Where the Sidewalk Starts: Hosting the 2028 Olympics could have negative outcomes for LA

Josie Stocks/Daily Trojan

2028 feels like a long time from now, but given the timeline of city planning, nine years will go by in a flash. In nine years, Los Angeles will host over 300 sporting events, an estimated 10,000 athletes and 500,000 visitors. In nine years, L.A. will surrender major public and private landmarks, stadiums, buildings and spaces for these events. In nine years, L.A. streets, sidewalks and public transit systems will be far more crowded than they are now.

And in nine years, L.A. will host the Summer Olympic Games, again, and there’s a high chance that the city and its residents will suffer from negative consequences the Games bring.

The first point of contention is that L.A.’s Olympic bid was accepted undemocratically. Groups like NOlympics are calling for a referendum, an opportunity for L.A.’s residents to make the decision since it impacts them directly, rather than handing their vote to the Olympic bid committee.

While a survey conducted by NOlympics found a general disinterest in L.A. hosting the Olympics, the survey was prone to volunteer bias — people who do not have strong feelings do not take the time to go online and record their responses. As a result, only those who were strongly against the Olympics took the time to respond, yielding skewed data among participants.

But understandably, most people would vote thinking only of the prestige and excitement the Games bring. However, there is a variety of other issues the Games would create that L.A. residents are unaware of.

Should the Olympics cost more than the profit it generates, paying for the debt is on California residents. Called the “taxpayer guarantee,” Assembly Bill 132 allows L.A. a $270 million leeway in case the Games go overbudget. All of this money comes from California taxpayers, most of whom don’t know what they’re paying for.

When L.A. hosted the 1984 games, the city ended with a $215 million surplus, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. But it’s likely the infrastructure that was created then will be unable to support the Olympics now, and the city already has a plan to expand transit, called “28 by 28,” promising 28 completed projects by the year 2028. Promising, but unrealistic — the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is already seeing a financial gap between their plan and execution.

Though L.A. currently has more promising infrastructure and a positive Olympic-funding track record, costs of hosting the Olympics have increased since 1984. Rio is still recovering from the immense debt it incurred from hosting the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Brazil was $20 billion in debt post-Olympics, and the country fell into its worst recession in decades. But beyond the possible financial strain the Olympics would place on California residents, there will be other changes that affect Angelenos in unforeseen ways.

If L.A. hosts the Olympics, pressures on undocumented immigrants would increase. For the duration of the Games, many L.A. residents will worry about deportation and other measures against them.

The city’s bid committee voted to designate the 2028 Summer Olympics as a National Security Special Event, meaning federal law enforcement agencies would handle security, and it would be funded by all U.S. taxpayers. But the committee failed to recognize that the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement are included in these agencies.

According to a 2017 report by the Pew Research Center, roughly 10% of the 11.1 million immigrants illegally residing in the U.S. live in L.A. and Orange counties. With such a high population of undocumented immigrants, having a heavy ICE presence puts many residents at risk.

Even closer to home, the Olympics could have negative effects on USC. The Daily Trojan reported that activists protested against L.A. hosting the Olympics as soon as the bid was announced in 2017, and local residents voiced fears that went unheard by the bid committee. Previous games (think Rio de Janeiro in 2016 or Atlanta in 1996) have historically displaced residents because of wasteful development projects. And even though LA 2028 says it will rely on existing venues, it doesn’t account for the possibility that hosting the Olympics in L.A. may still displace residents due to third-party developments.

There are many uncertainties revolving around hosting the Olympic Games. Rather than an international game of hot potato, the International Olympic Committee should consider a permanent, reusable host city equipped with the necessary infrastructure and resources. L.A. has hosted twice in the past, but whether it can stomach another hot potato, however, is still to be determined.

Breanna de Vera is a sophomore writing about urban planning. She is also the opinion editor of the Daily Trojan. Her column, “Where the Sidewalk Starts” runs Mondays.