L.A. mayor: Los Angeles is 'the emotional choice' over Paris to host 2024 Olympics

Joe Lago
LA 2024 gave the IOC Evaluation Commission a surfboard as a gift. (Yahoo Sports)

SANTA MONICA, Calif. – Los Angeles and Paris, the only two cities left in the bidding to host the 2024 Olympic Games, could already be winners. The International Olympic Committee is contemplating the unprecedented decision to hold a double vote in September and award the 2024 and 2028 Summer Games at the same time. The only question would be which city would get to host first.

Like laid-back Californians, LA 2024 bid committee leaders initially were somewhat P.C. about the possibility of having to wait four more years to bring the Olympics back to Southern California. But not anymore. Their stance has changed, and they have made it clear that Los Angeles will be second to no one, even in a two-horse race.

“I think L.A. is the emotional choice. It’s not just the rational choice,” L.A. mayor Eric Garcetti said at Thursday’s press conference to conclude the IOC Evaluation Commission’s day-long venues tour – with a perfect sunset behind him, of course, amid palm trees – at the Annenberg Community Beach House.

“This is a city that loves the Olympics. This is a city that breathes the Olympics,” Garcetti added. “This is a city where young people don’t have to learn about the Olympics because they’ve grown up with it surrounding their communities, their sports facilities. They see the athletes training every day here. Any student at UCLA sees real-life Olympians. It’s not an abstract thing; it’s not a museum.”

Mayor Eric Garcetti shows off his Kareem skyhook at Staples Center. (Reuters)

Garcetti had likened the impersonal bidding process to “dating with a straight jacket.” But on Thursday, he and LA 2024 chairman Casey Wasserman finally got to show off what they had talked up all day Wednesday with presentations in a stuffy ballroom. And they believe they got the reactions they were looking for.

IOC members got to leave their downtown L.A. hotel and see the city and the proposed venues that already exist such as Staples Center, L.A. Coliseum and the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena. And during their tour, they remarkably didn’t run into any traffic on the typically jammed-at-anytime-of-day freeways. So when Christophe Dubi, the IOC’s sports director, admitted that it was “all in all, a very good day,” he wasn’t kidding.

The IOC also got to walk into the UCLA dorms and cafeterias that will serve as the Athletes Village and go see the International Broadcasting Center location at Universal Studios. Witnessing everything up close should be a significant selling point over Paris in that L.A. already has most of the structures and venues to host the Games. Just search Maracana Stadium to see how quickly things can change for a host city burdened by renovations and constructions.

“The truth is,” said Wasserman, “you can’t replicate these [facilities] from scratch.”

All week long, the buzzwords for LA 2024 have been “sustainability” and “legacy” to tout Los Angeles’ ability to deliver a fiscally responsible Games (buoyed by 88 percent public support) and an Olympics expected to impact local sports for generations much like the Summer Games did when L.A. last hosted in 1984. In the eyes of Garcetti, such positives should resonate with the IOC when it casts ballots this fall in Lima, Peru.

“If we had the opportunity for 90-something IOC members to spend the [same] kind of time in the city for a couple of days, I think Los Angeles’ strengths would’ve shown for themselves,” Garcetti said. “They would’ve risen above another really good bid as well. And I’m hoping that they [IOC Evaluation Committee members] can communicate that.

“I know evaluations are like, ‘We’ve got two great bids, here are some strengths and weaknesses,’ but ultimately … it’s about which one is better. Which one makes more sense now.

“We’ve got two fabulous bids. But I think L.A. is the right bid at this time.”

This being Hollywood, Mr. Mayor had jokes, too.

“I’d love to go to Paris,” he said. “… in 2028 to see my friends.”