2024 Bid Cities

What we've got here, IOC: godawful failure to communicate

What we've got here, IOC: godawful failure to communicate

A beautiful scene unfolded Thursday inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum amid the International Olympic Committee’s evaluation commission tour of the would-be 2024 Games venues.

It was everything that is great about the Olympics, past and present, inspiration then and now.

But because the IOC’s communications strategy is so godawful the IOC didn’t tell you about it.

This, in a nutshell, is why the IOC is facing a grave credibility crisis around the world. This, too, is why the IOC must come back to Los Angeles instead of opting for the only other choice in the 2024 race, Paris.

Real people: why LA wants 2024

Real people: why LA wants 2024

It’s a no-brainer that Los Angeles can put on the Olympics. Everyone knows that. Twice before already, and to great success, in 1932 and 1984, so 2024 — like, LA could, if pushed, be ready by Christmas. That is the obvious starting point for an International Olympic Committee “evaluation commission” team, which on Wednesday kicked off three days of putting-on-a-show inspection.

The commission will see the Coliseum, Staples Center and more, all of which exist now, meaning no permanent-venue costs. All good. But what the members won’t see is what sets Los Angeles apart from every other place in the world. They won’t see it because it’s not a see-able thing. It’s a feeling. It’s the feeling the people of Southern California have for the Olympics because the Games are deeply woven into the fabric of life in SoCal.

Who should light an LA 2024 cauldron? Serena? Venus? Both?


There can be little doubt that Serena Williams is the best women’s tennis player of this and maybe any era.  

There could be no finer choice than Serena Williams to light the cauldron at the opening ceremony if Los Angeles wins the 2024 Summer Games. Now the dilemma. By herself? Because maybe there could be an even better choice: with sister Venus, too?

Both are Olympic champions. More, both have shown not just great but unwavering commitment to the Olympic movement and, indeed, the Olympic spirit. Most important: the Williams sisters are proof positive that you can dream and big dreams can take you anywhere and everywhere. Isn't that what the Olympics are about?

Serena Williams confirmed Wednesday she is 20 weeks pregnant. That means she was already close to two months pregnant when she won her 23rd Grand Slam singles title, the Australian Open on January 28.

Understandably, the cauldron suggestion is maybe getting just a little ahead of things, because the International Olympic Committee won’t select the site of the 2024 Summer Games until September 13, Los Angeles and Paris the two contestants, and it’s hardly an overhead slam that LA will prevail.

But if LA wins:

The opening ceremony would be July 19, 2024. That's a Friday if you're, you know, a planner.

It would begin with a torch relay down the row of columns of the LA Memorial Coliseum, which played host to the 1932 and 1984 Games. About 70,000 people would likely be in the Coliseum for a Hollywood-style spectacle and virtual reality experience of what’s to come next.

Which is:

The relay would pass landmarks on the streets of LA until it reaches the new NFL stadium, which would hold 100,000 people.

Who, at the end, would light the cauldron?

Surely there are many — for emphasis, many — luminaries deserving of consideration.

Just for starters: Magic Johnson. Allyson Felix. Kerri Walsh. Michael Phelps. Ashton Eaton. Katie Ledecky. Mia Hamm. Abby Wambach. Apolo Ohno.

Serena and Venus Williams grew up Compton, California. The LA84 Foundation — the legacy initiative from the 1984 Games, which funds youth sports in Southern California — has underwritten the exact kinds of programs that helped give the Williams sisters their start.

Playing doubles together, Venus and Serena Williams won gold at the 2000, 2008 and 2012 Games.

Anyone who saw Serena Williams power to gold in the Olympic women’s singles tournament at Wimbledon in 2012 will tell you: it was a virtuoso performance.

In the final, Serena Williams thrashed — just crushed — Maria Sharapova, 6-0, 6-1.

The London 2012 victory made Serena Williams only the second woman to achieve a Golden Slam. Steffi Graf won at the Olympics in 1988 after sweeping all four major titles.

Remember the dance Serena Williams danced at that medal ceremony after she put on her Team USA jacket?

"I don't think I've ever danced like that," she said then. "I don't even know where the dance came from."

Remember last year in Rio? When a number of the world’s top golfers were, like, nah, don’t want to go? Serena Williams battled injuries throughout 2016. Where were the Williams sisters during the Rio Games? In red, white and blue, in Brazil, representing the United States. Where, it should be noted, Venus Williams won a silver in mixed doubles with Rajeev Ram, her fifth Olympic medal. Venus Williams is the Sydney 2000 women’s Olympic singles winner.

Serena alone at the cauldron? Serena and Venus together?

Both are great, and deserving, champions.

Both have answered the call for their country.

If this moment goes from possibility to reality, and again the disclaimer, it's right now just an if -- it would be a great call for their country, in service to the Olympic dreams of little girls and boys everywhere, to do the right thing on that Friday night seven years from now in July.

Enough already with the many bid hypocrisies


Let’s have fun with French. You don’t even need to speak French — much — to play along.

I will play the part of a voyeur, someone who has spent nearly 20 years reporting, writing and observing about the Olympic movement, in particular the bid process for the Games. You can be the public. In French, that translates into the word “audience.” Even when it seems all by itself like an English word.

Those wacky French — they have a different word for everything.

Well, kinda. In that spirit:

In English, we say hypocrisy.

In French, hypocrisie.

In the Olympic world, there are many varieties of hypocrisie worth examination.

Here, as in the brilliant John Oliver takedown of the forthcoming French presidential elections, let us light a Gauloise (hey, no smoking in California!), pour a lovely red and consider:

Is the International Olympic Committee spitballing — or more — a double-double that would send the 2024 Games to Paris and 2028 to Los Angeles?

