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LA's Big Olympic Bid Could Mean New Life For Existing Venues, Improved Transit

As the September deadline fast approaches for the International Olympic Committee to make its final decision about whether LA or Paris will host the 2024 games, the IOC is playing host in Switzerland this week to delegations representing both bids.

Rendering of possible Olympics locations in LA

There were reports in May the IOC was leaning toward Paris for the 2024 games and would offer LA the 2028 games. On Tuesday, the IOC members approved of naming the host cities for the 2024 and 2028 games simultaneously at the September meeting.

The LA2024 organization has still been competing with all systems go for the 2024 bid. Whenever LA hosts the games, local organizers say the city plans to be ready.

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti

“The Olympics is in Los Angeles’ DNA, and we are ready to host a spectacular, yet fiscally responsible games," LA Mayor Eric Garcetti said. "If we’re selected as a host city, we will show the world that a low-risk games can create jobs, grow our economy and help revitalize communities across our region for generations to come.”

LA Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Gary Toebben agreed.

He said there is no question hosting the Olympics, whether in 2024 or 2028, will be beneficial for the city in a number of ways.

"First, it will incentivize the urgency of the infrastructure projects that are already on the drawing board and will benefit all of our citizens," Toebben said. "Second, it will focus international investment dollars on Los Angeles and Southern California. Third, it will spotlight the diversity of Los Angeles and the benefits of diversity in a global economy. Fourth, it will generate more visitors from around the world and, finally, it will be a great source of pride for Los Angeles just like the 1932 and 1984 Olympics."

Rendering of one of the proposed 2024 Olympics sites.

While cities regularly scramble to host the games, research shows most cities only enjoy a limited economic benefit as a result, according to “About Winning: The Political Economy of Awarding the World Cup and the Olympic Games” written by Stefan Szymanski and published in the winter-spring 2011 issue of the SAIS Review.

For the host city, there can be a favorable impact on future job growth and an increase in tourism, according to "Economic Aspects and the Summer Olympics: A Review of Related Research," by Evangelia Kasimati published in the International Journal of Tourism Research.

The total economic impact of the 1984 Olympics in LA was $2.3B with 73,375 new jobs added in Southern California and 600,000 tourists, according to Kasimati's report.

UCLA Chief Sustainability Officer, Executive Officer, Facilities Management Nurit Katz

UCLA Chief Sustainability Officer Nurit Katz is working closely with LA2024.

She said UCLA is part of a committee of around 50 multidisciplinary institutions focusing on the positive environmental impact of the Olympics.

"All of the sustainability initiatives, including waste, are important to address during the Olympics, not only because of the direct impact of the games, but because of the way the Olympics brings us all together," Katz said. "These complex global issues like climate change and food security are things that we're all facing together as humanity, and I think the Olympics provides a unique platform to make sure people across diverse industries and backgrounds are looking at these issues and participating in a positive way."

She said it has been an issue in a lot of prior Olympics where venues are built specifically for the Olympics and are not fully utilized afterward.

"There is a lot of environmental impact in new construction," Katz said. "New venues are wonderful where appropriate, but it can be a challenge with an Olympics."

LA2024 is focusing on working with existing venues, including at UCLA. It is a model Katz hopes future Olympics will also look toward.

"I think it could be transformative to the Olympics overall in other cities," she said.

In addition to the Olympic and Paralympic Village at UCLA, other venues that have been proposed include DTLA, Long Beach, a renovated LA Memorial Coliseum, USC Galen Center, The Forum, the StubHub Center and the Rose Bowl.

UCLA Events & Transportation Executive Director Renee Fortier

UCLA Events & Transportation Executive Director Renee Fortier worked in UCLA's planning office during the 1984 Olympics.

"The actual genesis of alternative transportation and the sustainable transportation program at UCLA was the 1984 Olympics," Fortier said.

Efforts were made then to minimize the amount of traffic in the area.

As a result, UCLA's first van pool was created to help reduce the number of cars in the community since the 1984 Olympic Village was at UCLA, according to Fortier. Now UCLA has 155 van pools serving 80 communities at UCLA.

"It's been a very lasting positive impact on UCLA and on Los Angeles in terms of transportation that we implemented that program because of the Olympics," Fortier said.

Forty-seven percent of UCLA staff members take alternative public transportation now instead of driving alone, according to Fortier. In LA, 73% drive alone.

If LA is awarded the games in 2024, there will also be an acceleration of the Metro Purple Line Subway being built to UCLA.

"It would be a really big game-changer for the West side," she said.

Otherwise, the subway would not be built until 2026.

LMU Associate Director for the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles Brianne Gilbert

While there has been widespread support for the Olympics, there have been pockets of discontent as illustrated at a recent LA Chamber of Commerce  breakfast in which about 20 members of a grass-roots organization known as NOlympics showed up to protest since LA2024 officials were scheduled to give a presentation, the LA Times reports.

A recent IOC poll suggests 78% of Angelenos are in favor of LA hosting the Olympics, the LA Times reports. It also showed 72% of Californians and 64% of those polled nationwide are in favor.

Loyola Marymount University poll showed more than 88% of locals are for the games. The LMU survey included 2,400 respondents in LA County.

LMU Associate Director for the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Center for the Study of LA Brianne Gilbert said the university's survey is part of a transparency initiative that provides details about how the respondents are chosen as compared to the IOC survey.

"The IOC didn't say how it obtained its respondents," Gilbert said. "It makes me question the validity of their responses."