LA 2024

Feds to international sports movement: drop dead


The U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday flipped a big, fat middle finger to the international sports movement. On what grounds? And to achieve, exactly, what?

Did anyone at the U.S. Attorney’s office in Brooklyn stop for even a second to think about the consequence — to the Los Angeles 2024 Summer Games bid, to the possibility of an American World Cup men's soccer tourney bid for 2026, to the interests of U.S. athletes everywhere — in opening a criminal investigation into allegations of state-sponsored Russian doping?

Russian president Vladimir Putin, left, and sports minister Vitaly Mutko // Getty Images

It is very, very difficult to make even — a little law talk here — a scintilla of sense from what, at first impression, seems like nothing so much as an outrageous, politically driven abuse of prosecutorial and law enforcement discretion.

In the United States, the law does not criminalize sports doping.

Italy, just to pick one — sure. But not the United States.

Yet here come the feds, reportedly launching a criminal investigation into sports doping. By athletes who are not Americans. What?

Indeed, as the New York Times first reported, the Department of Justice, through that Brooklyn prosecutor’s office, is “scrutinizing Russian government officials, athletes, coaches, anti-doping authorities and anyone who might have benefitted unfairly from a doping regime.”

It said the investigation “originated” with the FBI.

Because there isn’t a specific doping-related statute in U.S. law, federal prosecutors are apparently eyeing fraud and conspiracy charges, the Times reported.

This is, at best, legal gymnastics.


Imagine if the Russians, or the Chinese, or the French, pick anyone anywhere, decided to go after Americans: accusing U.S. athletes or their entourage or even American government officials of a crime under that particular nation's laws, basing the whole thing on allegations of sports-related doping.

What would the reaction be?

How is this any different?

The United States is not the world’s police officer nor, hardly, its prosecutor, judge and jury.

Who in the confines of some office in Brooklyn thought otherwise would serve any sort of American interest in our complicated, nuanced world?

News of the action from that U.S. Attorney’s office came as the International Olympic Committee announced Tuesday that re-tests of samples from the 2008 Beijing Games had turned up 31 positives, IOC president Thomas Bach calling it a “powerful strike against the cheats.”

Backing up for a moment:

You have to be a complete idiot to get caught doping at the Olympic Games. Everyone knows the authorities are going to be testing. And that samples get saved for years.

So there are two options here:

One, officials finally managed to get, say, some top-level Jamaicans or Kenyans. That would be a “powerful strike.”

Two, and more likely, if this cast of 31 was a Kevin Spacey movie, it would be the usual suspects. There are roughly 10,000 athletes at a Summer Games. Catching 31 means roughly 0.3 percent. Whoo.

Let’s be clear:

In this moment, the IOC is facing a potentially unprecedented onslaught of challenges: everything from Russian doping to the seemingly chaotic preparations for the Rio Games, from allegations of potential bribery involving Tokyo’s win for 2020 to the sudden resignation of Yang Ho Cho, the one guy in South Korea who had the 2018 Winter Games ship — finally — moving in the right direction.

IOC leadership has a bully pulpit. But no. It has been notably quiet when it could and should be aggressive in pursuit of resolution to all these challenges.

But that does not mean it is up to the United States to decide unilaterally that it is an American burden, taken on willingly, to address or fix even one of these problems.

The notion of American exceptionalism — that we are different because we are us — plays well domestically.

Internationally, not so much. Indeed, in the Olympic scene, you hear time and again that the rest of the world wants way, way less American exceptionalism. To that point, senior U.S. Olympic Committee leadership has spent the past six years preaching humility, asserting that the U.S. is just one of more than 200 nations in a global movement.

Apparently that message didn’t reach Brooklyn.

The original 1975 headline // Getty Images

More recent vintage -- from January 2016 // Getty Images

In retrospect, maybe it all makes so much more sense now, the failure of that New York bid for the Summer 2012 Games. All this dropping dead.

An American civics refresher: there are 94 U.S. attorney’s offices, one for each federal district. Federal prosecutors make for one of the most powerful arms of the entire United States government.

In Brooklyn, they implausibly decided the course of action ought to be more American exceptionalism.

Like, way more. Take that, everyone. Enjoy our investigation along with your freedom fries and newly relabeled “America” beer (née Budweiser).

A little more American civics background: the planning and execution of an American bid for a mega-event such as the Games or the World Cup involves different entities that are all part of the same branch of government, the executive: the FBI and DOJ, State, Treasury and more.

The head of the executive branch is the president himself.

Left to right at the IOC session in Copenhagen in October 2009: Chicago 2016 bid chair Pat Ryan, First Lady Michelle Obama, President Obama, then-Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley // Getty Images

President Obama has been, in many regards, an extraordinary executive. If the time in which we live is not always kind to Mr. Obama, history likely will be. At the same time, he might be the worst sports president since 1776. Ever since the day in October 2009 that Chicago got the boot for the 2016 Summer Games, won by Rio, the Obama Administration’s connection with international sports has been rich with one conflict after another.

And particularly with Russia.

It was just two-plus years ago, for instance, that the president opted in advance of the Sochi Games to make a political statement regarding Russia’s anti-gay laws by naming a U.S. delegation that was to be headed by the tennis star Billie Jean King and two other openly gay athletes. (King ultimately made it to the closing ceremony; she was unable to attend the opening ceremony because of her mother’s death.)

In nearly three years as IOC president, Bach has met with more than 100 heads of state. Obama? No, and not even last October, when a good chunk of the Olympic movement’s senior leadership descended on Washington, D.C., for the meeting of the Assn. of National Olympic Committees.

At that ANOC meeting, not one ranking Obama Administration official showed up — until the fourth day. Then came a surprise appearance from Vice President Joe Biden, the protocol equivalent of a drive-by.

During his brief stay on stage, all of seven minutes, the vice president called the Olympics the “single unifying principle in the world.”

Pretty hard to mesh that with an investigation out of Brooklyn into Russian dopers.

Indeed, there’s so much wrong with the idea that American federal prosecutors are investigating the possibility of laying criminal charges in this kind of matter that it is difficult to even know where to begin.

But here we go:

— There’s no law on point.

— On what theory does the United States claim virtually unlimited, worldwide jurisdiction?

It is incredibly unclear what nexus the United States might assert here to find jurisdiction. The banking system, as in the FIFA matter? That has always been tenuous.

— Let’s play hypothetical for just a moment. Assume the case yields indictments. How in the world are you going to get defendants into the United States, particularly if they’re in Russia? Get serious.

— The Times reported that the whistleblower in another story it broke a few days ago, about alleged misconduct at the Sochi 2014 lab, the director Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, is “among the people under scrutiny by the United States government.”

Let’s see: we want to encourage whistle-blowers to step up and report what they know. Rodchenkov, fleeing to the United States, does just that — only to become a focus of potential criminal inquiry by the feds?

The Moscow lab that Rodchenkov used to head // Getty Images

It’s not hard to imagine this hypothetical: Rodchenkov applies for asylum. Such an application hinges on his “cooperation” with the DOJ, the feds in Brooklyn perhaps eager to squeeze him to be a key witness against others.

Rodchenkov already has a lawyer, the Times reported. And he said, “I have no choice. I am between two flames,” meaning the United States and Russian governments.

Also, this: Rodchenkov is living in Los Angeles. That is a long way from Brooklyn.

— Every case brought by federal prosecutors operates on two tracks: it plays out in court and, as well, in the court of public opinion. The resource of the FBI, DOJ and each U.S. Attorney is indeed significant but even that resource is finite. That means each and every prosecution has to be brought to prove a point. In essence, every single prosecution is distinguished, at some level, by notions of politics. This may not be the most popular point of view but it is indisputably true.