Is that already a fait accompli? Is that (oops, a little Latin here but credit, please, for sticking with the European thing) IOC president Thomas Bach’s modus operandi?

If it’s a done deal, why go through with the charade (oh, hey, same word!) of a bid race?  If it’s signed, sealed and delivered and it's only April, what precisely would be an LA24 raison d’etre?

Why go through an expensive campaign just to get to September and have the IOC announce, oh, toutes nos félicitations — or, you know, congrats, we’ve got this covered!

Maybe nothing is really done until the IOC, like everyone, sees in May the results of the French presidential race, in particular whether Marine le Pen prevails.

For 2024, this space has made the point repeatedly that the IOC cannot afford — literally, figuratively, PR-wise and social media-wise — to rely on yet another government-backed bid that brings the unwarranted risk of huge infrastructure projects. Particularly in Europe. European taxpayers have made plain they don't want that right now. Besides, the future of the European Union is perhaps, to be gentle, wobbly. Why place a multibillion-dollar bet in 2017 on the stability -- financial, political, security-wise -- of France in 2024?

If there is to be a two-fer: LA for 24, then if Paris wants it for 28, sure, that's a discussion for another day.

Since the essence of any Olympic competition is supposed to be fair play:

The U.S. Olympic Committee has gotten itself bashed, justifiably and relentlessly, both by the press and, more importantly, inside the Olympic movement, and at the highest levels, for the role it played — a poor partner, it was said, not nearly as supportive as it could be, it was alleged — in the New York 2005 for 2012 and Chicago 2009 for 2016 campaigns.

Since the Chicago debacle in Copenhagen in October 2009, USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun and chairman Larry Probst have re-dedicated themselves to the cause. They have traveled the world in humble and gracious support of and service to the movement. Four years ago, the USOC did not even put up a candidate for 2020, on the grounds that fence-mending and relationship-building was more of a priority.


Because, one, it was the right thing to do and, two, it was what the right people in the right places at IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, were telling Blackmun and Probst was the right thing to do.

Maintenant, let’s have a look at the situation in France.

In particular, let's compare the USOC with the French national Olympic committee, which goes by the acronym CNOSF, and especially the way the two committees have responded since both came up short in 2005, the USOC with New York, CNOSF with Paris, for the Summer Games in 2012.

A newsletter published in Germany, called Sport Intern, remains mandatory reading within the Olympic scene. Wednesday’s editions contains a column written by a veteran French writer, Yannick Cochennec.

That piece, for those not up to speed on the potential impact of the French presidential elections on a Paris bid, asks this question: will a sports ministry at full capacity survive?

Understand that in France the state is part of sport in a way that Americans would find almost incomprehensible. It's not just a Games that would be a state project. The national federations are, for the most part, a state project as well.

As Cochennec notes, both of le Pen’s presumed major rivals, Emmanuel Macron and François Fillon, keep saying that if they win on May 7, they will form a smaller government. When you have security to enforce and trains to run, where is money for sport?

The current CNOSF president, Denis Masseglia, says not to worry, telling the daily Le Parisien two weeks ago, “If we get the Games, it will be easier to sell, to the political class, the idea that sport needs to be a social issue.”

Masseglia is one of three candidates in a contentious CNOSF presidential derby. That contest is to be decided four days after the French presidential elections, three days before the IOC “evaluation” visit to Paris.

The others: Isabelle Lamour, from the French fencing federation, and two-time Olympic judo champion and former French sports minister David Douillet.

Last week brought this tweet featuring Paris bid leader Tony Estanguet:


Back to 2005, and that Paris bid for 2012. Also in the race: New York, Madrid and Moscow. In the final round, Paris lost by just four votes to London.

Per Cochennec, referring to CNOSF:

"Its lack of independence from the French political power -- whatever the color of the government --  is still problematic in the homeland of [modern Olympics founder] Pierre de Coubertin and the institution has not evolved significantly since 2005 and the failure of the 2012 Paris bid in Singapore. For example, almost no diversity at the top of the 36 [French] Olympic federations: only one woman — Isabelle Lamour — as president in the company of 35 men.” Lamour is not the only female president but, as well, the only female candidate from among all 36 federations in their 2016-17 elections, Cochennec notes.

France stands for égalité, or equality. Purportedly. So does the IOC. Twelve is a lot of years to make substantial progress in leadership positions. The United States is admittedly far from perfect. At the same time, two American women, Anita DeFrantz and Angela Ruggiero, sit on the IOC’s 15-member policy-making executive board.

Yet — Paris for 2024?

Cochennec notes France has had no one — not one member — on the EB since Jean de Beaumont in 1980. That’s 37 years. If that was the case for the United States, the protests would be incroyable -- imagine how everyone would be screaming that the Americans, across the two big oceans, were insular and uncaring.

Yet — Paris for 2024?

Further, this:

Imagine, just imagine, if the USOC were the invisible presence in the 2024 bid race that CNOSF has proven to date as a “partner” with Paris. Again, per Cochennec, quoting from the insightful French analyst Armand de Rendinger ’s 2014 book, “La tentation olympic française” (“The French Olympic temptation”):

“Without a powerful CNOSF, embodied by a president valued by his peers and the French community, it is hard to succeed in the competition played by different countries to get the Games.”

None of those conditions are evident.

Even so: a distant national Olympic committee, not close to the bid, is a decided negative for Chicago but not for Paris?

Yet, somehow, still, Paris for 2024?


In English, we have a saying: what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

In French: ce qui est bon pour l’un est bon pour l’autre.

Let’s play fair, IOC. What’s right is right. This sort of thing went on during the New York bid years. It went on during Chicago’s time, too.


If you want to bang on the Americans, that’s cool. Just — let’s hold everyone to the same standards.

