Los Angeles will submit a bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics, after the City Council gave the greenlight on Tuesday to pursue the Games.
Still unresolved is whether the city will be ultimately responsible for cost overruns.
“This is the beginning, not the end. This is the engagement, not the wedding, and now we are in the prenup phase,” City Council president Herb Wesson said after the council gave unanimous approval.
At a press conference on Santa Monica Beach, the U.S. Olympic Committee later confirmed Los Angeles as its candidate to the International Olympic Committee, which will select a site for the games in 2017.
Casey Wasserman is chairing the committee leading the Olympic bid. He and Mayor Eric Garcetti have been negotiating with the IOC over terms.
“This is a great day for Los Angeles and a great day for the Olympic movement,” Garcetti said at the press conference, where he was joined by Wasserman. He said that he was confident that the Games would be sustainable and would return a profit.
“As a global sports destination, we can put on a Games with substantially reduced cost and risk,” Wasserman said.
The Games are budgeted currently 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.
A key question has been the city’s exposure to potential cost overruns, which frequently beset other Olympiads. Boston withdrew its bid earlier this summer over concerns that it would have to commit to such liability, as well as for the lack of public support.
The L.A. City Council also voted to require a more detailed report on costs, after a city analysis said that it could not verify or validate cost projections made in an initial bid proposal.
Miguel Santana, the city’s chief administrative officer, said the council’s vote on Tuesday did not commit the city to spending public funds or covering cost overruns — something that would come before the council in future votes. Those questions would be subject to negotiations between the city, the bid committee and the USOC.
Los Angeles, which also hosted the Games in 1984 and 1932, may have advantages over other host cities, as it has a number of venues already in place. The last time a North American city hosted the Summer Games was in 1996, when Atlanta hosted. The 2016 Games will be in Rio, and the 2020 Games will be in Tokyo.
For Comcast and NBCUniversal, which have the rights to the Olympics through 2032, Los Angeles also would have the advantage of bringing the Games into a U.S. time zone, and they could potentially save production costs.
According to the Los Angeles bid packet, the broadcast and media center would be located on the Universal Studios lot, with a budgeted cost of $130 million and “designed to be consistent with the existing and future broadcast and studio uses.” The studio already has approval for a master plan for expansion of production and office space on its lot over the next 25 years, and such an Olympic facility would probably be located on the northeast side of the backlot near Barham Boulevard. Wasserman even thanked Universal’s Ron Meyer, who was present at the press conference, for help with the bid.
“It’s time to bring them back to a good time zone,” said Al Michaels, who covered the Games for ABC in 1984. He emceed Tuesday’s press conference, noting that Los Angeles was “just ebullient” when it last hosted the Games. He was joined by 1984 Olympic athletes such as Greg Louganis and Peter Vidmar, as well as Janet Evans, who competed in 1988.
Other cities submitting bids include Rome, Hamburg, Paris and Budapest.
“We are in this to win it, and I think we will,” said councilman Paul Krekorian, who nevertheless expressed concerns about the exposure to taxpayers and also said that other Los Angeles County cities that will host venues could be called upon for support.
Garcetti said that Los Angeles won’t be trying to lure the Games with the promise of huge infrastructure investment, but will depend on projects already in the works, like the expansion of public transit lines and upgrades at LAX.
“We have an infrastructure for our city that the Olympics can benefit from, and not visa versa,” Garcetti said.
Another question is where the Olympic Village will be located. The current plans call for construction at a site along the Los Angeles River, but city analysts have questioned the projected $1 billion cost as perhaps too optimistic. The city and Olympic committee also would have to acquire the property, where Union Pacific Corp. operates a rail line.
Garcetti said that they have heard from a number of private parties who have expressed interest in investing in the village.
The plan calls for the events to be held in a series of “clusters” around Los Angeles, such as downtown-USC, the South Bay, Santa Monica, Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley, in an effort to make venues closer in accessibility than Games in other cities.
Garcetti said that the 1984 Games proved that serious traffic problems could be avoided, and that upcoming light rail lines will make it easier for visitors to get to different venues.
“We did it in ’84, and we will do it again,” he said.