The Brooklyn office is the same office that is central to the FIFA case. That matter is a reach, jurisdictionally and otherwise.

This? Way more so.

And yet this is what law enforcement chooses to investigate? When surely the Eastern District of New York has more pressing issues? Like, say, shootings? Racially tinged housing issues? Antitrust matters? The list could go on and on.

— Why do U.S. taxpayers care for even a second if Russians are doping? What taxpayer interest might prosecutors be serving or protecting by going after sports dopers? None. Obviously. Otherwise Congress would have enacted a law saying something about the matter. That’s the way the American system works.

— Further:

Let’s say an American finished one position lower in x number of sports at the Games because of proven Russian doping. Would the outcome of a criminal case result in y number more medals for the United States? Or Italy? France? Mongolia? Wherever?

Take as just one of but many such examples the Olympic women’s 20-kilometer walk.

Olga Kaniskina of Russia racing at the London 2012 Games // Getty Images

Olga Kaniskina of Russia won the event in Beijing in 2008 and crossed the line second in London in 2012. In March of this year, the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled Kaniskina ineligible from August 2009 until October 2012 because of anomalies in what’s called her “biological passport,” a reading of blood markers. Thus at issue: the London silver. Third place? Qieyang Shenjie of China. Fourth? Liu Hong, China. The top American finisher? Maria Michta, 29th.

The women’s 3k steeplechase from London? The first-place finisher, Yulia Zaripova of Russia, is expected to be DQ’d for doping. Second? Habib Ghribi of Tunisia. Third? Sofia Assefa, Ethiopia. Fourth? Micah Chemos Cheywa of Kenya. The top American? Emma Coburn, ninth.

London women’s discus: Russian silver medalist Darya Pishchalnikova tests positive for a steroid. Third place? Li Yanfeng of China. Fourth? Yarelys Barrios of Cuba. The best American? Stephanie Brown Trafton, the 2008 gold medalist, in eighth.

And so on.

— Is it the DOJ’s responsibility to protect Americans from watching bad sports? Hardly.

Joke: if so, maybe it should focus on the MLS.

— The DOJ has a proven record of achieving very little, if anything, after spending considerable taxpayer dollars when it comes to high-profile sports-related corruption or doping-related prosecutions.

The two figures at the center of Salt Lake City’s tainted bid for the 2002 Winter Games, Tom Welch and Dave Johnson? The case — 15 counts against each — was dropped, a federal judge saying it offended his “sense of justice,” adding, “Enough is enough.”

Roger Clemens? Acquitted of charges he obstructed and lied to Congress in denying he used performance-enhancing drugs.

Barry Bonds? Free as a big-headed bird after nearly 10 years of facing prosecution.

Barry Bonds, now the Miami Marlins batting coach, at a game earlier this month with the Milwaukee Brewers // Getty Images

Then there’s the peculiar matter involving Lance Armstrong. The U.S. Attorney’s office in Los Angeles spent nearly two years investigating allegations that Armstrong and his cycling teammates committed a variety of potential crimes via doping. A grand jury had even been convened. Then, in February 2012, the case mysteriously just — stopped. Over and done. No more.

For years, Armstrong denied doping. He said at the time the criminal case was dropped that he was “gratified,” adding, “It is the right decision and I commend them for reaching it.”

So strange, still. Eight months later, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency released more than 1,000 pages of evidence against Armstrong. Three months after that, there was Armstrong with Oprah Winfrey, purportedly confessing all.

Lance Armstrong, left, with Oprah Winfrey in January 2013 // Getty Images

The addendum: the chief prosecutor of the LA office at the time, then-U.S. Attorney André Birotte Jr., was confirmed in July 2014 as a federal judge. That's a lifetime job.

For those keeping score: the former chief prosecutor in the Brooklyn office, Loretta Lynch, is now attorney general of the United States.

Remember: politics attends virtually everything involving the U.S. attorney’s office, wherever, wherever and however.

— Finally, when did it become a key DOJ agenda item to make U.S. foreign policy?

The idea that federal prosecutors could be so narrow-minded as to not take into account the LA24 bid, or American soccer ambitions for 2026, seems like a classic case of one executive branch hand (prosecutors) not knowing what the waggling fingers on the other hand might be up to.

Or, more probably, not caring.

Simply put: this is likely to pose a huge challenge for the USOC, the LA24 committee and others in the sports movement.

The FIFA thing was already difficult enough to try to explain amid the complicated matrix that underpins any U.S. sports bid.

Beyond which, any number of IOC members are known post-9/11 to be wary of travel to the United States. No one from another country likes being treated like a potential terrorist upon arrival. Especially IOC members.

Any number of members are also cautious, if not more, when it comes to what they perceive as a Wild West-type American gun culture. Among their questions: is it really safe to go to a college campus when there are open-carry laws? What about an Olympics with so many people carrying so many guns?

Now this from Brooklyn, and what is sure to be the follow-on assertion by any number of members that they must fret about every credit-card receipt if any financial transaction credibly can provide a tie to the U.S. legal system.

If the easy answer to that is, hey, IOC members, don’t do anything wrong — sure.

The simple rejoinder: it’s the cities that have proven the much-larger problem in IOC bidding, not the members per se.

At any rate, that doesn’t answer the salient question, which is: in September, 2017, with Paris, Rome and Budapest in the field along with Los Angeles, which city is going to get a majority of IOC votes?

As a policy matter, securing an Olympic Games is a way better proposition than going after some Russians. Politically, economically, culturally and in virtually every other way: winning a Games is a better bet.

At one point, you know, even President Obama thought so. He put his prestige on the line for Chicago, his hometown. Nothing has been quite the same since.

The Olympic scene drops in on the USA


WASHINGTON — What got done here this week at the Assn. of National Olympic Committees meeting was not nearly as noteworthy as two other essentials: the fact that the meeting was held in the first place in the United States and that delegates from 204 entities were on hand.

As the session gaveled to order on Thursday, there in their place in the rows of seats were, for instance, representatives from North Korea.

From Syria.


Everywhere in the world, including two new national Olympic committees, Kosovo and South Sudan.

There are actually 206 national Olympic committees. The Republic of Congo didn't make it. And elements of the government of Kuwait are involved in a fight with the IOC, meaning the national Olympic committee is now suspended, for the second time in five years, amid political interference; moreover, on Thursday, the IOC announced it had revoked the Olympic qualifying status of a shooting championship in Kuwait, due to begin next week, because an Israeli official was denied a visa for the event.

The North Korean delegation Thursday at ANOC, perusing the magazine from the Olympic publisher Around the Rings

The assembly marked the first time the ANOC session has been held in the United States since 1994, two years before the Atlanta 1996 Summer Games.

With Los Angeles now bidding for the 2024 Games, the stakes were high here for the U.S. Olympic Committee.

As the familiar saying goes, LA surely could not win anything here -- but a poor performance could cost it and the USOC, even though the 2024 race is still in its early stages.

The International Olympic Committee won’t pick the 2024 winner until September 2017. Five cities have declared for the 2024 race: LA, Paris, Rome, Budapest and Hamburg, Germany.

The tentative verdict: no major missteps. All good.

"No problem with [U.S. entry] visas. It was fantastic," the ANOC general secretary, Gunilla Lindberg of Sweden, said Friday, adding of the assembly and related events, "The organization went really well. I heard only positive comments."

Does that mean LA is on course to a sure victory?


Indeed, by most accounts, Paris is considered the 2024 front-runner.

"Two years is a long time," Paris 2024 chief executive Etienne Thobois said. "It's a long journey ahead. 'Favorite' doesn't mean anything."