Because otherwise what we have here is a word that everyone understands. It’s called a façade.

Voilà, dudes.

Tear it up, throw it away, start all over again


Jacques Rogge served as president of the International Olympic Committee for 12 years, from 2001 until 2013. A key insider during the Rogge years — if not the supremely key insider — was the then-cycling federation president, Hein Verbruggen of Holland.

Verbruggen himself became an IOC member in 1996. In 2001, he led the IOC “evaluation” team for the 2008 Games; the members would select Beijing. Thereafter, Rogge appointed Verbruggen to head what the IOC calls its “coordination” commission — the link between local organizers and the IOC.

All this is to say that Verbruggen was, and is, an expert in the IOC, its culture, its ways and, in particular, Olympic bidding and organizing. He resigned his IOC membership at the end of the Beijing Games but remains an honorary member and a keenly influential voice in the movement. Now, in a new post to his blog, Verbruggen has given voice to the position increasingly resonating within even the most important Olympic circles:

The Olympic bid process is in crisis. That process is fundamentally, thoroughly broken. The IOC must start anew.

In his words: “… The current bidding system for cities vying to host the Olympic Games is totally outdated and must simply be torn up and discarded.”

In a telephone interview Tuesday, he said, referring to the current bid system, “That is 20, 30 years ago. That is over.” Referring to the current voting IOC members, he said, “If they don’t understand that, they have a problem.” He paused, then added, “They do have a problem.”

Though Verbruggen’s emphasis in the blog is on the future, and in particular the process yet to come for the 2026 Winter Games, he also makes in his column this central point, which is relevant to the ongoing process for the 2024 race, featuring Los Angeles and Paris. In the blog itself, these next sentences are all one paragraph. They are broken up here for ease of reading and emphasis:

“A fundamental condition of hosting,” he writes, “must be that a country can organize the Games without making taxpayers fund the investment for additional infrastructure.

“The only infrastructure investments that would be allowed would be those which would be made anyway, irrespective of hosting the Olympics.

“The only costs taken on by a host country’s government, therefore, would be those relating to security (which could be kept to a minimum by using the army, as happened at London 2012).”

Of the two 2024 bids, these words apply directly and forcefully to the privately funded Los Angeles candidacy. The LA bid calls for the construction of no new permanent venues.

The government-underwritten (that is, taxpayer-paid) Paris bid, by contrast, calls for Games-related construction of a new athletes’ village, aquatics complex and media housing, which are projected to cost at least $2 billion. History all but guarantees that would be low.

Government-funded (that is, taxpayer-paid) Games in recent years produced these sorts of outlandish figures: Sochi 2014, a reported $51 billion bill; Beijing 2008, $40 billion; Rio 2016, $20 billion (still awaiting final figures); London 2012 ($15 billion); and more.

Verbruggen is not — this must be acknowledged — a man who shies from battles. His tenure at UCI, the cycling federation, was marked by controversies over, among matters, Lance Armstrong. He and the longtime IOC member Dick Pound, who was also the first president of the World Anti-Doping Agency, have clashed, and repeatedly, over the years.

Thus the obvious question, and answer:

Will everyone agree with Verbruggen’s position about Olympic bidding? Hardly.


Verbruggen’s position matters, and considerably, not just because he is willing to speak out — but because he understands what it means, as an influential and senior European voice in the movement, to post such comments.

Some if not most of the points that Verbruggen makes, it might be noted, echo observations advanced in this very space over the past few months if not years.

Of course they will be read and understood differently in many Olympic precincts because it is Verbruggen — different, of course, if one might be inclined to dismiss the work of a journalist on principle, and particularly an American, and all the more so one based in California. All good.

Here is the thing: Verbruggen is, as ever, willing to say the things that almost no one else on the inside is willing to say. And for publication.

The blog is actually the second of a two-part series. The first asserts, bluntly and accurately: “the IOC does not have a marketing strategy for its unique product, the Olympics.”

In that first column, Verbruggen also writes, among several memorable passages:

"IOC President Thomas Bach now says we need to change the bidding system because the current system has 'too many losers' (a sentiment that could equally be applied to all gold medalists at the Games). His remark is a bit of an oxymoron given that there are now only two candidate cities. It would be understandable (if the media speculation is correct) if the IOC allocated the 2024 and 2028 Games respectively to Paris and LA. But that would just be an ad hoc solution, born of necessity, and would offer no sustainable way out of the current crisis."

In that Tuesday phone interview, Verbruggen said, “I know very well how many times I told my [IOC] colleagues and also Jacques Rogge — the way that we force countries to organize the Olympic Games, with all the demands that we have, and the host-city contract with all the constraints! There are not more than 15 or 20 countries [in the world] that can do it. They didn’t want to believe me. They said, ‘Oh, we will always have countries.’ But now — the countries we want?”

A moment later, he said, “If you do not see these things happening, if you are not seeing a clear vision and you do not have a long-term strategy — now we are paying the price.”

In the mid-1990s, Verbruggen writes in the first of the two pieces, he served on the “evaluation” commission for the 2004 Games, ultimately won by Athens. In all, that panel visited 11 cities. After that, he chaired the 2008 commission.

“If the IOC had had even a basic long-term marketing plan,” he writes, “we would have realized 10-15 year ago how precarious the situation was becoming and we could have prepared against this eventuality. But, as I said, the IOC has a monopoly and is under no pressure to take these sorts of precautions. Having just signed a nice fat TV contract with NBC,” the most recent extending the network's rights from 2021 through 2032 for $7.65 billion, "it was too tempting for the IOC to just sit back and rest on its laurels. ‘What crisis?’ we would say, not realizing that, while we did indeed have a lucrative TV contract, we also had … no bidding cities.”

