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Los Angeles Will Survive the 2028 Games Despite the Olympics’ Destructive Powers

The City of Angels has been awarded an Olympiad that won’t come around for more than a decade. Hosting the greatest international athletics competition is often a death wish for cities, but at least L.A. already has much of the necessary infrastructure in place.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Los Angeles struck a deal with the International Olympic Committee on Monday to host the 2028 Olympics. By then, Katie Ledecky will be the same age Michael Phelps was at last year’s Olympics in Rio. LeBron James Jr. will be the 23-year-old star of the USA three-on-three basketball team; a 43-year-old LeBron Sr. will be more likely to play in the Big3. The stars of the gymnastic team who will steal everybody’s hearts are currently 5 years old. Even if he gets reelected in 2020, Donald Trump will be several years removed from office, provided the Constitution gets upheld — maybe President Kid Rock will perform at the opening ceremony.

Los Angeles was all but guaranteed to host the 2024 or 2028 games, but it’s been a strange road here. The USOC initially nominated Boston as the American candidate for the 2024 games, but Boston residents loudly and quickly made it clear they did not want the Olympics. This sentiment was echoed across the globe: Bids by Budapest, Hamburg, and Rome were also scuttled as public sentiment came clearly in opposition to the games. By and large, people have realized the games shift money from taxpayers and civic programs to corrupt, rich international sporting bigwigs. It’s an equation nobody in their right mind would want to be a part of.

Only two cities remained in the mix to host the 2024 games: Paris and L.A., and the IOC rightfully feared that no city of similar stature and viability would sign up to host the 2028 games. So they made the unprecedented decision to simultaneously award the 2024 and 2028 games to the two cities in contention. Parisians were firmer in their refusal to be bumped back, and were gifted the 2024 games in part because of a desire to host 100 years after their last Olympiad.

Los Angeles is the semi-loser here. It is awkward to plan an event more than a decade in the future. There will be three mayoral elections by the time the torch is lit; although the bid was the baby of Mayor Eric Garcetti, he won’t be allowed to serve past 2021.

To understand why just about every other city on the planet is turned off to the prospect of hosting, look to Rio de Janeiro about 360 days after it kicked off its Olympiad. Brazilians and foreigners alike knew the Rio Olympics would be a disaster for the cash-strapped city, but the fallout has somehow been quicker and worse than expected. The arenas are empty; the velodrome just burned down — yet the tragedy isn’t unused stadia, but the unrecouped billions spent on those buildings that could have been spent on fixing the problems in a city on the verge of bankruptcy. Rio’s crime rate has skyrocketed over the past year while its civil servants have gone unpaid.

The Olympics will probably not be good for L.A. It is projected to cost the city, state, and federal governments billions of dollars each. L.A. claims it will get the money back — the city did turn a profit off the 1984 Olympics — but historically, cities overestimate how much they will earn from the games and underestimate how much they will spend. Nolympics LA outlines reasons the games will hurt the city. There are actual problems for L.A. to spend its money on — for starters, the city has the largest homeless population in the country. The Olympics rarely fix problems like these — instead, the problems are exacerbated while the host city focuses on building projects, then hidden for the two weeks while the world watches.

But Los Angeles is not Rio. Rio was already facing economic instability due to Brazil’s financial crisis, and while Rio had to build virtually all of its arenas, Los Angeles’s past Olympiads and a glut of pro and college sports teams guarantee that the vast majority of venues in the L.A. plan are extant or under construction. Plus, the IOC will kick in a record $1.8 billion — a figure the L.A. organizing committee was able to squeeze from the IOC because of its willingness to be bumped back to 2028. Of all the cities in the world, Los Angeles is among the cities least likely to be ruined by hosting the Olympics.

As long as the Olympics exist in their current form, cities will be hurt by their decision to host the games. While Los Angeles would be better off not hosting, I’m glad the games will be in a place that won’t be destroyed by them.