The calm here simply mean it's on to whatever the future holds, with both the strengths and the challenges underscoring the American effort here this week on full display.

A clear and undisputed strength: Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti.

Garcetti, bid chairman Casey Wasserman and Janet Evans, the 1980s and 1990s Olympic swimming champ, make up the public face of the LA 2024 bid. The Olympic movement in recent years has rarely seen a personality like Garcetti: a mayor who leads from the front and in a style that is both fully American and decidedly international.

LA 2024 bid chief Casey Wasserman, Olympic swim gold medalist and LA 2024 vice chair Janet Evans, ANOC president Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah and LA mayor Eric Garcetti as the ANOC meetings got underway on Tuesday // Getty Images

Garcetti got to welcome to the United States, among others, Tsunekazu Takeda, the Japanese IOC member and Tokyo 2020 leader who for the past year has also been the IOC’s global marketing commission chair.

Takeda speaks English. But no. Garcetti spoke with him in Japanese. When they parted, the mayor passed to Takeda a business card — in Japanese.

Meeting Julio Maglione, the IOC member from Uruguay who is president of both the international swimming federation, FINA, and PASO, the Pan-American Sports Organization, Garcetti spoke in Spanish.

South Sudan? Garcetti, a Rhodes Scholar some 20 years ago, knows the region; he said he lived in East Africa, studying Eritrean nationalism, in the mid-‘90s.

The mayor’s back story — which surely will become ever more widely known — is, truly, remarkable.

Garcetti served for years on the LA city council before becoming mayor. As LA Times columnist Steve Lopez wrote the week before that 2013 mayoral election:

“[Garcetti] seems to have done everything in his 42 years except pitch for the Dodgers and kayak to Borneo,” adding later in the column, ”He’s George Plimpton, Bono and Seinfeld’s Mr. Peterman all rolled into one. When he says: ‘And then there was the time I commandeered a snowmobile at the North Pole while on a climate-change fact-finding mission and located Salma Hayek’s lost purse in the frozen tundra,’ he’s not kidding. He actually did that. And Hayek said he’s a great dancer.”

It was salsa dancing, for the record. And one small correction: the dancing took part in Iqaluit, the provincial capital of Nunavut, Canada.

More from Lopez on Garcetti:

"He was a cheerleader, led his Columbia U. literary society, headed a discussion group on gender and sexuality and served the homeless while composing musicals. He went on to conduct research or serve humanitarian causes in Eritrea, Ethiopia and Burma, worked for Amnesty International and became a university instructor. And did I mention that he speaks fluent Spanish and currently serves as a Naval Reserve officer?"

At Wednesday evening's USOC-hosted reception, left to right: USOC board chair Larry Probst, USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun, IOC president Thomas Bach, LA mayor Eric Garcetti, LA 2024 bid chief Casey Wasserman

Larry Probst, the USOC board chair, said of Garcetti, "That guy is our secret weapon." After this week, "He's no secret anymore."

Some 1200 people were accredited for the ANOC assembly, filling a huge hall on the lower level of the Washington Hilton. Garcetti called it “breathtaking” to see such global diversity on display.

Throughout his several days here, Garcetti played it very low-key, saying repeatedly he was here to listen and learn.

After the failures of Chicago 2016 and New York 2012, it’s abundantly plain that any American bid must walk a fine line between boldness and, probably even more important, humility.

As Garcetti told Associated Press, ”People want us to be assertive and brave about the Olympic movement but not to tip over to being arrogant. It’s like, 'Win it on your merits, be a good team player. We already know how big you are, how many athletes and medals you have. Just be one of us.' "

The USOC has in recent years been oft-criticized for not playing a role commensurate with its standing — or its expected standing — in the movement. To that end, Probst said at a Wednesday night welcome gala, no fewer than 10 world championships have been or will be staged in the United States this year alone.

Upcoming: the international weightlifting championships in Houston next month. Just past: the world road cycling championships in Richmond, Virginia, which attracted 640,000 people over nine days.

The USOC, Probst said, was “delighted” to play host to the ANOC meeting, part of a plan to “become a full partner in the Olympic family and appropriately engage everywhere we thought we could make a positive difference.”

ANOC president Sheik Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah of Kuwait, a major Olympic power-broker, said time and again this week how important it was to gather on American soil.

At a Tuesday dinner, he said, “I just want to [emphasize] that we are back in the United States,” he said. At Wednesday’s gala, he said, referring to the Americans, “You are a main stakeholder in the Olympic movement,” adding, “Come back,” and, “You are most welcome and a big part of this family.”

ANOC president Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah speaks at Wednesday's USOC welcome reception at the National Building Museum // Getty Images

A key ANOC initiative: the development and staging of the so-called Beach Games, a bid to reach out to and more actively engage with teens and 20-somethings, arguably the key demographic in the Olympic sphere. The full ANOC assembly on Friday approved the awarding of a first Beach Games, to be held in 2017, to San Diego, at a projected cost in the range of $150 million; some 20 sports are to be on the program, including surfing, volleyball and triathlon.

Just two hours, maybe less, from Los Angeles?

To avoid conflict with the IOC rule that bars members from visiting bid cities, the San Diego event is due to be held in the days after the 2024 vote.

Like that is going to stop site visits by influence-makers in the Olympic world.

What? If someone is in San Diego, are they going to be fitted with five-ringed ankle-monitors to track them from making the short drive north to LA? Are trips to Disneyland, in Orange County, halfway between San Diego and LA, off-limits?

Silly, and, again, another reason why the no-visits rule ought to be dropped, even acknowledging all IOC paranoia about sport corruption, a topic that IOC president Thomas Bach visited at length from the dais Thursday in remarks about the FIFA scandal in which he did not even once mention the acronym “FIFA.”

“Follow the news,” Bach said, adding, “Think about what it means for you: it means for you that if you do not follow these basic principles of good governance, your credibility is at risk, that the credibility of all you may have done in the past and all the good things you are doing is at risk.”

The FIFA matter, sparked by a criminal investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, clearly poses an uncertainty for any American 2024 effort. What will the status of that matter be by September 2017? And the status of would-be systemic FIFA reconstruction?

The sheikh, who also serves on the FIFA executive committee, sought here to strike a light tone. “FIFA — we believe FIFA needs a lot of reforms,” he said at Tuesday night’s dinner to laughter.

Also a U.S. challenge: how effective can any American delegation prove at lobbying the IOC for the big prize? There are three U.S. IOC members: Probst, Anita DeFrantz, Angela Ruggiero.

USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun and Probst have worked diligently for six years at relationship-building, and Blackmun is likely to assume an ever-wider role as the bid goes on. He struck exactly the right tone at Wednesday’s gala in exceedingly brief remarks: “It’s great to have you here in the United States.”

Meanwhile, the scene at that gala, and indeed for most of the week, highlighted a significant American challenge.

It’s typical at a large-scale Olympic gathering such as an ANOC assembly for a senior federal official from the host country, typically the rank of a president or prime minister, to make -- at the least -- an appearance at which all are welcomed to wherever and wished a good time.

Russian president Vladimir Putin, for instance, opened last week's World Olympians Forum in Moscow, with Bach and Monaco's Prince Albert on hand, calling for the "de-politicization of sports under international law."

Roughly half the 100 or so IOC members were here for the ANOC proceedings -- "almost ... a quorum," as the sheikh quipped. Thus: a major opportunity.

Tuesday? Wednesday? Thursday? No senior U.S. officials.

The mayor of Washington, Muriel Bowser, offered Thursday’s welcoming remarks. Washington and San Francisco were also in the U.S. mix for 2024 along with, of course, Boston.