Five western European cities dropped out for 2022, leaving only Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan, Beijing winning. Five cities started for 2024; Hamburg, Rome and Budapest have dropped out, leaving only two, LA and Paris.

“Another factor in this crisis,” he says in the first blog, is the “extremely negative ‘reputation’ of the Olympic Games themselves, especially around its astronomic costs and poor legacy. Proactive PR is an essential part of any marketing strategy. For decades now, the Olympic Games have been tainted by extremely negative media reports about the massive investments required to host the event, all paid for with taxpayers’ dollars, not to mention reports of huge losses resulting from hosting the Olympics. (The latter are usually not true but are written to get attention.)”

An interjection: a Games operating budget typically is at or near black. But as Verbruggen points out, it’s the taxpayer-funded infrastructure investment associated with a Games that is the PR killer.

To resume where he left off:

“The IOC has stumbled from denial to denial — in other words, it has been reactive, not proactive — and now the damage is done. If we had had a proper long-term plan, we would also have had a strategy to combat this negative phenomenon. And if we had had a long-term plan, would we have voted so cheerfully to host the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, where almost everything had to be built from scratch? Or would we instead have told the Russians: ‘Start building and we’ll come back in four years’ time and see how you are getting on?’ “

Verbruggen's proposal going forward:

Start with the basics. No more open bid system, in which any country that wants to can launch an Olympic bid. Instead, he writes, “the IOC should take the initiative itself” and reach out to “suitable” host cities or countries. That outreach would produce a shortlist.

Then the final selection should be made rationally, instead of — and this would a radical but welcome change — “the existing voting system by the 115 [IOC] members whose choices are often ‘colored’ by other (often political) motives.”

The system as it is now involves a secret ballot vote. It is well-known in IOC circles that, come voting time, promises are worthless and lies-to-your-face common because — with a secret ballot — accountability is zero.

To draw up that shortlist, Verbruggen writes, the IOC should approach two or three countries. Logically, it should go to preferred Country No. 1 and undertake negotiations. If no agreement, on to No. 2.

“To ensure success,” he says, “the IOC must also be prepared to make the host city contract much, much less onerous. I must say that I have never seen any other contract that is so skewed toward one party (the IOC), something that also makes it a product of a bygone age.”

He also says the new system “must allow scope” for a nation’s corporate entities to be “far more involved” in the delivery of a Games, “both commercially as well in the organization” of an Olympics.

The IOC, he writes, must “also assume greater responsibility for the organization of the Games,” adding, “Some tasks that are today blithely passed over to [local organizers] would be better organized by the IOC itself. That is logical: the IOC is deeply involved in every Games and so can make the best use of its accumulated know-how.”

As an example, he turns to 2026 and Switzerland, asking this reasonable question: how has it not played host to the Winter Games since 1948?

St. Moritz staged the Winter Games in 1928 and 1948. Twice in the past four years, voters in the canton that represents Davos/St. Moritz have voted no when asked if they wanted the Games, for 2022 and 2026.

Or, as Verbruggen notes obliquely, “Proposals for a Swiss Winter Games have been made time and again, but most of the time they have prompted a negative reaction from the Swiss population, mainly because of the perceived high costs.”

The Swiss town of Sion bid for the 2006 Winter Games, losing to Torino, Italy. Now it wants to bid for 2026.

“I would encourage the IOC to seize the initiative,” Verbruggen writes, to negotiate directly with Swiss officials, because a “spectacular and successful Winter Games in Switzerland in 2026 would be both a huge boost for winter sports as well as for the IOC.”

Hard to argue with that.

“Lastly,” Verbruggen writes, “I understand that my proposed new system would mean taking away from IOC members the privilege of choosing where to host the Games. But they surely understand that if nothing is done to resolve the current crisis then a time will soon come when they simply do not have any bids to choose from.”

Note the wording: “current crisis.”

No argument there, either.

Why do the Olympics generate such bad press?


The Olympics can and should be a wonderful thing. Further, the International Olympic Committee naturally wants to be viewed in a positive light for the Games and for the many good things it does each and every day around our world. But increasingly the Olympic movement generates — day after day, week after week, year after year — negative headlines. Why?

Corruption allegations tied to recent editions of the Games (Rio, Sochi). Government-underwritten cost overruns tied to recent editions of the Games (Rio, Sochi, London, Beijing, Athens). Stadiums and sports venues abandoned to rot in the sun (Rio, Athens). And more, way more. What kind of business model is that?

“Celebrate Olympic Games,” the IOC says. Right now, taxpayers — and particularly in western Europe, the Olympic movement’s longtime base — seem more apt than not to say, are you kidding?

This is of the IOC's doing.

The time has come to break this cycle. Like, now.

Any individual or entity in the public space can expect some measure of negative press. But the drumbeat now is relentlessly, almost uniformly, negative; social media amplifies the negativity; the negativity brings with it an associated risk; that risk cuts to the core, indeed the soul, of the Olympic enterprise.

The movement has arrived at one of those moments where it must confront reality. Wishes and sentiment can be lovely. But not now. It's reality time.

IOC leadership and the members, both, must recognize and acknowledge, both, that they have to wean themselves off government money.

At least for this current bidding cycle, meaning for the 2024 Games.

Because it’s government money that has them in this predicament.

Going to Los Angeles for 2024, a privately funded bid and (if it wins) organizing committee, will buy the IOC needed time and stability. The other 2024 option is Paris, a continuation of the very thing that has gotten the IOC in this jam, a government-underwritten bid and (if it wins) organizing committee.

Stability will buy time. With that, the IOC can (and should) engage some of the world's most creative minds to apply needed innovation to the next Winter and Summer Games bid rounds.

