winning bid in 2017.
“The watchword for the Olympics has been legacy: What will be left after the Games are over,” said Stefan Szymanski, a professor of sport management at the University of Michigan.
“L.A. is in a good position with its facilities, it has most of what is needed.”
One of the questions that will need to be answered is if the IOC wants to push for new construction, Szymanski said.
“It is always possible there will be a backlash against gigantism and a more modest Games will become a popular option,” he said. “I just don't see that yet.”
Criticism of the recently completed Sochi Winter Olympics has focused on the amount of work not completed on hotels and sports sites as well as the overall cost of the event, which carried an estimated price tag of $51 billion.
Barry Sanders, president of the Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games, which was the driving force in winning the 1984 Summer Olympics for Los Angeles, is undeterred by the criticism.
“Sochi is a lesson on the attractiveness of the Olympic Games,” Sanders said. “It is a beautiful event and is something every city should want.
“We should want the Games because of the joy it brings. We are redoubling our effort to bring this event back to Los Angeles.”
Sanders touted all of the new and refurbished sports facilities in and around the city that didn't exist for the 1984 Games, such as Staples Center, Home Depot Center in Carson and Galen Center on the USC campus as well as the remodeled Rose Bowl and Pauley Pavilion on the UCLA campus. Upgrades are also expected at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum once USC takes over its management.
“We have the best hotels, the best restaurants that offers cuisine from around the world,” Sanders said. “We have no lack of things that makes us attractive to the international community. We haven't had to make a sales pitch. They know the city well.”
Areas that might need work is an aquatic center and an athletes' village, as the IOC tends to want athletes to be in a common area near venues, Szymanski said.
Sanders said that, unlike the bid for the 1984 Games, support for the 2024 Summer Game has come from Mayor Eric Garcetti, the City Council, county Board of Supervisors as well as neighboring cities, such as Pasadena, where the Rose Bowl would likely be a featured site.
Los Angeles won the 1984 Summer Olympics by default after Tehran, Iran, its only competitor, dropped its application.
Even then, it was a tough battle between local organizers and the IOC, who were skeptical of Los Angeles' plan to privately finance the Games.
Today, the situation is much different.
There are a number of U.S. cities competing to serve as host of the 2024 Games as well as major cities from around the world.
One of the keys is having a good relationship with the IOC, said Robert Livingtone of www.gamesbids.com, which follows the business of bidding to host the Olympic Games.
“It is a seven-year agreement with them and you want to make sure you have a strong relationship because it can fall apart rather quickly,” Livingstone said. “Of all the U.S. cities looking to bid, Los Angeles is probably in the best shape with its sports infrastructure. But, is that what the IOC wants?”
Another factor that could work against Los Angeles is that it has already hosted two Summer Olympics in 1932 and 1984, he said.
“London hosted three, so there is precedent, but it will require Los Angeles to be smart in how it deals with the issue,” Livingstone said.
USC sports economist David Carter said it is difficult to gauge what the IOC is looking for.
“Every four years, it changes,” Carter said. “There is different technology, a different global picture, different economics.
“Los Angeles does have the sports infrastructure, but a lot of the buildings are not shiny and new,” Carter said. “And, the size of the city and its sprawling nature creates a security challenge.”