"As you consider future sports event, please consider Washington, D.C., a worthy option,'' Bowser said, adding later, "See you in 2028."

Talk about off-message.

President Obama, of course, made a trip to the IOC session in Copenhagen in October 2009 to pitch for Chicago, which got booted in the first round of voting. Since then, the Obama White House has played it decidedly cool with the Olympic scene.

Within the IOC, Obama is typically mentioned in discussion either with the security-related logistics of that 2009 Copenhagen visit or his decision to politicize the U.S. delegation to the 2014 Sochi Games opening ceremony as a response to the Russian law banning gay “propaganda” to minors. He selected the tennis star Billie Jean King and two other openly gay athletes for the U.S. effort. (King ultimately made it to the closing ceremony; she was unable to attend the opening ceremony because of her mother’s death.)

In just over two years as IOC president, Bach has met with roughly 100 heads of government or state. Obama? No.

On Wednesday, while ANOC delegates gathered in DC, the First Lady, Michelle Obama, and Jill Biden, the vice president's wife, met with Britain's Prince Harry in Fort Belvoir, Virginia, not far away, to promote the 2016 Invictus Games. The Paralympic-style event, to be held next May in Orlando, Florida, is intended to raise awareness for wounded service members.

“OK, ladies, Prince Harry is here. Don’t act like you don’t notice!” Mrs. Obama said, adding at another point to laughs, “I’d like to apologize for all the gold medals we will win in Orlando.” The prince said in response, “You better bring it, USA!”

Later Wednesday, the prince met President Obama in the Oval Office, again to promote the Invictus project.

Jill Biden, Prince Harry, Michelle Obama Wednesday at Fort Belvoir, Virginia // Getty Images

Prince Harry and President Obama Wednesday at the White House // Getty Images

U.S. vice president Joe Biden on the final day of the ANOC session, with Bach and the sheikh looking on // Getty Images

So -- on Friday morning, while the Rio 2016 delegation was already in the midst of its presentation to the assembly, what was this? A surprise appearance from vice president Joe Biden, the Olympic equivalent of a protocol drive-by.

The sheikh literally had to ask producers to stop a Rio 2016 beauty video as Biden stepped up to the microphone. There, flanked by the sheikh, Bach and Probst, Biden said he'd had breakfast earlier in the week with Garcetti, who had said it was an "oversight" that "no one from the administration has been here."

"He was right," Biden said. "It was an oversight. For that, I apologize. I am a poor substitute, and I am delighted to be here." He also called the Olympics the "single unifying principle in the world.''

More Biden: "I will be the captain of the U.S. Olympic team. I'm running 100 meters. Don't I wish I could! I bet every one of you here wish you could, too."

And this: "I am not here lobbying for any city. Though I do love Los Angeles. All kidding aside, Garcetti is my friend and he won't let me back in LA unless I say something nice."

Biden closed with a note that he intended to attend the Summer Games and that when he did, "I hope when I come up to you and say, 'Hello,' you won't say, 'Joe who?' "

And then he was gone, out of the big hall.

In all, just over seven minutes.

Did Biden -- like Putin -- say anything substantive? No.

Then again, the vice-president did show up. So, ultimately, the big-picture argument can be made, Probst calling Biden's appearance "incredibly important," adding, "The message is our government at the very highest levels cares about the Olympic movement, and I hope that's a message that will resonate."

Patrick Hickey, the IOC executive board member who is also head of the European Olympic Committees, called Biden's remarks "most charming" and his appearance a "superb move," observing that "lots of people" had remarked about the prior absence of a ranking administration official.

And security? This was not Copenhagen in 2009. No disruptions. The room wasn't suddenly cleared and swept. There were no -- there have not been all week -- airport-style metal detectors.

This, then, is perhaps the ultimate take-away of this week, one likely to emerge as a key talking point for LA24 and the USOC: the United States is different. Yes, there are 206 national Olympic committees. The way stuff gets done in the U.S. can often be different than anywhere else. Not better, not worse. Just different. But, for sure, it gets done.

For emphasis: different does not mean better or worse. It's just -- different.

Come January 2017, meantime, the issue of U.S. federal involvement may prove a minor footnote in the 2024 Olympic story. That's eight months before the IOC election. That's when a new U.S. president takes office. Maybe even sooner -- whenever it will be in 2016 that the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees assume their roles.

For now, Probst said, referring to Garcetti, "We're thrilled this guy is here."

In Lausanne: pics, so it really happened


Not even 48 hours in, and the Los Angeles 2024 bid already has it all over Boston after meetings Thursday in Switzerland with the International Olympic Committee. Compare and contrast: Earlier this year, the world alpine ski championships were staged in Vail, Colorado, the biggest Olympic sports event in the United States in years. The IOC president himself, Thomas Bach, showed up. Did the then-Boston 2024 bid chief, John Fish? No. When Steve Paglicua replaced Fish, he thereafter flew fairly quickly to Switzerland. Did he get a meeting with Bach? No. A photo op with the IOC president? Nope.

On Thursday,  LA mayor Eric Garcetti and U.S. Olympic Committee board chairman Larry Probst met for about a half hour with the IOC president. Where? In Bach’s private office at IOC headquarters along Lake Geneva, a campus known as the Cheateu de Vidy.

After that, the mayor, Probst, USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun and LA24 bid chairman Casey Wasserman met for another half-hour with senior IOC officials: Olympic Games executive director Christophe Dubi; director general Christophe de Kepper; and the head of bid city relations, Jacqueline Barrett.

“Any campaign is about relationships,” Garcetti said in a teleconference with reporters following the Lausanne get-togethers, and perhaps in no sphere is that emphatically more true than in the Olympic bid game.

Photo op? Here you go.

LA mayor Eric Garcetti, IOC president Thomas Bach, USOC board chair Larry Probst // photo LA24

Bid chair Casey Wasserman, Probst, Bach, Garcetti on the Chateau de Vidy grounds // photo LA24

IOC director general Christophe de Kepper, Olympic Games executive director Christophe Dubi, Wasserman, Bach, Probst, USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun, IOC head of bid city relations Jacqueline Barrett // photo LA24

There are hardly any guarantees in an Olympic bid race, this one starting formally on September 15, ending in the summer of 2017 with an IOC vote in Lima, Peru. That said, it’s clear, too, that the Olympic side not only wants but welcomes the LA effort.

After Boston withdrew in late July, Bach made it explicitly clear that the IOC expected a United States bid.

Blackmun said on that teleconference, referring to Boston, “Admittedly this was not a direct route we took to getting here,” meaning to LA24. At the same time, he stressed, “We could not be more pleased.”

“Boston made a decision that was probably right for Boston,” Garcetti said. “Los Angeles made a right decision for Los Angeles.”

Before its formal late July withdrawal, it had been clear for months within the Olympic world that Boston was a dead horse. It also had been plain that once Boston went away there would be one week of bad publicity, as the focus turned elsewhere, meaning LA. That is exactly what happened.

Asked if there were any concerns Thursday that LA might be considered a second choice, Garcetti said, “Quite the opposite,” adding, “They universally expressed excitement and enthusiasm about Los Angeles. It was not a backward-looking conversation at all.”

Which should be exactly the IOC’s response — because it offers the chance to prove that Agenda 2020, Bach’s would-be reform plan, is more than just words.

One of the changes Agenda 2020 has brought about is what’s called an “invitation phase” in the bid process; in practice, it affords a national Olympic committee the chance to explore one option and then, if it doesn’t play out, switch to a better one.