Stability in particular means the construction of no permanent venues. It means a focus on what the Olympics should be about -- sports, not soil remediation or sewer pipes or light-rail lines.

Stability will also, and this is just common sense, ease one twist on the bad press: seven years of pre-Games sky-is-falling headlines.

Consider what's happening in Japan with Tokyo 2020: a steady spotlight on finances, construction and bricks-and-mortar legacy issues. Back to the run-up before Rio: recall Zika, pollution, security, construction and more.

None of that is remotely "celebration."

Here’s a really easy segue:

The central concept animating far too much of the process now is trusting politicians. That's funny. Because who trusts politicians? The IOC, apparently. Anyone else?!

A short recap (could be a lot, long longer) about trusting politicians with a short (also could be a lot longer) note about what the next few weeks might have in store:

— Days after the Rio Games ended, Rio Mayor Eduaro Paes was awarded the IOC’s highest honor, the “Olympic Order.” Now he is being investigated for allegedly accepting $5 million in bribes tied to Games-related construction projects. His spokeswoman called the accusations “absurd and untruthful.”

— The former governor of the state of Rio, Sergio Cabral, who helped win the Games in 2009, was arrested last November with authorities saying he led an organized crime ring that diverted roughly $64 million in bribes for the renovation of Maracanā Stadium and two other projects.

The stadium staged the 2014 soccer World Cup final as well as the 2016 Olympic opening and closing ceremony. Photos of its decay post-closing ceremony have flashed around the world.

— Federal prosecutors filed corruption charges last September and again in December against Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the former Brazilian president who played a key role in Rio’s winning 2009 bid. The charges were not Olympic related. Authorities allege that Mr. da Silva oversaw a far-reaching system of kickbacks and more.

— Mr. da Silva’s successor, Dilma Rousseff, was in limbo during the Games, her powers and duties suspended May 12 for six months. On August 31, 10 days after that closing ceremony, she was removed from office.

- Reports last week tied Ms. Rousseff’s successor, the current Brazilian president, Michael Temer, to a deal involving a $40 million bribe. Mr. Temer, in an emailed statement to the Wall Street Journal, called the allegation an “absolute lie.”

— Switching to South Korea, site of the next Games, the Winter Olympics next February:

The National Assembly voted in December to impeach the president, Park Geun Hye. Last month, a ruling by the country’s Constitutional Court formally ousted her, determining that she not only had conspired with a confidante to extort money but had tried to conceal her misconduct.

-- Switching to Japan:

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike's two immediate predecessors — Naoki Inose and Yoichi Masuzoe — resigned over funds-related scandals, both since Tokyo won in 2013. The Tokyo bid book said costs would, all-in, total $7.8 billion. Working figures now are in the $15 billion range -- this months after a government panel warned it could be $30 billion.

— Switching to France, with an eye toward the coming weeks:

The country’s two-stage presidential election is coming up. Most believe Marine le Pen will win the first round. After that, who knows?

Whether she prevails in Round Two or no, this thought:

Last month, Le Monde reported that a company with ties to the IOC member Frankie Fredericks of Namibia received a roughly $300,000 payment from a business owned by Papa Massata Diack, the former marketing director for the IAAF, track and field’s worldwide governing body, on the day the IOC selected Rio for 2016.

Fredericks had been chairing the IOC 2024 “evaluation commission.” He stepped down and has been replaced by Patrick Baumann of Switzerland. The commission is due to tour LA and Paris next month.

The former IAAF president Lamine Diack is currently under arrest in France as authorities investigate money laundering and bribery accusations tied to allegations he helped cover up positive Russian drug tests. Papa Massata Diack, his son, is wanted by Interpol on bribery and Interpol accusations.

It is believed the French authorities by now know more about considerably more IOC and IAAF members. Whether what they know becomes public — particularly after the rounds of the French elections — remains a matter of keen speculation. One school of thought: left-leaning French judges would have more reason to leak to Le Monde or elsewhere after the Socialists, if predicted, get humbled in the French presidential elections? Stay tuned.

Now, after that recap, to close the circle:

The Olympic world has, for years, tied itself to public-sector spending. In years past, there may have been a sound argument to be advanced for such spending. A project the size and scope of an Olympic Games is about mitigating risk, and having what amounts to an unlimited government bank account may seem like a sure way to mitigate risk.

The past few years have proven that's not true.

Public-sector spending is still incredibly risky.


Because you are completely dependent on politics.

That is, you are putting your faith in the political dynamic.

And that dynamic is shifting. Every which way. Any which way.

A project that might be important to one political party — say, an athletes’ village, which Paris has to build, at a cost already projected over $1 billion — might, or might not, be so important to the next. That is a considerable, and unforeseeable, risk.


In our social media age, perception is as important as reality. The IOC president, Thomas Bach, said exactly this, at the SportAccord conference two weeks ago in Denmark, in a different context, the anti-doping sphere. Even so, his words resonate:

"In a world where the integrity and credibility of sport is scrutinized by a skeptical public like never before, perception sometimes and even more often becomes reality."

When projects go sour, when you’re talking about corruption, money has to come from somewhere. In a developing country such as Brazil, the optics are made all the worse. If the argument is, OK, but Japan is not a developing nation (neither is France), so why use Brazil? Answer: because the images from Brazil are the ones freshest in the public mind, and when the members vote for 2024 at the IOC assembly on September 13 (assuming there is a vote -- that is, no 2024/2028 deal), it will be those Rio images that will be the easiest, most convenient and, let's be honest, most provocative from which to draw.

Remember this airport banner last year in Rio?

Again, public money has to come from somewhere. Is it coming from the police, the firefighters, the schools, hospitals or some other institution that provides for the public welfare?

