Los Angeles has won the right to host the 2028 Olympics. It will likely not be the last time the city welcomes the world’s top athletes to Southern California.
In a split decision that was heralded as a successful combination of international deal making and diplomacy, the International Olympic Committee awarded the next two games — 2024 will go to Paris with Los Angeles in the on-deck circle. The 2020 games already are set for Tokyo.
The decision has broad implications for the Central Coast, where UC Santa Barbara hosted an Olympic Village in 1984. UCSB, California Lutheran University and CSU Channel Islands could all become part of the mix of properties for housing athletes by the time 2028 preparations get under way. A tourist boom for the entire region will likely accompany the games.
But lift the curtain a bit higher and there is one large fact looming about the business of Olympic hosting — not very many cities have the capacity to competently host the games.
The colorful summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro were a fiscal disaster that accelerated Brazil toward economic collapse. The games provided only temporary cover for scandals; the last three presidents face corruption charges. The winter Olympics in the Russian city of Sochi were tainted by doping and were used as a global distraction for President Vladimir Putin’s subsequent Crimea grab.
Neither Rio nor Sochi was terribly well attended and one of the dirty secrets of Olympic hosting is that there is not a big line of cities waiting to make bids — that’s particularly true of the winter games, where the list of bidders is very short.
Putting on the Olympics requires financial strength, the ability to manage mammoth crowds and world class security. Increasingly, a successful games requires tremendous media infrastructure and the new Rams stadium gives Los Angles an edge in that area.
The 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles were one of the few summer games that actually made money, but costs have risen exponentially since then. In hosting the Olympics, according to Reuters, Los Angeles will get financial commitments for $2 billion, more than Rio got for the 2016 games and the city will go to the federal government for additional funding for security arrangements.
In the 21st Century, the Olympics will have to change. That likely means designating four or five rotating host sites around the world that are more or less fixtures on the Olympic scene for both summer and winter games.
A move in that direction has been quietly taken by the IOC in awarding two games simultaneously. By the time 2028 ends, Los Angeles and Paris each will have hosted the games three times since 1900.
The long-run advantage for Los Angeles and Southern California in hosting the 2028 games is not just that the games will be held in the Southland for the third time as a one-off.
The big advantage will be when the IOC comes to its senses and agrees that for the long run it makes sense to return to Los Angeles on a 24-year or 36-year cycle. That would add an element of predictability to the games and allow for some longer-term planning for housing projects and transportation infrastructure that could pay off for decades to come.
That’s part of the reason why the 1984 Olympics were so successful. Many of the improvements and new venues continue to be used decades after the Olympics moved on. Hosting the Olympics two or three more times in the 21st Century would be a net benefit to the region — at least until the traffic becomes so bad that the whole spectacle moves to some place where gridlock on the 405 is not a factor.
• Reach Editor Henry Dubroff at [email protected]