POSTED: March 8th 2013

Los Angeles Tosses Its Hat Into The Olympic Ring For 2024

Flashback of the 84 Games / Steve Sowerby
Flashback of the 84 Games / Steve Sowerby

MIKE MORAN / The Sports Corp

The word came this morning, and it’s not at all surprising to those who follow the topic of the next American bid to host the Olympic Games.

Los Angeles, host to the 1932 and 1984 Games, has informed the United States Olympic Committee that it has thrown its hat in the ring (or five rings), hoping to become the USA candidate city for the 2024 Olympic Games if the USOC decides to enter the fray.

The USOC recently sent letters to the Mayors of 35 cities inviting expressions of interest in hosting the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Boston, Dallas and Philadelphia seem to be interested. No word yet from others officially.

Some have already stated that they are not interested, including Chicago, which went all out with a superb bid for the 2016 Games, only to be tossed out on the first ballot as Rio earned the honor to host the Games in three years.

Now that the USOC has settled its financial issues over TV and sponsor revenue, it would seem to have the inside track on a successful bid if it chooses to bring forth a city that it can partner with after a no-frills domestic campaign that would limit the monies interested cities would be forced to expend.

However, an American city might have to against Paris, Rome, Dubai, Doha, Durban and others. (The Games have never been held in Africa). It’s still early in the process, though, since the final IOC vote isn’t until 2017.

But it’s been 17 years since Atlanta hosted the last Summer Games in the United States, and you can label me naïve, but the IOC needs a Games in the good old USA soon.

Los Angeles was a bidder to become the USA candidate city for the 2016 Games, as well, but the USOC selected Chicago in its deliberations. It also was a hopeful when the USOC selected New York City as its candidate city for the 2012 Games. The Big Apple was thrown aside in the second round as London upset favored Paris to win last summer’s Games.

"On behalf of the City of Los Angeles, I am pleased to confirm our enthusiastic interest in bidding to host the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games," Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa wrote in the letter to the USOC’s chief executive, Scott Blackmun. "We are proud of our city's sports heritage and tradition, and we stand ready to work with you to bring the Olympic Games back to the United States,” according to media reports this morning.

The Los Angeles City Council passed a resolution of support for a 2024 Olympic bid last year, and there is an aggressive, proactive Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games headed by ’84 veterans Barry Sanders and David Simon, dressed in full battle gear.

It was formed in 1939 and offered the city as a host for the 1940 Games in Tokyo, which were cancelled by the outbreak of World War II.

While the creaky old Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum may have outlived its viability as an Olympic venue for a third time, there are reports coming out of Los Angeles about new facilities and projects that might enhance a bid.

ESPN/Los Angeles reports that Villaraigosa's letter to the USOC also included a letter of support from the Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games, which included signatures from Magic Johnson, Tom Hanks, Olympic gold medalist Janet Evans and AEG president and CEO Tim Leiweke.

The same reports state that Leiweke and AEG are currently pushing to build a $1.5 billion stadium for an NFL franchise, connected to an expanded Los Angeles Convention Center in Downtown Los Angeles, which could be completed as early as 2016. Also likely to be used as part of Los Angeles' bid are Staples Center and L.A. Live, AEG's 27-acre property across the street that boasts 5.6 million square feet of apartments, ballrooms, bars, theatres, restaurants and a 54-story hotel and condominium tower.

Although the voting by the IOC won’t take place until 2017, and the USOC has not formally made a decision on whether or not it will submit a candidate city for the 2024 Games or the 2026 Olympic Winter Games, the fact that this show of strong interest by Los Angeles is not to be taken lightly.

I am one of those who, in fact, think that the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles saved the Games from extinction, and that they might have joined the scrapheap of mammoth sporting events that are no longer a part of the world’s sports culture if not for what LA pulled off.

On July 28, 1984, athletes from 140 nations marched into the venerable Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the Opening Ceremony of the troubled Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

Hammer Thrower Ed Burke carried the American flag for the United States Olympic Team as more than 90,000 fans roared their support. 

Not a part of that Opening Ceremony however, were the Soviet Union, East Germany, Hungary, Bulgaria, Cuba, Poland other nations in the Soviet Bloc that boycotted the Games in retaliation for the U.S.-led boycott of the messy 1980 Games in Moscow. But those nations who stayed home from Los Angeles were those which led the watered-down medal count in Moscow.

The Soviets announced their decision to boycott the Los Angeles Games on May 8, 1984, and that news threw those of us at the USOC and the IOC in Lausanne into panic mode. The USOC had helped Los Angeles to keep the Games over protests by its citizens with a guarantee of $25 million in 1978 when it seemed there was a chance that the city, like Denver in 1973, would turn the Games back to the IOC.

Los Angeles business and civic leaders matched the USOC guarantee and the IOC quietly accepted the proposal with the promise that if the Games failed, the citizens of LA would not be on the hook for the gigantic potential losses.

ABC Sports, which had won the rights to carry the Games in the United States, had a clause it its contract that would allow it to reduce its fee of $225 million substantially if the Soviets and the other nations failed to show, and had ABC exercised that option, the Games would have been a financial disaster.

But something else took place that summer that nobody would have predicted.

The Games were a huge success, with 140 nations on hand, including China and Romania, which came after hard work and diplomatic efforts with the two nations byPeter Ueberroth and Harry Usher, the top dogs at the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee. A total of 1.25 million spectators attended the events.

The Games produced whopping viewership numbers for ABC, the American public fell in love with our athletes, like Mary Lou Retton, Edwin Moses, Jeff Blatnick, Bart Conner, Peter Vidmar, Michael Jordan, Mitch Gaylord, Joan Benoit, and Carl Lewis.

The U.S. Olympic Team won 174 medals, including 83 gold ones, and the reaction across the country was off the charts.

Who cared that the Soviets, East Germans and Cubans stayed home and pouted? America’s athletes were the perfect tonic for the Games. America rejoiced as the USOC conducted a post-Games tour of several cities with the Olympic Team, winding up at a grateful White House to be greeted by President Reagan.

The Games produced a profit of $233 million, with the USOC getting 40 percent. The courageous, but little-known USOC gamble of $25 million it did not really have after the destruction of the Moscow boycott, and the genius of Peter Ueberroth and his team, paid off handsomely. It saved the Games, gave the USOC a solid financial future, and created a blueprint for the future on how to conduct the Games and avoid financial disaster.

Nobody can predict anything right now, since the USOC is still awaiting other positive responses from Mayors who see stars in their eyes at the thought of hosting the world’s largest and most important sports event, and the economic impact and prestige that would be part of being the host city to the world’s athletes.

But today, I sense a buzz in Los Angeles, and a passion and a commitment that reminds me of the LAOOC and its leaders in 1984.

There are those at the IOC who likely think that the organization owes nothing to America and Los Angeles, but that’s folly.

There would be no Games to bid on, I deeply believe, had Los Angeles not rescued the greatest gathering of the world’s athletes in 1984 from an Olympic Armageddon.

Call it what you may, but to me, that’s a debt that needs to be repaid.

Mike Moran was the chief spokesman for the United States Olympic Committee from 1978-2003 and Games from Lake Placid to Salt Lake City. He served as the Sports Information Director at Nebraska-Omaha and Colorado, and has lived in Colorado Springs for 34 years and is the Senior Media Consultant for the Colorado Springs Sports Corporation and keynote speaker and emcee for numerous sports

Keywords · Mike Moran · LA · Olympics

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