POSTED: March 13th 2013

NEIL WILSON: Vienna shows LA the democratic way

THE NEIL WILSON COLUMN / An exclusive, authoritative series from Sports Features Communications

March 13 - Vienna is one of the world’s richer cities, richer financially, richer environmentally and richer in living standards. It came top of a United Nations research project on 70 international cities. The Financial Times magazine fDi rates it in its annual survey as the highest in the world for economic potential.

Certainly you would be hard pushed to find a pothole in its roads.

Los Angeles is rather different. Its structural deficit is somewhere around $1 billion. The debts of California, the state in which it sits, amount to $28 billion. You do not have to look on the Web for long to find one of its residents bitching about pot-holes in its streets.

So which of these cities plans to put down a $10 million reserve on the right to bid to host an Olympic Games and willingly commit itself to at least $3 billion more to organize a Games?

You know the answer. Vienna’s citizens, by a margin of three to one, voted this week to have nothing to do with a bid to host the 2028 Games. Los Angeles’ mayor, meanwhile, wrote to the US Olympic Committee to express his city’s “enthusiastic interest” in bidding to be the country’s applicant city for 2024.

Hardly any wonder that the UN’s annual poll rated Vienna as one of the world’s smartest cities. Probably they meant in appearance but it is not how I would like to interpret their standing.

Not since Los Angeles itself last hosted the Games in 1984 has any Olympic city made a profit on their staging of the five-ringed circus. LA did it only by investing very little in new facilities and next to nothing on infrastructure. It was an approach that was a Games changer.

The Olympic road show had almost ground to a halt. No city wanted to bid for it after the debacle of Montreal in 1976 where costs over-ran enormously and Communism’s last throw at a vanity project in 1980.

LA changed the Games by making it private enterprise. Not a penny of city or federal tax was spent and by careful housekeeping  it proved that an Olympic Games did not have to cost local taxpayers a fortune. It ended with a profit of more than $200 million.

It is doubtful the same fundamentals would apply in 2024. The IOC no longer accepts private bids. They must be guaranteed by local or federal authorities. And the Games has grown since 1984, to 28 sports, an extra 80 events and by 4,000 participants.

Vienna asked its citizens whether they wanted the Games. LA’s mayor Antonio Villaraigosa merely asked the odd Hollywood mogul and film star. Not what you could call local democracy.

An Olympic Games cannot only cost a lot but disrupt lives more. LA owes it to its people to ask them before it even lobbies the USOC.

NEIL WILSON reported his first Olympic Games in Munich in 1972. He has since covered another nine summer and nine winter Olympics for various newspapers, including The Independent and the Daily Mail with whom he has worked for the last 19 years as Athletics and Olympic correspondent. He was Britain's Sports Journalist of the Year in 1984 and is the author of seven books.

Keywords · Olympic Bidding · Neil Wilson ·

For more information contact:
Laura Walden ()

All original materials contained in this section are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Sports Features Communications, Inc the owner of that content. It is prohibited to alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.