Also expected to be in the 2024 race, the first to fully test the Agenda 2020 reforms: Paris, Rome, Budapest and Hamburg, Germany. On Wednesday, the French Olympic Committee kick-started its messaging with a campaign called #JeReveDesJeux. That means, “I dream of the Games.” The plan in France is to sell wristbands with that slogan to help finance the Paris campaign.

In a fascinating turn, a look at the IOC’s consultants list, another new facet in the spirit of transparency owing to Agenda 2020, shows that Hamburg has already hired the services of seven — seven! — consultants. Paris: six, including UK-based Mike Lee, whose winning track record includes Rio 2016. Rome: four. The USOC has retained four, all well-known and -respected in the Olympic bid world: Americans Doug Arnot, George Hirthler and Terrence Burns, and UK-based Jon Tibbs.

Budapest: none.

As for what was actually said in Thursday’s meetings? Not much tremendously substantive, really.

Not that anyone should have expected anything fabulous, Probst saying on that teleconference that discussions were intentionally broad, “kept at a really high level.”

Does that matter?


Once more, this was mostly — if not primarily — an exercise in relationship-building and in validation of process, in particular for the USOC and IOC.

In a statement, Probst said, “I would also like to thank the Olympic movement for its patience, as this has been a very important decision for the future of the movement in the United States. The LA 2024 bid enjoys the full support of the USOC -- our athletes, national, state and regional leaders -- and the Los Angeles city council and residents," with a poll showing 81 percent local support for the Games. "Our bid to bring the Games back to the U.S. for the first time in more than a quarter century begins right here, right now."

“This is a new LA,” Blackmun said on the teleconference, reflecting the enormous change in the city and in Southern California since 1984, and that surely and appropriately will be a key messaging point going forward.

The mayor said the idea was to start making the point that — again, completely consistent with one of the drivers of Agenda 2020 — that “we show that exciting Games and sustainability are not mutually exclusive.”

For his part, Bach said in a statement provided to Associated Press by the IOC, "Los Angeles is a very welcome addition to a strong field of competitors.  We have been informed that LA 2024 has already embraced the Olympic Agenda 2020 reforms by making use of many existing facilities and the legacy of the Olympic Games 1984.  Their vision is for the Olympic Games to serve as a catalyst in the development plan for the city."

As was pointed out Tuesday in the news conference on Santa Monica Beach where the mayor, Wasserman and others, including the 1980s and ‘90s swim star Janet Evans, helped launch LA24, 85 percent of the venues for the 2024 Games are already on the ground or are in planning regardless of an Olympics, 80 percent of them new since the 1984 Summer Games.

The operating budget stands at $4.1 billion; because of the way Olympic revenue streams work, including the IOC contribution, sponsorship and ticketing, an LA24 Games would very likely make a considerable surplus.

Also in the budgets, separately: $1.7 billion in non-operating costs — meaning construction, renovation and infrastructure such as planned Olympic Village. A huge chunk of that is expected to be paid for with private funds, including $925 million from a to-be-named developer on the village project.

“First and foremost,” Garcetti said, “my responsibility is to my city through its infrastructure and fiscal health. I would never do anything to endanger that.”

Garcetti, in that teleconference, also said that a central touchpoint Thursday was highlighting the notion that LA 24 is “a bid Los Angeles wants to do, the United States wants to do,” adding “clearly you can do that best in a face-to-face meeting.”

The point about this being not just an LA bid but an American one is — and will become even more so going forward — key.

On Wednesday, President Obama’s press secretary, Josh Earnest, told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Dillingham, Alaska, that “obviously the president and the First Lady are very enthusiastic and strongly supportive of the bid put forward by the city of Los Angeles.”

In an Olympic bid context, it is always entirely and thoroughly appropriate for the head of government or state to offer such support.

But the comments also underscore a key U.S. challenge in the Olympic bid arena.

Again, relationships: since he took office in 2013, Bach has met with roughly 100 national leaders. Obama? No. And there is no indication a meeting is on either party’s agenda. Within the IOC, the president and First Lady are mostly remembered for the way they handled their trip to Copenhagen in support of Chicago’s 2016 campaign; Chicago got bounced in the first round.

Of course, a new U.S. president will have been in office for about eight months by the time the IOC votes in Lima in 2017.

In the more near-term: it matters for LA24, and significantly, that the U.S. government might actually step up big-time in connection with the Assn. of National Olympic Committee meetings to be held in Washington in October, and ensure that the delegates from more than 200 national Olympic committees — dozens will be IOC members — get through customs and border with not just ease but grace.

If you want to win the Olympic bid game, you have to understand the rules.

Like going to see the IOC president.

And the symbolism of the pictures — especially when you do, or don’t, get them.

Don’t be fooled, the pics can be tremendously telling. As the young people in their teens and 20s that the IOC is so keen to reach is always saying: "Pics, or it didn’t happen.”

As the mayor, Wasserman, Probst and Blackmun, head home, pics in hand, they know full well that two years is a long time.

But this, too: it has been a great two days for LA24. The launch probably could not have gone any better.

In a statement, Garcetti said, "It was an honor to meet with President Bach to discuss our initial bid. The Olympics are part of LA’s DNA – and we appreciate the opportunity to share our Olympic passion with the IOC and strengthen a movement that seeks to unite the world in friendship and peace through sport. After visiting the IOC headquarters, we are fully aware of, and ready for, the hard work ahead of us."

Just so, and to be clear, this caution: at the end of the day, this 2024 campaign will end up being about whether the IOC members want the Games back in the United States, or not.

In this dynamic, LA is not just LA. It’s way more. It’s LA representing the United States of America.

“I think it is time for America to bring the Olympics back home,” Garcetti said, adding, “The United States loves the Olympics, and the Olympics loves the United States.”

Now we will get to see — with a world-class bid that is, in theory, everything the IOC could want to fulfill Agenda 2020 — if that is, indeed, true.

A rousing launch at the beach: good vibrations


SANTA MONICA, Calif. — They could have held the news conference on Tuesday formally announcing Los Angeles’ entry into the 2024 bid race anywhere. At the LA Memorial Coliseum. At Staples Center. In Hollywood, with the iconic sign as a backdrop, like in so many movies. No.

This event, one of the most intriguing and rousing plays in recent Olympic history, was staged at the beach.

Literally, at the beach.

With twin palms standing tall as frames for the dozens of cameras and television crews. Bicyclists riding by. And, of course, beach volleyball and, beyond, the brilliant blue of the Pacific Ocean sparkling on a spectacular summer afternoon.

The Olympic movement, the Summer Games, the International Olympic Committee — they all, to be candid, need to be cool again.

At the risk of being obvious, the Southern California beachfront is unequivocally one of the coolest places on Planet Earth.

Before it all got underway, the music that was playing from the speakers: “Good Vibrations,” by the Beach Boys.

For sure.

Take a look at this selection of photos from the event, at which U.S. Olympic Committee chief executive Scott Blackmun declared, “I want to thank Los Angeles for standing up once again as America’s bid city,” and LA mayor Eric Garcetti — speaking first in English, then in Spanish, then in French — said, “This is a great day for Los Angeles and a great day for the Olympic movement.”

The scene at Santa Monica beach, LA mayor Eric Garcetti at the mike // Getty Images

Red, white and blue behind the speakers // Getty Images

In SoCal, the mayor may have things to say but beach volleyball must carry on // Getty Images

What makes Los Angeles different from Paris, Rome, Budapest and Hamburg, Germany, its expected competition in the 2024 campaign?

Which of the five candidates boasts an extraordinary beachfront?

And, along with it, a beach culture known now in far corners of our world, a culture in which surfing and skateboarding — two events that young people, you know, actually really like — feature prominently?

This is why, among other reasons, Los Angeles should have been the USOC’s first choice all along.

