Reforms Draw Century Old 2024 Olympic Bid Rematch Between Paris, Rome and Los Angeles

The 2024 Olympic bid, the first to play out entirely under the guidance of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Agenda 2020 reforms, is seen as a rebirth of a system that will lead to better host city selections.  But that’s a tall task to ask of a process that seems to be drawing interest from the same cities who were after the Olympic prize a century ago.

A poster promotes Paris 1924 Olympic Games

A poster promotes Paris 1924 Olympic Games

A change in history will be welcomed by Los Angeles as the city joins Paris and Rome in the 2024 race just as it did in 1924 before it lost to the same two cities as the first-time bidder vied to become only the second U.S. city to host the popular, fast-growing international sport festival.

In fact, the current potential host city pool seems like an homage to that of exactly 100 years ago as even Budapest had applied for the rights to the 1920 Games before the Great War eliminated Hungary from contention – and Germany was set to stage the 1916 Games.

Amsterdam, Barcelona and Prague were also in the mix as the cities competed to host either the 1924 or 1928 Olympic Games – hosts for both dates were to be chosen at the IOC’s new headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland in June 2, 1921.

World War I had disrupted Olympic business resulting in the cancellation of the scheduled 1916 Berlin Games and the awarding of the 1920 Games as a concession to war ravaged Antwerp, Belgium only one year ahead of the scheduled start.  By 1921 the IOC was forced to play catch-up so it planned to elect the two Summer Games hosts at the same meeting.

Paris, a city that had already hosted the second Games in 1900 was the overwhelming choice to host the 1924 Olympics reportedly as a gift to retiring President Pierre de Coubertin who desired to see a more successful Games hosted in his home country after the 1900 Games were considered “flawed”.  But more likely, the French Capital was seen as better prepared and experienced to host the Games with only three years notice.

Amsterdam was second choice and the city was awarded the 1928 Games ahead of Los Angeles, the only other city interested in hosting those Games.

Paris defeated Los Angeles and Rome, along with Amsterdam, Barcelona and Prague, to host the 1924 Olympic Games

Los Angeles finally won the privilege of hosting its first Games in 1932 without opposition as no other cities entered the race.  Interestingly, L.A. also won its second bid unopposed after Tehran, Iran abandoned its bid to host the 1984 Games.  That bid election, held in 1978, followed the tragic terrorist-hit Munich 1972 Games and the following debt-ridden Montreal 1976 Games that drowned in sharply increased security costs.

If the Southern California metropolis hopes to host a third time in 2024, it will need to defeat opponents in the election.

Delegates at the 1921 IOC Congress in Lausanne, Switzerland where Paris was elected host of the 1924 Games

Delegates at the 1921 IOC Congress in Lausanne, Switzerland where Paris was elected host of the 1924 Games (© IOC)

Paris is back looking to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its last Games.  After losing bids to host the 1992, 2008 and 2012 Games, the French capital is widely considered the favourite in this race too.  But Paris was also pegged to host the 2012 Games that eventually went to London so the 2024 bid can be considered wide open.

Budapest managed to bid once more before entering a 2024 candidacy, but the Hungarian capital lost its 1960 bid to a city it’s facing once again – Rome.

Hamburg as a city has never bid for the Olympic Games at the international level and is the only inexperienced candidate in the race.  Though the city began to campaign for the 2012 Games at the domestic level – Leipzig became the final choice of the German Olympic Committee and the city from former East Germany was eventually dropped from the IOC shortlist.

The IOC recently eliminated shortlisting from the process but Hamburg still faces a potential stumbling block on November 29 when a binding referendum in the city will determine whether the bid moves forward.

What City would like to see host the 2024 Olympic Games?

  • Hamburg (44%)
  • Los Angeles (21%)
  • Paris (21%)
  • Budapest (9%)
  • Rome (6%)

Loading ... Loading ...

The relaxed bidding rules introduced by Agenda 2020 were intended to make the Games more accessible to smaller nations and cities – allowing for a more widespread Games footprint with less new construction and the reduction of so-called white elephants.  But a new “invitation phase” executed ahead of the opening of the 2024 campaign seems to have had the opposite effect as four of the five eventual applicants are from G7 nations.  Baku in Azerbaijan, a city that unsuccessfully bid for the two previous Games, reportedly participated in the invitation phase but under the direction of the IOC decided to step back and wait until 2028 instead.

Toronto was also engaged in the invitation stage, but after weeks of positive remarks from the city’s Mayor on the heals of a successful Pan American Games he finally declined to apply at the last hour, referencing hours of meetings with the IOC as the basis of his decision.

So while so much has changed, it seems so little is different as we revisit a nostalgic, century-old bidding landscape to determine the host of the 2024 Olympic Games.

The election of the winner will take place September 2017 in Lima, Peru.

About Robert Livingstone

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.