Los Angeles’ 2024 Olympic Bid Looks Great On Paper, But Only The Votes Will Count

LA 2024 Bid Book delivered to IOC on USB drive (LA 2024 Photo)
LA 2024 Bid Book delivered to IOC on USB drive (LA 2024 Photo)

Today was a day of superlatives for the Los Angeles 2024 Olympic bid, and it was all well deserved after an evening that saw bid organizers unveil an innovative logo and slogan, a new Website and the first stage of comprehensive bid plans.

And that was capped off for those in attendance at the presentation in LA with a screening of the move “Race” featuring the inspirational story of Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympic Games.  He’s often considered the greatest athlete in track and field history – another superlative.

The logo, bid chief Gene Sykes told reporters, was very well-received.

“I didn’t hear anything negative about it,” he said.

Turning to the bid plans themselves, he said “everything in our plan is a certainty.”

If there are any changes to be made, Sykes claimed, they would be only to improve the bid.  Bid documents suggest that 100 per cent of the venues will have a strong legacy, and only one single new venue needs to be permanently built to support the Games.  The rest are either existing, planned to be built anyways, or will be temporary.

LA is possibly “the most prepared candidate city” ever, LA 2024 Chairman Casey Wasserman said.

The high number of existing venues and 100 per cent legacy plan “is the definition of sustainability” and a Games in Southern California in 2024 could be “one of the most transformative Games ever.”

One superlative after another.  And it’s all true.  If the Olympic bid was a scored event based on the first stage of the bid book and requirements set out in Agenda 2020 – LA would win.  Easily.

But the bid process is an election.  And as in all elections, it’s political.  The all-important marketing, lobbying and politicking stage of the bid process has barely begun.

On Wednesday International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach set the stage after the bid books were all in and accounted for.  He said “Los Angeles, Rome, Budapest and Paris are all submitting projects fully in line with Olympic Agenda 2020.”

“It is impressive to see how they have incorporated the Olympic project into the long-term development plans of their city, region and country. Coming from different starting points, for all four there is a clear focus on sustainable development, legacy and in particular how the facilities are going to be used after the Olympic Games.”

And as diplomatically as possible he said “we are delighted to have four extremely strong candidatures and look forward to a fascinating competition.”

But it’s abundantly clear there is a division in this race if you test the plans against Agenda 2020.  Any city that needs to construct the risky and costly Olympic Village or one or more stadiums or arenas will be at a disadvantage to LA, a city that only needs to build a permanent canoe slalom course.  But that’s not for Bach to say, it’s up to about 100 IOC members to decide for themselves before they cast their votes in September 2017.

2024 Olympic bid books Were delivered to the IOC on USB drives for the first time (IOC Photo)
2024 Olympic bid books Were delivered to the IOC on USB drives for the first time (IOC Photo)

So, LA can sell the plan as much as they want, and use all the superlatives that there are – but they will then have to sell their bid on a different level.

“We’re fully aware of that,” Wasserman said when asked by on a conference call with the media Wednesday.

“Our job… to get to know the membership,” he added, “be someone you can trust to know you, like you and respect you.”

IOC President Thomas Bach meets NBA's LA Lakers Kobe Bryant at the Staples Center in Los Angeles January 31, 2016 (IOC Photo)
IOC President Thomas Bach meets NBA’s LA Lakers Kobe Bryant at the Staples Center in Los Angeles January 31, 2016 (IOC Photo)

“The bid pages are a big part of the process [but] make sure the members have pages and people, and personalities, and stories, in addition to the technical plan.”

USOC CEO Scott Blackmun added “you are able to connect through passion, and that Casey and Gene have.”

“The power of sport makes a difference.”

The bid books received by the IOC today will be analyzed by the Evaluation Commission and a technical report will be provided to the Executive Board and then eventually to voting IOC members closer to the election date.  Most of the IOC members won’t take more than a casual glance at all four complete volumes of bid books though they’ll watch some presentations ahead of the vote.

For the first time, in the name of sustainability, printed copies were not delivered to the IOC and documents were delivered on electronic USB drives.  That may even further reduce the chances that they’ll be widely read.

So it comes down to one-on-one personal relationships – as Wasserman described – and though it seems that by the numbers LA has taken a huge lead in the race, know that the real competition has yet to begin.

A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of 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.

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