2024: LA's time again?


Shutters on the Beach, the Santa Monica hotel, is one of those Southern California legends. The beautiful people go there, and for excellent reason. You get there by heading west down Pico Boulevard until it dead ends at the sand. The president of the University of Southern California, C.L. Max Nikias, had them in full roar Wednesday evening for an alumni event at Shutters. It was not even two and one half years ago that USC announced a $6 billion fundraising campaign. Already, the president said, the university is more than halfway to its goal.

A few blocks away from USC itself, the 73-story Wilshire Grand Hotel is going up at 7th and Figueroa streets, a $1-billion downtown Los Angeles complex with 900 rooms and 30 floors of office space. It will be the tallest building west of the Mississippi River.

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Just steps away from that, of course, is the LA Live complex, anchored by Staples Center, where the Lakers, Clippers and Kings play, and where ESPN has its West Coast studio. The Ritz-Carlton and Marriott there have already become destinations. In 2011, it’s where the International Olympic Committee held its Women and Sport conference; just a few weeks back, USA Swimming’s Golden Goggles gala took place in the same ballroom.

There really can be little doubt Wednesday why USA Track & Field chose Los Angeles — over Houston — as the site of the 2016 U.S. Olympic marathon Trials.

In short: LA is rocking, especially downtown LA, which used to be dreadful but is now staking a claim to be hipster central.

The intrigue, really, is whether the U.S. Olympic Committee will see what is becoming increasingly obvious as it weighs not only whether to get into the race for the 2024 Summer Games but what U.S. city to pick: Los Angeles just might be — again — the right place at the right time.

There’s only one Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Athletes from all over the world want to compete there, to make history, the way it was made in 1932 and 1984.

It’s why there could be only place for the announcement that the marathon Trials were coming to LA — the famed peristyle end of the Coliseum.

It was just after 12 on a glorious January afternoon, the California bear flag swaying overhead to one side, the American flag on the other by those three stately palm trees reaching up high into the sky.  The new Los Angeles mayor, Eric Garcetti, fixed LA’s place in the sun for one and all, saying, “Los Angeles is the western capital of the United States, the eastern capital of the Pacific Rim and the northern capital of Latin America.”

To be clear, the USOC is in no hurry to make any sort of announcement. The IOC won’t pick a site until 2017. The USOC has more pressing concerns — like the impending Sochi Games — before it resumes its focus on 2024.

Yet as the IOC members begin arriving over the weekend in Sochi for the meetings that precede next Friday’s opening ceremony, the issue of what the USOC will do for 2024 will be gathering increasing relevance.

Sochi and the Rio 2016 Summer Games are seen by many within the Olympic movement as “adventures.”

In 2018 and 2020, the Games will be in Asia, in choices seen as involving less risk, in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and Tokyo.

The 2022 race is just now taking shape. But insiders are already suggesting it would be little surprise to see Almaty, Kazakhstan, and Beijing emerge as frontrunners. Both, again, are seen as choices involving less risk. The IOC will pick the 2022 city in 2015.

Again for 2024 — at this very early stage, the IOC is known to be keen to be soliciting a U.S. bid.

The USOC wants in only if it has the closest thing to a guarantee — of course there is no such thing — that it is going to win. It can not afford another debacle like Chicago 2016 or New York 2012.

If the USOC jumps in, the obvious question is, what city gives it the best chance?

Chicago? With its amazing lakefront? And great technical plan for 2016? Not likely. The mayor was President Obama’s key adviser when Chicago got bounced.

New York? The new mayor seemingly has other priorities.

Boston? Not once over the last year has even one IOC member been heard to say, you know what, I would really, really love to spend 17 days in Boston, Massachusetts. Also, if Mitt Romney — who, genuinely, did a first-rate job running the Salt Lake 2002 Games — is serious about getting back into the Olympic scene, advising the Boston 2024 people, he had better brush up on some reading. He told Fox News two weeks ago that the Munich Games had issues with Hitler; the Munich Games were in 1972, 27 years after Hitler’s death. (Mr. Romney’s staffers: see Berlin, 1936.)

Dallas? The state of Texas could for sure meet the IOC’s financial guarantees. But not a chance Dallas can win. Among its several challenges, beyond being in the American South, and the South is where Atlanta is, and the IOC still recalls Atlanta 1996 all too well: the first thing that comes to mind for some who don’t know about Dallas is, believe it or not, the JFK assassination. Not a positive vibe for an IOC election.

Houston? Not running.

There is sound reason to consider San Francisco, and seriously. It has technology assets the IOC, bluntly, needs. It is typically seen as every European’s favorite American city, and the IOC is heavily dominated by European interests. USOC board chairman Larry Probst is based in the Bay Area. Moreover, San Francisco has never played host to the Games and LA, of course, has done it twice.

It’s that twice-before thing that, over the past several bid cycles, has been a considerable strike against LA.

Now that London is a three-time host, though, that has opened the door for LA, and perhaps in a big way.

A significant faction within the IOC is known to favor New York and LA, and if New York truly ends up being a non-starter — that tilts things considerably.

The New York thing is all about the 2012 bid. It’s about what people remember.

LA: the same, and more. Given all the uncertainties in our uncertain world, it may be, as a symposium at the LA 84 Foundation last Saturday suggested, that the IOC needs Los Angeles — the same way it did in 1984, when Los Angeles was essentially the only city in the world that wanted the Olympics, and 1932, the first Games to last 16 days and the first with an athletes’ village.

The Games, it must be understood, are part of the fabric of civic life in Los Angeles.

Olympic Boulevard? That’s 10th Street. Named after the X Olympiad, the 10th Olympic Games, in 1932.

For most Angelenos, the period from the moment Rafer Johnson lit the cauldron in 1984 until the day Rodney King was beaten by police in 1991 were golden years in Southern California, and they want a new version of those years.

The LA city council, the county board of supervisors, other local political figures — they all support the idea of a 2024 Games. There’s no political opposition. Only support.

To emphasize that point, Garcetti keeps a 1984 LA Olympic torch in his office. How many mayors do that kind of thing? For real — not for show.

Thousands of would-be Olympic athletes train in Southern California. Hundreds of Olympians live in the area.

You want shopping? There’s Beverly Hills and more. Disneyland? Right. You want celebrities, Hollywood, the beach? Check, check, check.

The weather? Only perfect.

That blockbuster hotel complex going up downtown? Yang Ho Cho, who runs the South Korean conglomerate, Hanjin Group, is not only a USC trustee — he led the winning Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Games bid.

In an era in which the IOC is avowedly seeking to minimize costs, 85 percent of what’s needed for a 2024 LA Games is already on the ground.

And then, of course, there’s the Coliseum.

Garcetti, speaking in Spanish — the mayor is so fluent he asked a reporter whether she wanted a question answered in English or Spanish — called the Coliseum “a grand symbol of Los Angeles’ Olympic history,” which is, of course, the essence of the thing.

USC now has a 98-year master lease for the place. They’d have to put a new track inside; it’s football-only now. But, you know, these things can be worked out if that’s what everyone wants.

The mayor, back to English, said of the 2016 marathon Trials, “This is a great thing on its own.” And then he also said, “Los Angeles is truly a great Olympic town.”