At a time when hosting the world’s largest sporting event has become a formidable undertaking for most cities, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) today took an unprecedented step to secure two future host cities. A unanimous recommendation by the IOC Executive Board seeks to simultaneously award the 2024 and 2028 games to the cities of Paris and Los Angeles.
Though both cities are bidding for the earlier date, Paris is favored to win the 2024 games as it would mark 100 years since the City of Lights last hosted the event. The proposal will go to the IOC’s full membership next month for a final vote, and if all goes as expected, the double award would be announced Sept. 13 in Lima, Peru.
Two directors of Cal State Fullerton’s Center for Sociocultural Sport and Olympic Research, one of only three Olympic studies centers in the United States, offer insight into the 2024-2028 proposal and the future of the games.
What is the significance of the proposal?
Toby Rider, assistant professor of kinesiology: “The IOC’s proposal to simultaneously award the Olympics to Paris and Los Angeles reveals a great deal about the state of Olympic bidding. Hosting the games has become such a financial burden that few cities, or taxpayers, are interested in the event and would prefer to put money and resources elsewhere. The IOC, of course, has been here before. During the 1970s, it also struggled for bids as many potential host cities were put off by not only the economic risks, but the politics of the festival. Los Angeles was the only city left to choose for the 1984 games. Thus, the IOC is trying to be practical, even if it might just be papering over the cracks of the far larger problem, as opposed to actually fixing it.”
What are some challenges of being awarded the Olympic Games a decade out?
Rider: “Although Los Angeles would prefer to host the games in 2028, rather than not at all, the organizers of the city’s bid mobilized all of their forces for 2024. Without question, the delay would be a logistical issue. For instance, all of the plans for venues, not to mention state legislation to underwrite the event, would need to be renegotiated. There is also the matter of lost momentum as LA had sold the idea to the public based on winning in 2024. An even bigger question mark, however, revolves around the state of Olympics affairs and domestic and international politics in 2028. All hosting cities must play the waiting game to some degree, but LA would have to wait longer than any other city in Olympic history.”
What lessons from recent Olympics are likely to influence future games?
John Gleaves, associate professor of kinesiology: “The Rio games stand out for problems with facilities and budgeting. The diving pool turning green, along with the reports of sewage in the sailing and open water swim course, drove home the importance of quality venues. The problems with budgeting for the Paralympic Games that followed the Olympic Games might mean that host cities will want to show they can fulfill their financial commitments to both games.
The IOC is also probably aware of how the Russian doping scandal cast a shadow over the games. While this scandal is not directly tied to Rio as a host city, the proximity of the scandal to the games meant that the IOC was doing damage control while the media focused on illicit drug use, instead of reporting on the stories the IOC would rather have on the front page.
Perhaps the most important lesson will be ways to remain relevant to a growing generation of young people that has lost interest in the Olympic Games. The IOC is constantly trying to balance appealing to new audiences with preserving its tradition.”