The IOC has the choice of Paris or Los Angeles to host the 2024 Olympic Game and both have relatively sensible proposals
With the tournament for the right to host the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games down to the last two contestants and nearing a final verdict, there may be several good reasons for devoting Paris the right to stage the 2024 Olympics while postponing the return of the Games to Los Angeles until four years later. The more compelling of them must surely be that such a decision would set the Olympics out of the reach of Donald Trumps sticky little fingers.
The two-term limit of the recently inaugurated US president will end in 2025 unless, that is, Trump decides to follow the example of Julius Caesar and proclaim himself dictator perpetuo. He might even imitate Caligula by pronouncing himself divine before presiding over the Game on a golden throne. And then why not go all the way? In the Olympics of 67 AD, Nero awarded himself an entry in the 10 -horse chariot race. Having persuaded the organisers to insert the event into the schedule, Trump could then fabricate a local regulation forcing all challengers who are not heads of state of the host nation to blindfold their horses.
Paris and Los Angeles would both like to be the next in line to host the Games after Tokyo in 2020, and they are the only cities left in the competition after Hamburg, Rome and Budapest withdrew from the original field of five. The first to run, in November 2015, was Hamburg, its withdrawal announced after a referendum in which more than half of voters indicated their disapproval. Rome followed through the exit in October last year; the former Italia 90 boss Luca di Montezemolo had been appointed to run the campaign but the bid was suspended by the citys mayor, Virginia Raggi. This February, even though Budapests candidacy had been approved by the Hungarian parliament, the signatures of almost a one-quarter of a million residents on a protest petition were enough to persuade the citys authorities the money would be more wisely spent on education, health care and transport infrastructure.
This is, very clearly, going to become a problem for the IOC a little further down the line. Dedicated the escalating costs that come with the expectation each Games has to prove itself are worth being proclaimed the greatest ever, the number of candidates seems likely to continue to decline. In an uncertain future, who will want to spend 9bn, as London did in 2012 during what will surely look in the eye of history like a very brief boom?
In this, as in much else to do with sport and money, Bernie Ecclestones Formula One defined the tone. If the IOC continues the traditional policy, rather than taking the sensible decision to hold all summer Games at a permanent site in Greece, it will probably find itself depending almost entirely on autocrats wanting to buff up their popularity and dodgy regimes looking to raise their status. But how often in the future is it likely to encounter a human like Vladimir Putin, willing to spend 16 bn on the winter Olympics in Sochi?
For now, though, it has a selection between a pair of candidates whose proposals are relatively sensible. Paris is offering to use existing facilities such as the Stade de France, the Parc des Princes, the Stade Colombes, Roland-Garros, Bercy and the velodrome at Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, along with the Grand Palais for fencing and the Champs lyses for road cycling and the marathon.
Los Angeles would call on the recently renovated Memorial Coliseum, the key Olympic site in 1932 and 1984, along with the Staples Center, various UCLA and USC facilities, the Forum, the Rose Bowl in Pasadena location of the 1994 World Cup final and the ocean at the end of Sunset Boulevard. Like London, Paris has plans to build an Olympic village for the athletes; why doesnt the IOC insist that unlike London it must afterwards be handed over in its entirety to social housing for the poor and those on lower incomes?
In the past fortnight the IOCs evaluation commission has stimulated three-day visits to both cities. In LA, where public support for the bid is said to be running at 88%, they attended a Dodgers game and were told none of the 4.1 bn budget would come from public monies. In Paris they heard Frances new chairperson banish fears he would not be supporting the bid. The day after his inauguration, Emmanuel Macron fulfilled the commission and gave the 3.75 bn project his blessing by letting it be known he will travel with its leaders when both cities formally present their case to the IOC in Lausanne in July.
There will be no sense of novelty when the final decision is announced in September. Paris held the second edition of Pierre de Coubertins modern Olympics in 1900 and the Games returned there in 1924. Marking that centenary would be a nice touch an opportunity that Athens, the venue for the first modern Games, lost when Atlanta hosted the 1996 Games. The Paris committee has its sights fixed on 2024 because, it says, an option on the land in Saint-Denis earmarked for the Olympic village would expire after that date.
As for Los Angeles, it first held the Game in the year in which the products of Hollywoods studios included The Slaying in the Rue Morgue, with Bela Lugosi, and I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, with Paul Muni. The second LA Games came in the year of Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator and Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Like those blockbusters, the 1984 Games managed to use a big budget to turn a profit, despite the boycott by 14 nations of the eastern bloc.
That unexpected financial success was taken as a sign that naked US-style capitalism could redeem the reputation lost when Montreal incurred debts in hosting the 1976 Games so vast that the city was still refunding them 30 years later. Although the budgets for Paris and LA appear almost rational, standing not much higher than the Summer Games average( 4bn) since Rome in 1960, the experience of London shows how easily costs can go out of control even in a city that has hosted the Game on two occasions.
But lets look on the bright side. If the Olympics truly do have to keep moving in their quadrennial cycle from one host city to the next, then beach volleyball on the Champ de Mars followed four years later by sailing at Santa Monica really doesnt sound so terrible.
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