But also why that whole months-long adventure elsewhere — someplace in Massachusetts, if memory serves — will quickly become a historical footnote, and no more, as the 2024 campaign develops and hurtles toward the IOC vote in the summer of 2017, in Lima, Peru.

The mayor, who along with the sports executive Casey Wasserman will be the central figures in the LA bid, proved yet again that he is a most compelling public official.

It’s not just that he is a Rhodes Scholar or served as an officer in the United States Naval Reserve. It’s not just that he can speak to others in their language.

It’s what he says.

“Breathe this moment in,” Garcetti told the assembled crowd, which included athletes who had starred at the 1984 Games, such as the diver Greg Louganis and the gymnast Peter Vidmar; 2008 Beijing decathlon winner Bryan Clay; members of the gold-medal winning London 2012 U.S. women's water polo team; and volleyball standouts.

“There are very few moments like this in our lifetime where this place and this space and this time transcend this moment.

“Look at these historic bluffs behind you. In front of you, the endless possibility of the Pacific Ocean. And this moment of the Pacific Rim. And here we are in a city that represents, to all of us, human possibility, ingenuity, creativity and diversity.”

Janet Evans, the gold medal-winning swimmer from the 1988 and 1992 Games, also stole a star turn Tuesday. In 1984, she said, she was 12, breathing in the moments from the seats at the Coliseum. Now, she said, at the outset of this 2024 bid, it must be that this LA effort is not just limited to Southern California. Nor just a bid. More, she said.

“If we are going to win these Games, and I like to win, we need to have every American behind us in this bid,” she said. “So,” turning toward the athletes, assembled on a row of seats nearby, “I am asking my Olympic and Paralympic friends to lead the effort to make the LA24 bid not just an LA bid but a national campaign and a national celebration.”

The Olympics can sometimes get such a bad rap. The two-year bid process can be a slog of numbers, finance, politics. The seven-year build-up to a Games can sometimes seem a protracted exercise in doubt, worry, negativity.

What gets lost, way too often, is the very thing that was showcased Tuesday at the beach: the hope and promise of the Olympics, the possibility of the human experience, the notion that sport has a legitimate role to play in moving the world forward toward a better way.

Earlier Tuesday, the Los Angeles city council voted 15-0 to authorize the mayor to sign an agreement with the USOC over bidding for the Games. In LA, as Garcetti said, “The Olympics is in our DNA.” It is. It’s why eight of 10 people want the Games back in Southern California, according to a recent poll.

Vidmar, who since late 2008 has served as chairman of the U.S. Gymnastics board of directors, explained:

“The fears that many people in Boston had are the same fears that many people had in LA before 1984. Which were: How much is this going to cost us? And what about traffic?

“And we saw in Los Angeles in 1984 that neither of those problems materialized. And I’m very confident that this will happen again the next time the Games come to Los Angeles.”

Garcetti, who keeps a 1984 Olympic torch in his office, never lost faith that it could, should, would be LA: "We do this because we believe since ancient times that human potential is always just in front of us, that the best has never yet been achieved. And that a moment in time, we can taste for a moment,” a reference to the 17 days of a Summer Games, “what it feels like to have a human family come back together.”

He said, noting the 1932 and 1984 Games, that “this is a quest that Los Angeles was made for.”

At the same time, and this must be stressed, while the 2024 bid can link back to a proud history in town, this is a new LA.

Once more: it is.

The city and all of Southern California has become a very different place since long-ago 1984.

In 1984, Eric Garcetti was 13. He came home to LA from sleep-away summer camp to see one of the last days of the Olympic track meet; to see as well the closing ceremony; to see, as he described it Tuesday, “the transformative power of the Games, not just to change my life but to change my city forever.”

He said, “When people said, ‘Oh, you’re from LA,’ after ’84, they knew us. They had already seen our films, our television programs, they had a sense of us. But they got a sense of our soul after 1984.

“Today we are here in a new Los Angeles. This is the face of a new America, a city that reflects the world as it is today and where this country will be tomorrow.”

It is the case, as Wasserman pointed out, that some 85 percent of the venues that would be needed for 2024 are already built or in planning regardless of any Olympic anything.

That said, about 80 percent of the venues that would be needed for 2024? New since 1984.

An $8.5 billion makeover at Los Angeles International Airport? Already underway, Garcetti said.

Some $40 billion in transit improvements, including extensive light-rail capacity throughout Los Angeles County? Voters approved a half-cent sales tax increase via what was called Measure R in 2008, unleashing that $40 billion through 2039.

The one major we’ll-figure-it-out in the bid as it stands now is the projected Olympic Village; if LA wins, the organizing committee would put in $75 million, a developer $925 million. “We have had a lot of interest from the private sector,” the mayor said, understating matters.

The ledger sheet strongly suggests that an LA24 Games would very likely make a lot of money. Even so, city council members were assured that the approval they gave Tuesday is merely the start of discussion and negotiation with Olympic officials; taxpayers are not committed.

"This is the engagement, not the wedding," council president Herb Wesson said.

“We are not changing the face of our city to fit the Olympic Games,” Garcetti said. “Instead, we are adapting an innovative Olympic Games concept to comfortably fit in what the city is doing already.”

As Blackmun said, “When we look at LA and what the mayor and Casey and their team have built, we see a framework for an ideal matchup,” adding a moment later, “We believe in the vision of LA. We believe this city can produce a new kind of Games for a new Olympic era,” one in line with IOC president Thomas Bach’s would-be reform plan, called Agenda 2020.

“We will do this openly. We will do it openly with the press. And we feel strong enough about this bid,” the mayor said, “that there’s nothing we can’t share.”

“Thank you,” Garcetti said at the end of his remarks and a Q&A session, before he, Wasserman, Blackmun and USOC board chairman Larry Probst headed off to Switzerland for meetings at IOC headquarters in Lausanne Wednesday evening and Thursday. The music turned to Randy Newman's "I Love LA."

“Feel free,” the mayor suggested, “to stay at the beach all day.”

Olympic math: why LA 24 makes for a good deal

BEIJING — Last Friday, the Los Angeles city council found itself under some pressure regarding city guarantees for any potential Summer Olympic Games. The council, sensibly, asked not just for more time but more involvement in the process. Compare: when Boston’s Mayor Marty Walsh wavered last month on the same issue, that was, essentially, the end of the Boston bid.

LA 2024’s bid will go forward, indeed on Tuesday, and to places Boston’s didn't and couldn't. Why? Walsh had eight months to make up his mind. In Los Angeles, the city council had three days. This time, more time proved a reasonable request.

In doing enough to let a bid go forward, while keeping a careful eye on its coffers, the city of Los Angeles has provided the U.S. Olympic Committee’s 2024 ambitions that rarest of things in American life: a genuine second act.

Casey Wasserman, who along with Mayor Eric Garcetti, is leading the LA 24 effort // Getty Images

To be explicitly clear about what’s next: the city and the USOC ought to be, and will be, partners. That said, the USOC will not in the near term have an easy ride, nor does it particularly deserve one.

To be plain, too, about expectations: there are always – stress, always – going to be naysayers, worriers and criticisms about events in public life, especially civic-minded projects with budgets that run into the billions. That’s billions with a b.

No problem.

Indeed, one of the fundamental reference points for this 2024 election is the understanding, for sure at the most senior levels of the International Olympic Committee, that it must – again, must – confront the $51 billion hangover from the 2014 Sochi Olympics. That $51 billion is the figure associated with the cost of those Games, and that number is why a remarkable number of cities in western democracies bowed out of the 2022 Winter Games process, leaving only Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan, Beijing the winner in the election last month.