This, in a nutshell, is why the Olympic movement is so uniquely vulnerable — to proof or even allegation of public corruption.

Social media -- which zaps images, memes and provocations across the world in an instant -- ramps up the intensity attached to that vulnerability. The IOC is as establishment as it gets. It tends to be traditional, conservative and cautious. It apparently has developed no articulated strategies -- none -- to deal with the fast pace of aggressive, unapologetic social media and to confront this vulnerability. As a sign of how like a battleship (takes a long time to turn) the IOC moves: it took two years to hire a new director of strategic communications, a move announced within the past few days.

The IOC needs stability. It needs time.

Even 10 years ago, this vulnerability and these sorts of risks confronting the IOC weren't anywhere near the same.

That summer, 2007, the members elected Sochi for 2014.

Sochi led to a reported $51 billion bill.

That $51 billion bill got the IOC where it is now -- along with $40 billion for Beijing, $20 billion (who knows, really) for Rio, $15 billion for London, $11 to 15 billion for Athens and on and on.

Of course it's not risky, financially, for the IOC to go to totalitarian/authoritarian countries. That’s the situation it confronted two years ago in the race for the 2022 Winter Games, when it could attract only China and Kazakhstan, Beijing (no snow in the mountains) winning, 44-40.

Going to totalitarian/authoritarian countries entails an entirely different category of risk.

One is manifestly plain: the IOC can’t go, one Games after another, to totalitarian/authoritarian countries.

And taxpayers in western democracies have had enough of corruption and cost overruns.

The solution is obvious.

More of the same (Paris), or something new (LA)


The choice the International Olympic Committee is facing for the 2024 Summer Games, even as it considers a 2024/2028 deal between Los Angeles and Paris, could not be more clear.

More of the same. Or something new.

Or framing it another way: Paris is after a Games. Los Angeles is offering itself in service to the Olympic movement.

Both cities made 10-minute presentations Tuesday to a convention of international sports federation officials in Denmark.

In the LA spot, mayor Eric Garcetti said, “Many believe that the bids ... are quite similar when in fact the two bids that we have presented before us are quite different,” a distinction that even in 10 short minutes times two became crystal clear.

Paris bid co-chair Tony Estanguet, to the audience: “We are promising a Games of real passion and purpose …” Anne Hidalgo, the mayor: “So why Paris now?”  She answered a moment later: “We believe we have the right city with the right vision at exactly the right moment for sport.” Paris bid chief executive Etienne Thobois: “We will deliver the best Games ever for the athletes based on three key pillars,” among them a “brand-new [athletes’] village.”

LA strategy director Angela Ruggiero, the IOC athletes’ commission chair: “Our commitment to you isn’t just for the 16 days of the Games in 2024. It is for the seven years leading up to them, and beyond.” LA bid leader Casey Wasserman: “I think we can all agree that 2024 must be a transformative Games for the movement. This means that the next seven years must inform the next 100 years.”

To springboard off the two radically different presentations Tuesday in Denmark:

At issue is way more than 2024 (or 2028). It is nothing less than the ongoing relevance and vitality of the entire Olympic movement.

This is not hyperbole. It is not drama. It is not Chicken Little sky-is-falling talk.

This is real, and the leadership of the IOC as well as most of the members, who in theory ought to be up to speed on the potentially existential crisis the movement is even now confronting but in some instances might well be a little slow on the uptake, had better sharpen their focus, and quickly.

It’s this elemental:

IOC leaders and members act as stewards of the brand and the movement. An Olympic Games is a multibillion-dollar enterprise. In the bid context, the role demands world-class risk assessment. The old days of cronyism and I’ll-scratch-your-back, you-scratch-mine — that, with the FBI as well as the French and Swiss authorities watching with interest, has to be yesteryear. In a related spirit, there can be no place for sweet but misguided sentimentality. To exercise anything but cold, hard judgment, particularly now, when the brand and movement are considerably imperiled, is to be irresponsible, almost to the extreme.

Imperiled? Unequivocally. Evidence, just the latest:

The Tuesday presentations from both LA and Paris followed Monday’s announcement from the National Hockey League that it was out of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Games.

Bottom line: the league is willing to forgo the best two-week commercial the sport of hockey could ask for, and this with Beijing 2022 and China and the possibility of a market of some 2 billion consumers just waiting to be mined four years down the line.

Irrefutable conclusion: the league doesn’t think the Olympics are worth it. In its considered judgment, after being part of the thing since 1998, the Olympics are no longer relevant, or at least relevant enough.

That is a brutal blow to the IOC. No way to sugarcoat it. It is, to use a phrase, a nightmare on ice.

A comparison:

Would Manchester United stop its season for the FIFA World Cup?

Yes, yes, FIFA is in business to make money, the IOC is theoretically in it to help spread the values of friendship, excellence and respect, among others. But still — Man U and the other English Premier League teams are going to make it work out to go to Qatar in 2022 but per the NHL the Columbus Blue Jackets can’t, or won’t, put things on hold to send some guys to PyeongChang in 2018?

Starting from that premise, that the Olympic enterprise is not relevant (enough) for the league that for a generation has supplied the guys in the most important team sport on the Winter Games program, the IOC finds itself looking at just two cities left in the race for 2024.

When three cities have already fallen away: Rome, Budapest and Hamburg.

When the 2022 Winter Games campaign saw just two left standing by the end — Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan — with five other western European cities pulling out along the way because taxpayers or officials would have nothing to do with it: Oslo, Munich, Stockholm, Davos/St. Moritz and Krakow.

This is the moment of clarity.

The old model, the more of the same, is the one in which bid committees don’t tell the truth about the costs of their government-funded Olympic bids.


