This was one of those rare Olympic moments where everyone walked away a winner.
Paris for 2024. Los Angeles for 2028. And the International Olympic Committee for transforming an unruly bidding process to lock down its future by choosing not one, but two Summer Olympics hosts at the same time.
The IOC put the rubber stamp on a pre-determined conclusion Wednesday, giving Paris the 2024 Games and L.A. the 2028 Games in a history-making vote.
The decision marks the first time the IOC has granted two Summer Olympics at once. It came after a year’s worth of scrambling by IOC president Thomas Bach, who had only the two bidders left for the original prize, 2024, and couldn’t bear to see either lose.
Both cities will host their third Olympics.
The Paris Games will come on the 100th anniversary of its last turn — a milestone that would have made the French capital the sentimental favourite had only 2024 been up for grabs.
Los Angeles moved to 2028, and those Olympics will halt a stretch of 32 years without a Summer Games in the United States. In exchange for the compromise, L.A. will grab an extra $300 million or more that could help offset the uncertainties that lie ahead over an 11-year wait instead of seven.
Doing away with the dramatic flair that has accompanied these events in years past, there were no secret ballots and no dramatic reveals to close out the voting.
Bach simply asked for a show of hands from the audience, and when dozens shot up from the audience, and nobody raised their hand when he asked for objections, this was deemed a unanimous decision.
A ceremony that has long sparked parties in the plazas of winning cities — and crying in those of the losers — produced more muted, but still visible, shows of emotion. Paris bid organizer Tony Estaguent choked up during the presentation before the vote.
“You can’t imagine what this means to us. To all of us. It’s so strong,” he said.
Later, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo stood by Bach’s side and dabbed away tears as the vote was announced and the IOC president handed the traditional — but now unneeded — cards to she and L.A. mayor Eric Garcetti. One read “Paris 2024,’ and the other “Los Angeles 2028.”
But there was no real drama. As if to accentuate that, the L.A. delegation wore sneakers to the presentation.
Bid chairman Casey Wasserman said the footwear “reflects who we are, and the unique brand of California-cool that we will bring to the 2028 Games.”
Bach asked the 94 IOC members to allow the real contests to play out at the Olympics themselves and turn the vote into a pure business decision — not a bad idea considering the news still seeping out about a bid scandal involving a Brazilian IOC member’s alleged vote-selling to bring the 2016 Olympics to Rio de Janeiro.
More than that, Bach needed to ensure stability for his brand.
The public in many cities, especially those in the Western democracies that have hosted the majority of these games, is no longer eager to approve blank checks for bid committees and governments that have to come up with the millions simply to bid for the Olympics, then billions more to stage them if they win.
That reality hit hard when three of the original five bidders for 2024 — Rome, Hamburg, Germany, and Budapest, Hungary — dropped out, and the U.S. Olympic Committee had to pull the plug on its initial candidate, Boston, due to lack of public support.
“This is a solution to an awkward problem,” said longtime IOC member Dick Pound of Canada. “Many of the (candidate) cities are not prepared. They say, ‘Let’s have an Olympics,’ but they haven’t done the background work, checked the finances. But I guess we have to share it and say, ‘Have you done A, B, C, and D?”’
Only two candidates made it to the finish line — Paris and Los Angeles, each with a storied tradition of Olympic hosting and an apparent understanding of Bach’s much-touted reform package, known as Agenda 2020. It seeks to streamline the Games, most notably by eliminating billion-dollar stadiums and infrastructure projects that have been underused, if used at all, once the Olympics leave town.
Can they deliver?
Paris will have the traditional seven-year time frame to answer that.
Only one totally new venue is planned — a swimming and diving arena to be built near the Stade de France, which will serve as the Olympic stadium. Roland Garros, which will host tennis and boxing, will get a privately funded expansion. In all, the projected cost of new venues and upgrades to others is $892 million.
To be sure, Paris already has much to work with. Beach volleyball will be played near the Eiffel Tower; cycling will finish at the Arc de Triomphe; equestrian will be held at the Chateau de Versailles. And what would an Olympics be without some water-quality issues? There will be pressure to clean up the River Seine, which is where open-water and triathlon will be held.
Los Angeles, meanwhile, will get an extra four years, though the city claims it doesn’t need them. All the sports venues are built, save the under-construction stadium for the NFL’s Rams and Chargers, which will host opening ceremonies. Los Angeles proposed a $5.3 billion budget for 2024 (to be adjusted for 2028) that included infrastructure, operational costs — everything. A big number, indeed, though it must be put into perspective:
Earlier this summer, organizers in Tokyo estimated their cost for the 2020 Games at $12.6 billion. The London Games in 2012 came in at $19 billion.
Traffic could be a problem — it almost always is in L.A. — but the city will be well along multi-decade, multibillion-dollar transit upgrade by 2028, and those with long memories recall free-flowing highways the last time the Olympics came to town, as locals either left the city or heeded warnings to use public transportation or stay home.
Those 1984 Games essentially saved the Olympic movement after a decade of terror, red ink and a boycott sullied the brand and made hosting a burden. The city points to its Olympic legacy to explain a nearly unheard-of 83 per cent approval rating in a self-commissioned poll — not an insignificant factor when the IOC picks a place to hold its crown-jewel event.
Along with Paris, L.A. is stepping in again to try to change the conversation about what hosting the Olympics can really be.
“It’s a unique opportunity to do two at the same time,” Wasserman said. “Hopefully, it’s an interesting paradigm for the world going forward. We’re two great cities, it’s two great Olympic hosts and it’s going to be two great games.”