Partially in response to Sochi and that $51 billion, the IOC last December enacted a 40-point would-be reform plan, dubbed Agenda 2020.

The starting point for real understanding of the LA 2024 project is that it is not – repeat, not – Sochi.

Nor is it 1976, and cost-overruns in Montreal, the sort of tiresome allusion that surfaced in my former newspaper, the Los Angeles Times, in an article published Saturday.

That was before 1984, for goodness’ sake, and the LA model that showed the world how to run an Olympic Games.

Here is how long ago, and how irrelevant and immaterial Montreal 1976 is to Los Angeles 2024: in Montreal in 1976, Caitlyn Jenner was a winning decathlete named Bruce.

The reason cities have gotten into trouble over the years with Olympic-related budgets, and the reason Montreal is irrelevant, is that there are, in fact, two budgets – one for the operation of the Games, the other for all the stuff that get built around them, anything from airports to metro lines to stadiums.

In LA, concerns about that second budget – the construction or infrastructure budget – should be minimal. All the major sports venues are already built, including, most importantly, the stadium, site of not just the 1984 but 1932 Games.

Outside the famed peristyle end of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, venue for the 1932 and 1984 Summer Games // Getty Images

This is why it’s also inappropriate for the Times – which should know better if the concern is, truly, taxpayer protection – to lump the infrastructure column in with the operating column, and declare that the “cost” of the LA Games would be $5.8 billion.

They’re totally different – organizing committee expenses at $4.1 billion, non-committee expenses $1.7 billion.

Big picture, and more numbers will follow below:

LA was Agenda 2020 before Agenda 2020 was a thing. If that’s really, truly, genuinely what the IOC wants, it wants LA for 2024.

In conversations here in Beijing amid the 2015 track and field world championships with members of the IOC’s policy-making executive board — they were here for a joint meeting with the IAAF, track’s international governing body — it’s clear that an LA bid is eminently winnable.

The corollary: LA, and its taxpayers, should have no fear of the IOC, or the Olympics. Just the other way around. An LA 2024 Games, should they come to pass, would be the sort of success that makes 1984 look modest.

Starting again with last Friday’s city council session:

Showing the remarkable candor of an executive whose tempered self-assuredness will likely serve him well in the company of Olympic champions, IOC members and those who are both, bid leader Casey Wasserman explained to the city council the open secret that most everyone in the Olympic movement already knew: how LA was rejected in the first place.

In summary: LA was always the choice of the USOC’s chairman, CEO and staff. But board members with links to Boston were at the heart of a group that overruled the USOC’s staff and leadership.

This was, as we all now know, a mistake.

In public life, mistakes rarely come cheap.

Already, LA mayor Eric Garcetti and his team have exacted an unprecedented concession on behalf of taxpayers. LA’s city operations, estimated at $200 million, will now be paid for by a future organizing committee. 

To see the legalese that says just that, click here, and scroll to page D-3, Article II, Section 2.02.

As a point of contrast, Boston assuredly did not get any such concession. See here, again page D-3, Article II, Section 2.02.

LA mayor Eric Garcetti // Getty Images

The USOC has also offered an immediate contribution of at least $1 million to kick-start the bid. Frankly, that’s the very least it could do after denying LA 2024 eight months of fundraising opportunities.

There is more to come.

On top of the money the USOC could reasonably expect to have made during the LA 2024 lifecycle, already covered in a joint venture payment, the USOC wants a whole chunk of change – for elite athlete support – that escaped general notice throughout the whole Boston process. The line in LA 2024’s budget says TBD, suggesting some serious haggling.

Rightly so.

The USOC says it wants $100 million from a future organizing committee while it prepares for the Games, together with a $100 million endowment based on a 50 percent cut of any future surplus. That’s on top of the 20 percent of the surplus that would already go to the USOC under the host city contract. 

To see the outline of the "Los Angeles Fund for Team USA," click here and turn to page 46. To see the standard 20 percent share a national Olympic committee is due under the host city contract, click here and turn to page 40 of 69.

Apply the USOC’s now-plus-later demands, take out the standard shares for the IOC and USOC and the projected surplus shrinks from $161 million to $6.11 million.

Here is the math that explains that calculation:

A starting net surplus of $161.1 million, less $100 million elite athlete support now = $ 61.1 million. From $61.1 million, subtract 50 percent for USOC endowment = $30.55 million, 20 percent for USOC = $ 12.22 million, 20 percent for IOC = $12.22 million, for a total of $54.99 million. That would leave $6.11 million for LA.

That’s not fair to Angelenos.

And it absolutely would raise more than a few eyebrows among those in Olympic circles around the world who continue to believe the USOC’s natural instinct is to gouge everybody else.

The LA 84 deal was no extra money for the USOC during Games prep and 40 percent of the surplus after. Total. It was fair then. It is fair now. And a fair deal is needed to help LA play catch-up.

Let’s be clear, again. Had it been picked eight months ago, LA would have started the race as favorite. The delay and uncertainty since means that’s just not the case, even if not being a favorite can also be a good thing.

Paris, making the early running, has used the same eight months to line up $37 million in government funding for its bid. They have a head start on lobbying, too. Bid leaders and French sports ministers have been pressing all the flesh they can find this week, here at the track championships in Beijing. 

That all these details — about the LA bid and the USOC — have come to light is a good thing. The transparency lacking in Boston is now where it should have been all along. As Sir Martin Sorrell, the British executive, told the IOC members a month ago at the general assembly in Kuala Lumpur, sunshine is a good thing.

Transparency and oversight have big upsides too. The LA city council’s decision to maintain an active role will ensure serious measures of certainty and clarity accompany LA 2024’s bid.

One certainty is that the success of LA 84 has provided the IOC with a commercial model for supporting the Olympics that shows exactly how much money can be brought to the table.

Here, then, is where the numbers show so clearly what a crazy good deal LA 24 would be — for LA 24, of course, but also for the USOC, the IOC and, most important, for taxpayers.

It works both ways. There is absolutely no doubt -- not an over-reach -- LA would generate substantially more than any other city possibly could in revenue from sponsorships, ticket sales and more. At the same time, since the LA venues are already on the ground, the committee there can put on the Games for significantly less expense than anywhere else.

More detail:

Based on IOC guidance, LA has forecast $1.5 billion as the contribution it can expect to receive from the IOC.

That, though, is the number the IOC is giving organizers of the Rio 2016 Games.

It’s another open secret that by 2024 this will rise to as much as $2 billion, thanks to the success of IOC president Thomas Bach and his team in selling TV rights and top-tier sponsorships.

The London 2012 IOC contribution? $1.05 billion. This figure went to $1.5 billion for Rio and is going to keep going up, up, up -- thanks to the IOC's enhanced revenues.

The LA 24 estimate calls for $1.4 billion in domestic sponsorship. That is, in the parlance, conservative.

The Games have not been held in the United States since 2002, in Salt Lake City; the Summer Games since 1996, in Atlanta. That means there is 20-plus years of pent-up sponsor demand.

Tokyo 2020 blew threw its $1.2 billion target already: five years out from its Games.

Interestingly, the LA sponsorship projection of $1.437 is less – repeat, less! – than Boston had put forward, $1.52 billion. To compare, click here and turn to page 6 or, for that matter, page 47.

Come on.

Which is more appealing – a market of maybe 4.5 million people or the entirety of Southern California, at least four times as large?

What’s going on, here, obviously, is that the LA bid — and the USOC — are trying to make it clear that they are not the stereotypical Americans, interested in the Olympic sphere only in making money. Instead, they are being smart – doing the one thing that always plays well internationally for any U.S. effort, being humble.

