On Wednesday, Budapest withdrew its bid to host the Summer Olympics in 2024, widening the very real possibility of the Games coming to Los Angeles in seven years. With other potential venues such as Boston, Rome, Stockholm and Oslo also bowing out recently, the only other bidder for the Games is Paris.
On the surface, the prospect of hosting the Olympics these days seems to scare constituents rather than excite them. It’s why the 2022 Winter Games will be held in Beijing — a city where it doesn’t really snow — because the only other option was Almaty, Kazakhstan. The International Olympic Committee, which decides the bids, has been accused of corruption and excessive demands from host cities. The cost to host the Games is almost never worth it; every Olympics since 1960 has gone over budget by an average of 156 percent, according to a University of Oxford study. Look at the images of empty, decrepit and abandoned stadiums from past Games — Rio, Sochi, Beijing, Athens — and it’s easy to understand how, for most cities, the Olympics result in a mere three-week economic boon before everyone leaves, the cameras go away and the host country is left in the red.
And on the surface, just the mere thought of the millions of athletes, spectators and media from around the world descending upon Los Angeles for three whole weeks and slowing the world-renowned dreadful traffic from a crawl to a parking lot should be enough to make locals vomit. So, one proper inference to make here for the city would be to let Paris have the Games so we don’t have to deal with either the headache of hosting or the economic heartbreak that presumably follows.
But in a time where public support for the Olympics in potential host cities is waning rapidly — there was so much backlash in Boston that the city literally struck down its own bid — the mood in Los Angeles is decidedly different: A Loyola Marymount University poll conducted last year found that more than 88 percent of Angelenos are in favor of hosting the Games in 2024.
OK, so maybe Californians are just objectively cooler. But on top of that, Los Angeles’ bid doesn’t appear to have the same potential missteps as other cities. It seems to be economically sound, low-risk and a true window to bring the Olympics back to the United States for just the second time since Los Angeles last hosted the Summer Games in 1984 (have you ever wondered how Café 84 got its name?)
Given how tarnished the IOC’s reputation has become (see: “doping, Russia”), holding the Olympics in a world-class city with a feasible plan wouldn’t be a bad idea. For most Olympic bidders, their blueprint for the Games revolve around proposals for massive new arenas and plans to build a shining city on a hill from scratch. But for 2024, Los Angeles has a different — and simple — idea. Rather than spending billions to build grandiose stadiums from scratch for the purposes of three weeks of competition, Los Angeles is proposing to use the plethora of venues already at its disposal for the Games.
And there are plenty of them, some of them on or near the USC campus. The Coliseum, fresh off a $270 million renovation project, would hold the opening and closing ceremonies, giving the historical venue — which has opened both the 1932 and 1984 Olympic Games — another chance to shine on the world stage. The Galen Center would play host to badminton. Dedeaux Field would turn into a temporary hub for swimming and diving, while the soon-to-be-completed University Village would serve as the media village.
That’s just the USC area. The city intends on utilizing just about every venue suitable for sports in the Southern California region: the Rose Bowl for soccer, the StubHub Center for rugby, the Staples Center and Pauley Pavilion for basketball, the Santa Monica Beach for volleyball. Remember in Sochi in 2014, when athletes and media dealt with contaminated water in their half-built, shoddy rooms? This time around, the athletes’ village would simply be at UCLA. There would be no huge investments, no last-second rush to make sure the stadiums are built on time (as was the case in Rio last summer) because everything’s already there.
In all, the bill for Los Angeles if it were to host the 2024 Games is projected to be just $5.3 billion, which pales in comparison to the $12 billion spent on the Rio Games, the whopping $50 billion spent for Sochi and the $30 billion that Tokyo is projected to spend on the 2020 Summer Olympics.
The Los Angeles proposal definitely isn’t sexy, but that’s not what the IOC needs right now. They don’t need another before-and-after comparison showing how a shiny, sleek, expensive stadium was used for all of three weeks before becoming an unused, glorified hunk of concrete. They don’t need to put the Games in countries plagued with issues far greater than hosting a sporting event — Rio’s budget for the 2016 Games was 16 times higher than the budget to fight the Zika Virus, according to Public Radio International. So while you were watching Michael Phelps end his career on a golden note or Usain Bolt run like the wind, people were dying of Zika because money was being funneled toward making Brazil look good in front of the world instead of fighting the life-threatening virus.
This should never happen, and the IOC needs to come up with a more viable procedure for poorer countries such as Brazil to host the Olympics. For now, it needs a break, a controversy-free Games to rehabilitate its image. And what better place than Los Angeles, a city that is open to welcoming the world to its hospitality and that actually has a reasonable, fiscally responsible plan to pull off a mega-event that no one else seems to want anymore?
Eric He is a sophomore majoring in journalism. He is also the associate managing editor for the Daily Trojan. His column, “Grinding Gears,” runs Fridays.