Can L.A. Afford Another Olympics?

Boston bailed on hosting the 2024 Olympics when Mayor Martin Walsh refused to sign a host city contract with the United States Olympic Committee (“USOC”) that would have put Beantown (and possibly the Commonwealth of Massachusetts) on the hook for any cost overruns associated with this 17 day extravaganza. But Walsh’s refusal to mortgage Boston’s future was understandable given the unfavorable economics associated with this over hyped event.

According to an article in Harvard Magazine, “A Fiscal Faustian Bargain” by Professor Andrew Zimbalist, perhaps the foremost analyst of public investments in sports facilities and global athletic competitions, the cost is expected to exceed $15 billion.  This includes operating costs during the games, the construction of new venues, infrastructure improvements and security.

However, revenue expectations from the media rights, domestic and international corporate sponsorships, ticket sales, licensing agreements and “other” revenues are projected to be less than $5 billion.

This shortfall of more than $10 billion horrifies frugal New Englanders, so much so that a referendum banning the expenditure of public funds was favored to pass next year.

The last minute withdrawal of Boston’s bid to represent the USA has put the USOC in a difficult position because it must submit its proposal to the International Olympic Committee by mid-September. A final decision by the IOC is due in September of 2017.

The question for the USOC is whether it will submit a bid to host the 2024 Olympics, and, if so, which city.

In January, Boston was selected over L.A., San Francisco and Washington, D.C.  But even then, everybody knew that Los Angeles was the best place to host the 2024 Games.  We have an existing infrastructure: the Coliseum, the Rose Bowl, Staples, Dodger Stadium, Angel Stadium, USC, UCLA and many other quality sporting venues.

We have a captive audience of 20 million people in Southern California and a history of supporting our teams and the most successful Olympics ever in 1984.

But does L.A. have the financial resources to pull off an Olympics where our cash strapped city is not responsible for operating losses, cost overruns, and excessive infrastructure improvements?

This will obviously be a concern for Angelenos as it was in the early 1980’s when the voters approved a charter amendment banning the use of public funds to support the Olympics.

More than likely, City Hall will leap at the opportunity to host the 2024 Olympics, touting all the great benefits that will accrue to all Angelenos. While some these claims may well be true, we must remember that today’s politicians will be termed out of office and long gone by the time the bill comes due.

Another Freeway Olympics would be a great event for the city, the county, and all of Southern California. But before the city puts in any bid to host the 2024 Olympic Games, we need detailed financial information as well as ironclad assurances that our city – which cannot afford to repair and maintain its streets and sidewalks or properly fund its pension plans – and the taxpayers are not on the hook for any expenses unless they are approved in advance by the voters.

Let the games begin.

Originally published by CityWatchLA

(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and a member of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council.  Humphreville is the publisher of the Recycler Classifieds – www.recycler.com. He can be reached at:  lajack@gmail.com