Nonetheless, it’s super-obvious that more money from the IOC, and more sponsorship dollars, mean more revenue. Which means that the revenue projection of $4,827.3 billion is low. Which means there will be more than the currently forecast $400 million for contingencies until 2024 and that potential future surplus.

Way more. 

Like, way, way, way more.

The real projected surplus can't even start to be fixed until LA would win and then start selling. 

Again, what’s certain is that most of the venues LA will need are already in place. Which means a clear focus on what’s missing: an athletes’ village.

The city council already has its eye on this and that’s a good thing. The reassurance the council will need over the village is exactly what the IOC will need, also.

In an evaluation of Chicago 2016’s bid that explained the USA was a risk simply not worth taking, the IOC had unkind thoughts about financing for the village. LA 2024 cannot afford to take a similarly half-baked scheme to the final vote. The council’s aversion to taxpayer risk means LA 2024 won’t.

Frankly, though, it’s really not a worry. Anyone can worry about anything, and of course a project that’s budgeted at $1 billion is the kind of thing likely to make reasonable people, ask, OK, explain.

So, here:

The organizing committee would contribute $75 million. A developer will pick up the rest, $925 million.

Who is going to be that developer? Unidentified.

Is that a worry? No.


Are you kidding?

Los Angeles, like any city, has problems. But, with the support of the mayor, finding a developer who wants to invest in housing on a site near downtown – the new hipster capital of the United States – in a market that’s housing-scarce, is a no-brainer. And it’s not as if Los Angeles is lacking for real-estate developers.

With certainty on the venues and the village, there can – finally – be clarity on what will make this a winning bid: everything else LA has to offer in service to the Olympic movement.

The movement needs, more than anything, to stay relevant. To do that, it needs to attract young people.

And what’s this in the LA 24 bid book?

Skateboarding, on Santa Monica Beach. Click here for the bid book; skate is mentioned any number of times; to see the schematic that would put it literally on the beach, scroll to page 86.

Santa Monica: home not only of the sport but also to Activision, the company that made the Tony Hawk games.

Like no place else, LA gets the convergence of sports, entertainment and electronic gaming. And how to put on a sensible, financially responsible Olympic Games.

81 percent yes, or how to jump back into the game


What’s nine times nine, everyone? When you get poll numbers that scream 81 percent in favor of the Olympic Games coming to your town, the result of an early August poll in Los Angeles conducted for the U.S. Olympic Committee, that’s when you know, with certainty, that an LA 2024 bid would be good for Southern California, the USOC, the International Olympic Committee and, indeed, the broader Olympic movement.

81 percent!

The LA Memorial Coliseum's famed peristyle end // Getty Images

That is crazy high in a democracy. You can’t even get that number of people who want Donald Trump to zip it.

As USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun said Wednesday in a telephone call with reporters, referring to that 81 percent, “That’s remarkable and very encouraging.”

Here is the other side:

Only 11 percent — 11 percent! — said, no thanks, not really feeling an LA 2024 Games.

That is crazy low.

There is sound basis for both these numbers, and it underpins the fundamental reason LA 2024 offers so much potential for all involved in and around the Olympic movement.

Paris, Budapest, Rome and Hamburg, Germany, are due to be in the 2024 race. Maybe Toronto.

That said, the IOC wants to have a reason to come back to the United States. That’s apparent after talking with members at the recent session in Kuala Lumpur, where the IOC voted to send the 2022 Winter Games to Beijing.

If that’s what the IOC wants, it needs — maybe even desperately needs — a marquee city in a functioning western democracy to take on the Games for 2024.

The IOC president, Thomas Bach, referring recently to his would-be reform plan, dubbed Agenda 2020, declared that it’s not enough to talk the talk — the IOC, he said, must walk the walk.

Right now, however, Agenda 2020 is at considerable risk.


Where human rights protests are going to be in the news for the next seven years?

Where the 2008 Summer Games cost at least $40 billion and the 2022 Games will go down with virtually no natural snow?

Where a new high-speed train is being built up to those snowless mountains that are now two or three hours from Beijing — but the billions of dollars in construction costs for that train are not being included in 2022 accounting, a move that makes a mockery of Agenda 2020’s call for enhanced Olympic transparency?

The IOC knows — it absolutely knows — it needs for 2024 a soulful bid that makes sense.

Enter LA.

The LA 2024 plan is for a Games with an all-in budget of $4.1 billion, $4.5 including a $400 million contingency fee.

No project is without risk.

But a Los Angeles Games is almost assured of making an operating-side surplus — that’s the preferred word in Olympic speak, not “profit” — and so the risk factor is as benign as possible.

Why so benign?

Because, just to be super-obvious, most of the venues are already built, including of course the LA Memorial Coliseum.

The prospect of an NFL team, or two, in the coming seasons means more stadium stuff on the ground — again, without taxpayer dollars.

Have cost overruns dogged any number of recent Olympics? Absolutely. Why? Because of infrastructure projects built as part of a far-reaching urban development plan linked to a Games.

In LA, that’s not the plan. No massive urban development.

It’s as much — or more — what LA can do for the Olympics as the Olympics can do for LA.

The LA City Council, the county Board of Supervisors, the governor, the Southern California congressional delegation — all unanimously in favor of LA for 2024.

Again, why?

Because in Los Angeles the Games are part of the fabric of city life.

This is a huge piece of why eight of 10 of their constituents want an Olympics, too.

“The LA Olympics would inspire the world and are right for our city,” LA Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement issued Wednesday.

The Games were in LA in 1932 and 1984; the mayor keeps a 1984 Olympic torch in his office. Tenth Street has long been Olympic Boulevard, after the 1932 Games, the X Olympiad. Hundreds of Olympians — and would-be Olympians — call SoCal home.

More, the 1984 Games ushered in a golden period in LA — seven really great years, in which it seemed everything in and around Southern California was awesome. The golden glow lasted until the Los Angeles police department had its altercation with Rodney King — after which followed riots, wildfires, mudslides, the 1994 Northridge earthquake, the Menendez brothers and then, of course, OJ.

People want those golden years back. And they understand that LA and the Olympics are made for each other — LA is, truly, America’s Olympic city.

In 1932, LA gave the movement the Olympic village.

The 1984 Games all but saved the movement, ushering in a period of finance and prosperity that continues now.

A 2024 LA Games would also offer the movement precisely what it needs at the exact moment it needs it — an Olympics of sustainability and real legacy in a western democracy where the Games are not just welcomed but, genuinely, celebrated.

“On the Summer side,” Blackmun said, “there’s a whole generation of Americans who haven’t seen the Games on American soil,” since Atlanta in 1996. “We want to address that, and make sure the Games come to the U.S. on a regular basis.”

If it’s a little late for the USOC to have come to its senses — better late than never.

A few more details, and this ought to be a done deal, wrapped up in time for the Sept. 15 deadline to formally submit a bid to the IOC. What details? No one Wednesday was saying but it’s only logical to surmise that giving LA an option for 2028 might be up for discussion with the USOC after the debacle that was Boston, and the perception that LA 2024 and the USOC might well have to make up of starting at a distance.

Consider: when the USOC last conducted a poll in LA, the favorability ratings were in the high 70s. That was eight months ago.

Now, 81 percent, and even after the Boston horror show.

That’s how you jump forcefully back into the game.

Blackmun said the USOC and LA are “very, very optimistic we’re going to be able to get to a place that’s good for both of us.”

USOC board chair Larry Probst: “The USOC and the city of Los Angeles believe this is potentially our time and we can work within a strong partnership to make it happen.”

He also said, “We continue to believe a U.S. bid for the 2024 Games can be successful.”