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Casey Wasserman Says Olympics Could Boost L.A. ‘Almost Unlike Anything Else’

Casey Wasserman, who is chairing Los Angeles bid committee for the 2024 Olympics, says that the event “has the ability to elevate the city almost unlike anything else,” and he defended the push to secure the games even as the region faces pressing problems with homelessness and education.

Speaking at the Future of Cities: Leading in LA summit on Monday, Wasserman said, “A city like L.A. can do a lot of things. Let’s be honest, if we don’t host the games, we have no opportunity to elevate this city. We have no opportunity to show the world what L.A. is. We have no opportunity to unite the city around a singular event. And we still have those other problems.”

Wasserman was among a number of civic, business and philanthropic leaders who spoke at the event, geared toward conversations about the city’s problems and how to ensure it has a vibrant future.

In September, the U.S. Olympic Committee selected Los Angeles as the bid city for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games. The Games are currently budgeted to cost about $6 billion — including about $1.7 billion in money raised from the private sector that would finance an Olympic Village and renovations to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The budget currently projects a $161 million surplus, with revenue from ticket sales and sponsorships.

Still to be worked out is the extent to which the city will be responsible for cost overruns.

“Our mayor likes to talk about how this is the time for L.A. to become one of the three or four great cities in the world, and I think the summer Olympic Games in 2024 has a tremendous opportunity to do that,” Wasserman said.

But in his conversation with Los Angeles magazine editor Mary Melton, Wasserman said that Los Angeles “has the opportunity to be the poster child” for reforms to the International Olympic Committee bidding process that place greater weight on sustainability, including the use of existing sports venues.

“I think L.A. has the opportunity to be the right city at the right time,” Wasserman said. “We got tough competition against four incredible European cities, but we have a good team of people.”

The winning bid city will be selected in September, 2017.

Other speakers at the event at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art included musician Moby; John Kim, CEO of the Advancement Project; Monica Lozano, chair of the board of U.S. Hispanic Media Inc.; and LACMA CEO Michael Govan. There was much talk of the city’s troubled public education system, housing crunch and low voter turnout, but also of the region’s diversity, artistic environment and thriving restaurant scene, among other things.

The goal is to spur civic engagement about the city’s future. “We want this to serve as a spark that leads to a fire,” said the founder of the event, Donna Bojarsky.

Photo: Casey Wasserman and Los Angeles magazine editor Mary Melton.

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