Rio 2016, bid book $14.4 billion, reality check $20 billion or more. Tokyo 2020 bid book $7.8 billion, now estimated at maybe $15 billion, possibly $25-30 billion. Sochi 2014, bid book we won’t even go there, final tally a reported $51 billion.

Paris 2024 is more of this same.

The Paris people say they have 95 percent of their venues built. It’s the 5 percent that aren’t that mark the big-ticket items: that athletes’ village along with media housing and an aquatics complex. The Paris bid book costs those out at over $2 billion.

History says that $2-billion figure would be way low. It’s almost a guarantee, actually.

If there is one thing we have learned in this social media age, it is this:

Even those things that seem certain and stable can unravel, and quickly.

The almost-probable unraveling connected to that athletes’ village — wouldn’t it be fast and furious and the end game hugely uncertain? Consider how quickly the entire Budapest bid came crashing down — just weeks.

Wouldn’t a bet on Paris 2024 be the very same thing that has gotten the IOC into the deep credibility hole from which it is now looking up, seeking a way out?

When it should, by any reasonable measure of risk assessment, be seeking calm? Seeking stability?

As Garcetti also said Tuesday in the LA presentation:  “We believe LA2024 offers the Olympic movement something creative and new — not more of the same. This is an important time for our collective Olympic movement. A time that demands new thinking, new ideas and new solutions.”

The key difference: LA, just as it was in 1984, is privately financed. Surely with considered respect to the mayor, Wasserman said, “Free of government interference,” adding at another point, “The bottom line for everyone is that the bid we delivered to you in February of this year is the Games we will host in the summer of 2024. You can count on it.” Garcetti called it a “no risk, no surprises budget” because there will be no new permanent new venue to build. The all-in number: $5.3 billion, again, privately funded.

What does the reasonable person bargain for? Certainty.

Gene Sykes, the bid’s chief executive officer, noted that LA could have run the risk of building a new village — but opted not to, instead using the existing dorms at UCLA: “It takes a huge risk off the table.”

When risk is thus appropriately managed, then you can start laying out the “something creative and new.”

Wasserman, in Q&A, noting the advantage of not having to worry about construction: “We don’t have to build those facilities that normally take up the time, effort and resources of most bid and [organizing committees] … Our view is, because we will have two things that most [organizers] never have, time and money, to invest in growing those sports in the United States, to growing those sports in California and in Los Angeles … what a great place to start, when we have those seven years to really focus on engaging the youth, to develop sport in a way that, frankly, very few people have ever had the opportunity.”

The mayor, also in Q&A: “We see our legacy not just as a physical legacy. So often, the Olympics are about, what are you going to build? For mayors, it’s about — what part of town are you going to revitalize? Our experience from 1984 is what’s more important is the human legacy. It’s one of the reasons the profitability from the 1984 Olympics has spent $250 million on people and facilities and coaches. So, for instance, in a low-income area of Los Angeles called Compton, two African-American girls named Venus and Serena Williams were exposed to tennis as little girls. Today they’re two of the best tennis players in history. Our vision is to have a human legacy that sports is made free and universal for all youth in Los Angeles — forever."

Ruggiero, in the presentation itself: the chairman and chief executive of The Walt Disney Co., Bob Iger, would chair an innovation the bid is calling a “Sports Ambassador Program.”

It would, she told sports officials, “identify business leaders in California to work with you to maximize commercial opportunities in the United States.”

Let’s see — NBC is the IOC’s most important Olympic partner. Now welcome to the team Disney, which owns ESPN and ABC and (like NBCUniversal) runs a bunch of theme parks and operates signature movie studios.

Oh, and that George Lucas Star Wars museum is due to open literally next door to the LA Memorial Coliseum by 2020. Perhaps on May 4. Get the in-crowd joke: “May the Force be with you.”

If Iger and Disney now, this being April and Denmark, wouldn’t it stand to reason that by or at the next major milestone on this campaign, an all-members assembly at Olympic base camp in Lausanne, Switzerland in July, there would be news of yet more significant Los Angeles and California companies on board?

“Our bid isn’t about money, or ego, or boosting American pride or, frankly, even winning or losing,” Wasserman said during the presentation. “It’s about something much deeper.”

His next words brought forth the Olympic force, the reason all of this matters, or at least it's supposed to:

"It’s about ensuring that our — and your — Olympic dreams remain achievable, as far into the future as possible. To us,” he said, and it is exactly this kind of relevance, rooted in new ideas and creativity, that the Olympic movement needs, not to mention just a little bit of a wink and a nod, “that’s a dream worth sharing.”

Disclosure: If I have spoken to Bob Iger, it has only been in passing. His wife, Willow Bay, is the incoming dean of the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California; she is the current director of the journalism division. I have been on the Annenberg journalism faculty for the past six years.

Reform the IOC bid process -- this doesn't work


The campaign for the 2024 (and, maybe, 2028) Summer Olympic Games moves this coming week into its next phase. It’s a carefully structured, overly programmed, International Olympic Committee-directed 10-minute road show. That is, both Los Angeles and Paris officials get 10 minutes (apiece) to present to the 20 or so IOC members due to be in attendance at a sports convention on the eastern coast of Denmark’s Jutland peninsula.

That far to travel for that little time and, moreover, to an audience that isn’t even one-quarter of the voting IOC membership? That is not anywhere near, to use a favorite IOC phrase, best practice.

Indeed, the whole IOC bid and campaign machinery — theory, structure, implementation — needs a thorough re-do.

For years, the IOC has sought to use the “evaluation” process as a means to have cities sell the IOC on their (that is, the cities’) merits.

That process needs to be flipped.

The IOC ought — better yet, needs, and better still, needs right now — to be asking, what are our (that is, the IOC’s) needs and what city can best fulfill our (again, IOC) needs?

