By Barry Janoff
December 16, 2015: With the countdown to the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro just about eight months away, the U.S. Olympic Committee took time to meet with executives from LA2024 to talk about Summer Games that are eight years away.
Los Angeles, Rome, Paris and Budapest are the four destinations that are scheduled in February to submit their official bids to the International Olympic Committee to host the Olympics in 2024. The IOC will conduct a vote in September 2024 to name the host city.
The road to this point for Los Angeles has been challenging and will continue to be, as members of the LA2024 committee are well aware.
"A lot can happen in 22 months and as a bid we have a lot of hard work to do," Gene Sykes, CEO for LA2024, said during a media conference in the USOC's New York offices on Tuesday (Dec. 15). "We're under no illusion that winning the 2024 Olympic Games will be an easy task."
Los Angeles received USOC's approval to move ahead as the U.S. representative after first being rejected — along with San Francisco and Washington D.C. — in favor of Boston, but was back on top after local and state officials in Boston declined to move ahead.
The movers and shakers behind the Los Angeles bid are now dealing with both the pros and cons of this massive undertaking.
"Given recent events, a lot has been said and debated about the cost of bidding for and hosting Olympic Games," said Casey Wasserman, chairman for LA2024. "We believe that is a positive and necessary conversation going forward."
According to Wasserman, working with city and state officials and other groups involved in the process, LA2024 is following the agenda put in place by the IOC regarding not just the bid and hosting process, but the short- and long-term post-impact.
"We are not changing the face of our city to fit the Olympic Games," said Wasserman. "We are drafting an Olympic Games concept to fit our city. The Games must serve our city for generations to come, not just for 17 days in 2024."
Wasserman stressed that "cost is a major focus of 'Olympic Agenda 2020' (created under the auspices of the IOC as a 'strategic road map for the future of the Olympic Movement') to ensure that cities plan for and host the Games in a financially prudent manner that leaves real legacies for generations. With 85% of world-class venues in our Games plan already built or planned as permanent facilities, with more than $40 billion that Los Angeles is investing in our transportation infrastructure and airport, we are able to keep the cost low."
Citing recent polls, Wasserman said that "81% of Angelenos support the Games. And a recent poll by AP showed that nearly 90% of Americans support having the (Summer) Games back in the United States for the first time in 28 years," dating back to the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta.
Major obstacles to hosting the Olympics already have caused Hamburg and Boston to drop out of the 2024 bidding process, not the least of which are finances and security.
"Security is something to which we've given a lot of thought," said Sykes. "We have worked closely to get some help from city, state and county officials who deal with security, and we actually will take some steps that we'll be ready to announce in the next several weeks that will reflect the kinds of things we expect to do."
The press event was held on the same day that schools in Los Angeles were closed due to terror threats, which authorities later deemed to be a hoax. The recent events in San Bernardino and Paris have heightened awareness and concern.
"We are drafting an Olympic Games concept to fit our city. The Games must serve our city for generations to come, not just for 17 days in 2024."
"It's obviously a very high priory for us. Everything that happens in the world affects how we think about how we have to plan for this," said Sykes.
"All of the past Olympic Games held in the U.S., the Super Bowls are national special security events, and if we were to host the Games in 2024 it would be, as well," said Scott Blackmun, CEO for the USOC. "Which means you have a federal lead on that. So the discussions that we have with the Federal government going forward are going to be very important. At the end of the day, you can not skimp on security."
Among the high-cost of doing business is building an Olympic Village to house athletes, which for the 2024 Games had initially been put at $1 billion.
"The '2024 Bid Book' that was published well over a year ago identifies one site and put a provisional figure of $1 billion (to build an Olympic Village to house athletes), which was the way of saying this would be the cost of development, but it was not given a lot of specificity," said Sykes. "Since then we have identified roughly two dozen sites, including the one that was identified in the Bid Book . . We expect that in a reasonably short period of time we will make a decision about which site we feel is the best site for the Olympic Athlete Village. We're making very good progress."
Regarding more immediate situations, Blackmun said that the USOC is forecasting about $134 million in revenue this year and about $315 million in revenue for next year, "which is an Olympic year and we get a big payout from NBC."
According to Blackmun, 2016 is going to be "an important year for us. We've got a handful of categories that we're going to focus on in the early part of the year regarding sponsorships and renewals. I can't say much; we haven't announced much. We have some goals and some key existing relationships. We hope to renew a lot of them. If you compare the end of 2015 with the end of 2011, we are doing very well by comparison."
As for LA2024, "We had a productive meeting, which frankly reflects our close association with the Olympic Committee," said Wasserman. "Because of our heritage (hosting Olympic Games in 1932 and 1984) the people of Los Angeles understand the value of the Games and embrace the opportunity to welcome the world to Los Angeles."
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