It took just two villages to raise L.A. 2024 Olympic hopes

 The planned USC buildings that would be used as a media village if L.A. hosts the 2024 Summer Games.

The planned USC buildings that would be used as a media village if L.A. hosts the 2024 Summer Games.

Los Angeles has thrown down the gantlet to the International Olympic Committee.

As in: Put up or shut up, IOC members, about all those lofty reformist ideas for economically and logistically saner Olympic Games that you approved by acclamation 14 months ago.

To be fair, the Los Angeles 2024 bid committee had no in-your-face intentions when it announced its revised plan for Olympic athletes and media villages earlier this week.

The new plan will dramatically reduce the financial risk and enhance the legacy value of what would be the third Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

The athletes would be in an Olympic Village on the UCLA campus, as nearly all were at the 1984 Summer Games.  The media would be at USC.

The housing, either already existing or planned, will have been paid for by the two universities, which are building their own legacies.  An L.A. 2024 organizing committee would be on the hook only for rent and operational costs while it is using the UCLA and USC facilities.

That means no need to rely on finding private developers to build from scratch an athletes village that could have cost up to $2 billion.  In both Vancouver (2010 Winter) and London (2012), governments had to ante up when the developers ran out of money.

 A UCLA cafeteria that would be part of the athletes village in 2024.

A UCLA cafeteria that would be part of the athletes village in 2024.

Without a costly athletes village project, by far the highest-priced item on the original L.A. 2024 drawing board, fears that Angelenos could be on the hook for substantial shortfalls should be substantially allayed.

Meanwhile, the Paris and Rome bids for 2024 both currently propose Olympic Villages that would be part of urban renewal projects.

Such projects frequently are well-intentioned money pits.  That was the case in London, where it accounted for most of the expense that multiplied the original “all-in-budget” from $4 billion to more than $15 billion, according to Smith College economist Andrew Zimbalist.

The entire Los Angeles venue plan is designed to minimize cost by using temporary or existing venues, such as the Coliseum, site of ceremonies and track and field for the 1932 and 1984 Olympics.

Last October, USC announced plans for $270 million in upgrades to the 93-year-old Coliseum, where its football team plays.

Good luck if any IOC members or the other bidders try to push the idea that student housing isn’t good enough these days.  As universities indulge in an arms race to attract the best clients…er, students. . .they have turned dorms and cafeteria complexes into 4-star hotels.

Los Angeles will be able to show that to IOC President Thomas Bach in his scheduled tour of UCLA next week.  L.A. 2024 then will submit by Feb. 17 the first part of its candidature file, “Vision, Games Concept and Strategy,” which includes the plans for venues and villages.

If the concepts of Agenda 2020 mean more than words on paper, the village and venue plans mean Los Angeles should gain an advantage over Paris and Rome.  (Yes, I am giving Budapest short shrift, but Hungary’s splendid capital city is an also-ran in this race).

L.A. also looks like the one likeliest to help the IOC overcome the fallout from the excessive spending by Beijing and Sochi, the budget busting by London and the legacy nightmare of Athens, where most of the venues are moldering, unused or both.

Great cities like Munich, Oslo, Stockholm, Boston and Hamburg dropped out of the 2022 or 2024 Olympic host city races because of opposition from citizens fearful of the financial consequences. 

Does it mean Los Angeles has the best bid (or the winner, which can be something else entirely)?  That remains to be seen.  Bit it only took two villages to raise its hopes.