Sports

2024 Olympics: Los Angeles close to making bid

Encouraged by 81 per cent support in a recent poll and a supportive mayor, the U.S. Olympic Committee announced Wednesday it is close to making Los Angeles its candidate to bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics.

U.S. city may join Rome, Paris, Budapest, Hamburg, possibly Toronto

Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum held track and field events during the 1984 Olympics in L.A., and could be used again. (Associated Press)

This time, U.S. Olympic leaders are looking to Los Angeles as a bidder for the 2024 Olympics — a city that actually wants to host the Games.

Encouraged by 81 per cent support in a recent poll and a supportive mayor who shows no signs of changing his mind, the U.S. Olympic Committee announced Wednesday it is close to making L.A. its candidate to try to bring the games back to U.S. soil for the first time in a generation.

USOC CEO Scott Blackmun said he hoped the decision would be official by the end of the month. The International Olympic Committee's deadline to nominate a city is Sept. 15. The United States hasn't hosted the Summer Games since 1996 in Atlanta.

"There are some complicated issues in the discussion," Blackmun said. "But I'm very optimistic we'll get to a good place for both of us."

The news comes slightly more than two weeks after the USOC dropped a Boston bid that was short on support and long on controversy. So far, Los Angeles isn't showing any signs of those problems. Mayor Eric Garcetti has said he'd have no problem signing the host city contract that the mayor in Boston said he would not.

"The L.A. Olympics would inspire the world and are right for our city," Garcetti said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Blackmun revealed results of a USOC-commissioned poll of Los Angeles residents from earlier this month. It showed 81 per cent support for hosting the Olympics. Boston was in the 40s.

"That's remarkable and very encouraging," Blackmun said.

Earlier this week, L.A. officials said the proposed budget for the Summer Games would be $4.1 billion US, plus a $400 million contingency. The Boston budget was around $4.6 billion. Those numbers, of course, are only estimates, and have, for decades, consistently run over.

But because Los Angeles has the Memorial Coliseum — centrepiece of the 1932 and 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles — and at least a dozen more Olympic-ready venues (to say nothing of a new NFL stadium that could be built by then), the USOC is optimistic it can keep costs in relative check. Because there won't be as many large projects, chairman Larry Probst feels a Los Angeles bid is more in line with the less-extravagant Olympic model IOC President Thomas Bach outlined in his recently released Agenda 2020 reforms.

Probst also suggested the positive feelings from the successful '84 Games still resonate in Southern California.

"People remember that time," he said. "It left a great legacy for the city."

Those Olympics, boycotted by the Soviet Union, put Carl Lewis and Mary Lou Retton on centre stage and, in many ways, transformed the games into the mega-billion-dollar event they are today.

Probst and Blackmun declined to get into details about what specifics might hold up a bid from Los Angeles, though they believe Garcetti will honour his commitment to sign the host-city contract. That became a major sticking point as the Boston bid disintegrated. The city's mayor, Marty Walsh, said he didn't want to put taxpayers on the hook for any potential cost overruns.

Agent Casey Wasserman is also a player in a bid from Los Angeles, which would join Rome, Paris, Budapest and Hamburg, Germany, in the contest. Other cities may declare soon as well, including Toronto, which is mulling a decision on whether to bid.

The winner will be decided in 2017.

At meetings earlier this month, Bach said that despite the Boston debacle, he was expecting the United States to bid.

And if it didn't?

"I think it would be a lost opportunity," Blackmun said. "On the summer side, there's a whole generation of Americans who haven't seen the games on American soil. We want to address that, and make sure the games come to the U.S. on a regular basis."

With files from CBC Sports

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