When the Summer Olympics get going in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, a group of LA officials will be watching with a critical eye.
Not to see who wins the medals, but instead to observe how the host city manages the monumental logistical, security and financial challenge presented by the Games.
LA, of course, is setting its sights on the 2024 Summer Olympics. It would the third go-round for Los Angeles, which hosted the games in 1932 and 1984. LA’s competitors are Paris, Rome and Budapest, Hungary.
The experience of Rio is not exactly a confidence builder.
The Rio Games still have a chance to soar, but until now, it seems that anything that could go wrong has gone wrong for the city. Brazil is in the midst of dual economic and political crises. There’s lingering resentment among the country’s poor about the billions of dollars spent on Olympics venues. Then there’s the Zika virus, threats of terrorism and the doping controversy centered around the Russian team. There’s also polluted water in Guanabara Bay (where rowers have been advised to keep their mouths closed) and a still-unfinished Olympic village. Meanwhile, two people died when an elevated bikeway built for the Games collapsed into the sea. And a jaguar serving as Rio’s Olympic mascot was shot to death when it got loose from its handlers at a kick-off event.
You get the picture.
Dave Zirin – sports editor at the Nation and author of “Brazil’s Dance with the Devil: The World Cup, The Olympics, and the Struggle for Democracy” – says the run-up to the Rio games has stood out mostly for the dysfunction of the host city and a series of crises that could turn the Olympics into a two-week disaster. Zirin is a harsh critic of the International Olympic Committee, which he says consistently understates the true costs for host cities. He says Los Angeles should ditch its bid for the 2024 Games before it’s too late.
But neither skeptics like Zirin nor Rio’s misadventures have moved the folks with LA-24, the non-profit group responsible for selling the city to the IOC. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Gene Sykes is CEO of LA-24. He says no city in the world can match LA’s virtues as an Olympic host. And while taxpayers in many other Olympic host cities have been left holding the bag for unexpected cost overruns, Sykes insists that won’t happen here.
The IOC, by the way, is scheduled to pick its 2024 host city in September of 2017.
Let the Games begin.