Reporting From Santa Monica Beach, U.S.A. – The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Evaluation Commission (EC) team Thursday toured two University campuses in Los Angeles that together may be the key to defeating Paris when a vote is held to decide the 2024 Olympic Games host city September in Peru.
In a busy day two for the IOC team that had begun to review the LA 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games bid Wednesday, members divided into three groups in order to explore as many of the existing and proposed temporary venue sites as possible in the single day available. In total they explored all of the almost thirty venues, missing only the proposed rowing site, Lake Perris.
In a vision the bid calls “radical reuse”, no new permanent facilities or infrastructure will be built or funded by an LA 2024 organizing committee specifically for the Games.
To achieve that goal, LA 2024 has proposed using the University of California (UCLA) campus as the Olympic Village – a venue that is rich with facilities including existing and newly constructed student residences to house athletes, food services, sports training facilities in multiple disciplines and more – all located centrally within the LA 2024 master plan.
On Thursday UCLA proposed adding 4,500 additional beds that will be ready in 2021, all privately funded and made available to a potential Games organizing committee without of the use of taxpayer money.
University of Southern California (USC) has been put forward to host the Media Village, the Main Press Center and the International Broadcast Center, all within walking distance of the LA Memorial Coliseum to host Athletics and Dedeaux Field for Aquatics. With a (USD) $700 million residence addition scheduled to go into service in August, there will be sufficient accommodations for the world media, and a state-of-the-art broadcast center is already built and in use by the student population.
The majority of these facilities are built and in use today, negating any risk of project delays and cost over runs that will cause a burden to taxpayers.
The IOC received extensive tours of both these venues giving them much more than a vision of what is possible in Los Angeles, and what is real right now.
Next week the IOC team will visit LA’s bid rival Paris where only a few new venues will be constructed, but those include both the Athlete’s and Media Villages – two of the most costly and risky venues to deliver. For those, the IOC will be presented with renderings and a view of a space where they could be constructed.
It’s not relevant to mention the costs of the new Paris villages, thought to be in the billions of dollars, because estimates for such venues are typically unreliable and understated by bids.
Any concerns that facilities at a public university would provide a sub-par athlete experience during the Games would be unwarranted. Top-tier U.S. campuses, including UCLA and USC, have evolved in a kind of arms race – providing higher quality facilities and services to attract more qualified students. UCLA facilities will equal, and could top the accommodations that have been provided at recent Games.
When asked by GamesBids.com if he thought the UCLA campus Olympic Village concept was better than creating one from scratch IOC EC Chief Patrick Baumann said “at the end it’s what the result is that counts.”
“It’s not whether it’s there or not yet there. This is not about comparing the two candidatures and their different approach to a village.
“The most important for the Evaluation Commission is to see that the plans for the Olympic Village respond to the needs of the athletes.
“The Olympic Village is about is having all the athletes together in one place being able to interact in between them and share the Olympic spirit with their colleagues.”
Baumann had moments earlier lauded the UCLA and USC campuses for their excellent facilities and potential for the Games.
“They have everything for what will be needed for the Games,” he said.
“We stayed a long time there because they will be key pieces of a Games here in LA.”
But the Olympics have been rejected by cities around the world due to the massive construction projects thought to be required and the associated costs and risks.
With three of the five original 2024 bid cities – Hamburg, Rome and Budapest – having already dropped out of the race due to these factors, the IOC needs to carefully consider its next move. IOC President Thomas Bach has proposed awarding both the 2024 and 2028 Games to LA and Paris at the same Session later this year and it is currently under consideration.
But both LA and Paris are pushing back against the 2028 option. Paris says the opportunity to build its Olympic Village is only available for 2024 and LA contends that the time to introduce it’s risk-free concept is now, to provide an immediate benefit for the Olympic movement.
“Why wait until 2028 to experience them?” LA Mayor Eric Garcetti said Thursday.
“I’d love to go to Paris in 2028 and see my friends there, I think it will be a great Olympics, I really do.”
This EC visit has been noticeably void of the over-the-top pomp and circumstance that has been common in recent bids. Ceremonial greetings with choirs and cultural displays have not been seen in LA this week.
“They wanted to see the city as it is,” Garcetti said.
“The Olympics asked us not to buff the city up, and this is Hollywood. But we didn’t change a single thing.
“Nothing was forced, nothing was formal, nothing contrived.”
The Mayor described the spontaneity during the his group’s tour that included the campuses and the LA Memorial Coliseum. He said Commission members decided to visit the Space Shuttle Endeavor that is on exhibit at the California Science Center. They went inside and met some students who realized who they were and swarmed them.
“They were like rock stars,” Garcetti explained.
At the UCLA campus the Commission members visited some dorm rooms while students were inside studying for exams. When they were hungry, they went into the student cafeteria for a bite to eat.
As they did after the day one meetings that were held at the JW Marriot Hotel at LA Live, Baumann along with IOC Sports Director Christophe Dubi answered questions from reporters – something that has not happened in past EC visits.
The IOC and LA 2024 teams will have an informal gathering Thursday evening in Santa Monica before they wrap up the three day visit on Friday with a final mid-day press conference. The EC will jet to Paris to begin an inspection of the French Capital Sunday.
A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of GamesBids.com as well as providing freelance support for print and Web publications around the world. Robert Livingstone is a member of the Olympic Journalists Association and the International Society of Olympic Historians.