Before the 2016 Summer Olympics begin, five cities are already vying to host the 2024 games. Budapest, Hamburg, Los Angeles, Paris, Rome. Which city will it be?
Cal State Fullerton Olympics scholar Matt Llewellyn says Los Angeles is a strong contender and the evidence can be traced back to 1932, when the city was first awarded the Olympic games.
“The year 1932 really sparked Los Angeles’ love of the Olympic movement,” said Llewellyn, associate professor of kinesiology and co-director of the University’s Center for Sociocultural Sport and Olympic Research.
At the time, the small outpost in the western American frontier was quickly transforming into a cultural mecca of fashion, lifestyle and industry. Los Angeles capitalized on the Olympics, using the opportunity to cast itself as an attractive destination and turn an unprecedented financial profit of more than $100,000.
“In many ways, Los Angeles laid the framework for hosting the Olympic games and doing it very well,” said Llewellyn. “The fact that we have palm trees lining the streets of Los Angeles today is a direct result of hosting the Olympic games.”
Following the success of the 1932 Olympics, Los Angeles continued to bid for the summer games. But it wasn’t until 1984 that the games would return to Los Angeles, after its only competitor — Tehran, Iran — dropped out.
“What’s fascinating about 1984 was that nobody wanted the games,” said Llewellyn. “In 1976, Montreal hosted the games in Canada and lost an overwhelming sum of money. It took the city almost 30 years to pay back the debt. So in an era in which nobody wanted the games, only one city did: Los Angeles.”
Once again, Los Angeles proved to be an excellent Olympics host city.
“The 1984 games were extremely successful. Instead of building new stadiums and arenas, Los Angeles decided to go a radically different route by using and investing in pre-existing structures like the Coliseum,” said Llewellyn. “In fact, Cal State Fullerton was the official venue for the team handball event at the 1984 games.”
Los Angeles again produced a profit, this time estimated at $223.5 million, some of which became an endowment known today as the LA84 Foundation supporting youth sports and cultural programs in the Southland.
“One of the main aspects of a successful Olympic bid is the concept of legacy,” said Llewellyn. “Legacies, both tangible and intangible, encompass a broad range of infrastructural, cultural, economic, educational and political outcomes. For instance, if you’re going to build a new venue, you have to ensure that it can be used for future generations.
“Following the arc over to 2024, what we see is a city that’s had a very positive relationship with the Olympic movement,” he said. “Los Angeles has loved hosting the games, they’ve done a wonderful job and they’ve helped the Olympics grow. I don’t want to paint the picture that everyone wants the games, but enough Los Angelinos have fond memories and want to bring them back.”
Other factors that make Los Angeles a prime location for hosting the Olympics are the existence of major infrastructures to support an influx of tourists, an optimal time zone for television broadcasts, and the length of time since the games were last hosted in the United States.
“I would be surprised if the Olympics didn’t come back to Los Angeles — if not in 2024, then shortly thereafter,” said Llewellyn.
More than anything, Llewellyn hopes that if Los Angeles is awarded the games, it will turn to its old playbook and create a sustainable, economically-viable plan. The International Olympic Committee is scheduled to make its announcement in September 2017.
“Instead of building a brand new facility for team handball, bring it to a state institution like CSUF where the students and the local community can come and watch,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to truly share the games with the people. To me, that’s what the Olympic games should be about.”
2016 Olympics is a series of stories highlighting Cal State Fullerton faculty, staff and athletes connected with the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Follow the games Aug. 5-21, and join us on social media with the #CSUFOlympics.
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