POSTED: January 27th 2015

NEIL WILSON: Boston should look to LA for Olympic inspiration

The Los Angeles 1984 Games left a tangible legacy for the youth of Southern California / Bigstock
The Los Angeles 1984 Games left a tangible legacy for the youth of Southern California / Bigstock

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

(SFC) Those opposing Boston's to host the 2024 Olympic Games are using their website to argue that no Olympic Games come in on budget. Indeed, it specifically claims that the last in London was three times over budget.

It is not wholly true. Tony Blair's British government made nonsense of the original bid budget by including the re-generation of five of London's poorest boroughs, work that had been needed since 1945 and was necessary with or without the finale of a 16-day sporting festival.

But leave that argument alone. What Bostonians opposed to their bid should not ignore is a case closer to home - Los Angeles. As they began their campaign for a referendum in Boston, in Los Angeles a press release largely ignored was distributed.

The organisation that administers the profit made on the 1984 Olympic Games had dispersed another $1.6 million to 22 youth organisations in southern California. It is a similar sum they have given out every year since 1985. Yes, 30 years and still there is money in the pot for many more years.

Los Angeles's Games is a far more accurate guide for Bostonians than London's . It was, as Boston plan, a private-enterprise, non-profit-making venture which could not fall back on local and federal authorities for any losses. And the one in 1984, in spite of boycotts, made a profit so substantial it is helping kids play sport to this day.

I have given before in this space my opinion that LA deserved to be the US applicant city for 2024 as a reward because alone it saved the Olympic movement at a time when no city wanted its Games and many countries were destroying it for political ends. LA's success had the world's cities queuing again to host the Games. 

The USOC chose otherwise in its wisdom but those in Boston who are making the bid would do well to stress the example of Los Angeles to fellow citizens unconvinced by what the Olympic has to offer. LA is the proper analogy, not London.

 Sebastian Coe sold his London bid to the IOC on the grounds that its legacy would be the sporting inspiration to the youth of the world.

If he meant in increased sporting participation he probably got it wrong. A survey in Britain recently found that the borough of Newham, home of the Olympic Park, is the least active in the country, four in ten of its resident not even doing 30 minutes of moderate exercise in a week.

But he can feel proud of his Games' other legacies, one of the most beautiful parks in Europe visited by four million last year, 6,000 new homes, 4 million square feet of office space and every sporting venue found new post-Games purpose.

LA's grants to its young people are the tangible legacy of its Games but perhaps its greater legacy is proof that a well-run, privately-financed Games can succeed without costing the locals anything. Look west, Bostonians, for your inspiration.

**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 · Olympics · Neil Wilson · Los Angeles · Boston

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