The International Olympic Committee made a clear choice for fiscal and political reality with the selection of the Milan-Cortina bid for the 2026 Olympic Winter Games, while Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti forecast $1 billion surplus for the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic events … and already has a good idea of what it should buy.
In Lausanne (SUI), the IOC Session heard presentations from Milan-Cortina (ITA) and Stockholm-Are (SWE) and voted 47-34 (with one abstention) to hold the 2026 Winter Games in Italy for the second time in 20 years, after Turin held the 2006 Winter Games.
In doing so, a majority of the IOC membership followed the implicit recommendation of its own Evaluation Commission, which showed a clear preference for the Italian venue plan, budget and the much higher public support for event there than in Sweden.
Certainly, there was the sentimental desire to hold another Winter Games in Scandinavia and Sweden has never hosted a Winter Games. But it’s financial plan had obvious holes and the IOC asked for “clarifications” a few days before the vote, never a good indicator.
There will be issues in Italy, but the project has been entrusted to a winter-sports area that is well known on the World Cup circuits. Look for the sliding venue at Cortina d’Ampezzo to be changed, as the Evaluation Commission suggested looking at other, existing alternatives which would require far less renovation and cost a lot less.
Some 5,896 miles away, Los Angeles Garcetti was addressing the first Los Angeles Sports Summit conference, so-staged by the Los Angeles Sports Council and the Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games.
Over the course of 20 minutes, Garcetti touched on the impact of sports in the greater Los Angeles market and what the current and future plan for the Olympic money already at work in the city and for the future. Highlights:
● “This summer, we’re expanding Swim L.A. Part of our historic negotiations with the [International] Olympic Committee, that if they wanted Paris to go first and us to go second, it would cost them. So we got $160 million before the Games even started to be profitable, and we’re spending that today on seeding the ground for the entire city to have access to sports, universal access. Two years ago, only 18,000 kids got swim lessons for the City of L.A. Last year, it was 36,000, and this summer it will be 40,000 kids who will get free swim lessons, in a town where 62% of African-American kids don’t know how to swim, in a town where 45% of Latino kids don’t know how to swim, and in a country where accidental death by drowning is the second-leading cause of death for kids under 12. So, it’s a matter of life and death as well as an opportunity for every kid to know how to swim.”
● “This is a place with an amazing infrastructure. I joked – only half-jokingly – that we could probably do the Olympics next year. And if any town in the world could, we probably could. Thank goodness we have nine and a half years to define a legacy even more strongly than that.”
● “All told, the greater sports industry generated about $6.2 billion in economic activity here in Los Angeles in 2018, employing more than 39,000 people directly. That’s $3.2 billion in earnings that people can spend here in this city and recycle those dollars. And that outsized economic impact has ripple effects all around our county, leading to the creation of good, middle-class jobs that are the bedrock of a healthy and inclusive economy, whether it’s an electrician working on the Rams stadium coming up, whether it’s a baseball scout looking for the next great pitcher who will take to the mound at Chavez Ravine.”
He then bored in on the 2028 Games and a long-range legacy concept:
“Let me turn for a second back to the Olympics. Every Olympics says that they create a great legacy, and I think they mean it. And when they are bidding certainly …. It’s very important for us to remember what it is that the Olympics are about. They were about, initially, a truce – peace between warring folks in ancient times – and secondly about an opportunity of competition.
“I think for a long time we have moved away [from that]. We’ve got cities scared to bid for the Olympics because they cost so much, because people so much infrastructure for two and a half weeks; that wasn’t a very sustainable model.
“The legacy that people want to leave behind often is the last thing they are able to do because they are still trying to get the plumbing to work at the Olympic Village. We created a different model. In L.A., we made a million bucks in ‘32. We made about $250 million in ‘84 and I think we will make at least a billion dollars net in 2028, because we have the ability to look at the profitability, to think about that legacy right away and a longer time to plan.
“So I told you about the swim lessons, but it is my goal to make sure that no family looks at the opportunities for their children and says, ‘we can’t afford for them to play sports.’ … That shouldn’t be a barrier for a kid’s dreams.
“So without taking a single spot away from a boy, by adding more dollars and programming to girls with something called “Girls Play L.A.” that my wife and I have led, We were able to get to 45% participation in just two years, from 25% of girls in our Rec & Parks program. That’s the sort of legacy we want to leave behind. “
Garcetti will be Mayor into 2021 and will then be out of office thanks to term limits, so he will not be in office when the Games come in 2028. His comments set a marker of his making on the organizing committee and one that will not be forgotten by those who will be doing business with LA28.
But it will also be hard for negotiators to argue with the Los Angeles organizers for more money when anything not spent on the Games is earmarked to ensure no parent has to skip sports programs for their children because of cost.
While it’s true that 2028 is a long way off, in some ways, Garcetti’s comments signal that the Games have actually already begun.