It is patently clear to a significant cohort of Olympic watchers -- and some insiders, too -- that the bid process is broken and thus the IOC has arrived at a junction that spells crisis. Change must be effected.

The $51 billion questions on the table are whether senior IOC leadership as well as the rank-and-file members a) recognize the gravity of the problem and b) will respond.

It is worth noting that it was in the bid context -- see Salt Lake City, late 1990s -- that the IOC suffered its most existential threat. Until, perhaps and again, now.

As a result of the Salt Lake scandal, the IOC enacted a 50-point reform program.

Fast forward to a conference a few days ago in London. There, the former IOC marketing director Michael Payne called the bid process — as it is now — “toxic.”

Here, in a nutshell, is why:

The Barcelona 1992 Summer Games made presidents, prime ministers, governors and mayors everywhere believe that the glow from an Olympics could similarly jump-start their own government-funded infrastructure projects.

The Games come with a fixed seven-year deadline. That means stuff has to get done — airports, metro, light rail and sewer lines and more.

That deadline, in practice, has also produced ridiculous cost overruns.

Sochi: that reported $51 billion. Beijing: $40 billion. Rio: probably $20 billion. London: $15 billion. Tokyo: bid projected at $7.8 billion, now maybe $15 billion, who knows. Athens: $11-15 billion.

Over the past two, maybe three, years, the spiral of media— and in particular social media— reports have come back to bite the IOC in the backside.

As this space pointed out in a March 3 column and as Payne noted in his speech last Wednesday, the ever-increasing import of social media means community activists can leverage virtually any local grievance and turn it into as, he said, a debate “about whether to stage an event” such as the Olympics.

That’s what brought down the Budapest 2024 bid just weeks ago. And before that the Hamburg 2024 bid.

The Los Angeles 2024 effort — the bid and, if it succeeds, a Games — is privately financed. Just like 1984. This is the key difference between the LA effort and just about every other Summer Olympics since the IOC got itself into the jam it now finds itself in.

And it unequivocally is in that jam.

The irrefutable evidence:

For public consumption, the IOC is essentially just letting the road show and evaluation process play itself out. Behind the curtains, it is trying to figure out how to cut a 2024/2028 deal between the last two cities standing, LA and Paris.

When the history of all this gets formally written, this note: this space was the first to suggest this very thing — the 24/28 LA/Paris double-double. Look it up: September 15, 2016. (Also predicted in that very column: Budapest would fall out via referendum.)

The Denmark road show is being held for the benefit of the international sports federations. Two years ago, this very same sports convention was under the leadership of the judo federation president, Marius Vizer, who was at odds with IOC president Thomas Bach, and no 2022 Winter Games bid-city presentations were allowed, purportedly to cut the cost of bidding as part of Bach's Agenda 2020 would-be reform push.

For the past year, the federations have had a new guy in charge, Patrick Baumann, from basketball. Now Paris and LA get to present. It also happens that as of a few weeks ago Baumann is also the head of the 2024 IOC evaluation team. No criticism should be implied or inferred of Baumann (like Vizer, a very smart guy) or the way he ended up leading that evaluation team (long back story) — the point is, how can the Agenda 2020 reforms look anything like but what real life has proven them to be, hollow?

Back, of course, to the point of the bid process: personality politics cannot be the basis for a billion-dollar decision. That’s just basic.

Similarly, it makes little or no sense to cater to the sports federation officials. Unless he or she is also an IOC member -- they don't vote.

The IOC has a distinct credibility problem. A key reason is that it is perceived, appropriately, as the establishment, particularly in Europe, where taxpayers are mightily angered at the spending of their euros on what they perceive, rightly or wrongly, as Olympic waste.

So: essentially forcing a bunch of folks to jet into Denmark for  two 10-minute presentations? Just to feed the egos of international sports federation leaders? And then everyone goes out to the lobby for snacks and cocktails?

There is a much better way.

The IOC needs to reverse the paradigm.

The IOC should not be asking whether (pick one, A, B or C) the archery or badminton or canoeing president likes city x's pretty video.

Again, no vote unless an IOC member and, besides, that's in line with this theme — which city can impress us most?

In turn, that leads to this kind of question: city x, why is it important to your redevelopment strategy to build an athletes’ village that you have already budgeted at some billion-dollar obscenity that we nonetheless know, because history says so, is laughably low?

The IOC is not a redevelopment agency. It is not an urban planner. It is about sport. That is what the Olympic Charter makes plain, time and again. Sport. In the service of humankind.

To that end, the IOC should be asking, what is your detailed strategy to connect with athletes and other young people, and not just in your country? Don’t bore us to death with school programs. Tell us about connection and engagement. Tell us something innovative, creative and exciting.


Right now, the IOC produces a fat evaluation report filled with answers to questions such as the number of hotel rooms in city x or its airport capacity. These questions are relevant. But they are relevant mostly to IOC staff. This next sentence is critical: the staff does not vote.

This logically produces a huge disconnect in the evaluation and thus the bid and the election process. Why?

Because the members largely do not care.

Again, on issues such as the whether it's the Westin or the Hyatt or runway 26-left or 18-right, the members mostly do not read these reports. So this entire evaluation process, which after Salt Lake is supposed to form the underpinning for the most important decision the members make, is a colossal waste of time, money and resource.


The IOC should lead a focused inquiry that determines which city is most likely to:

— engage young people, with a detailed plan for how, and in particular on mobile platforms and across social media

— produce not just moments but heroes to inspire those young people across seven years, to and through opening ceremony and the 17 days of the Games, if not beyond

— take a leadership role across the Olympic and broader political landscapes by demonstrating transparent fiscal stewardship, responsibility and stability in all budgets related to the production of a Games

— voluntarily submit all such budgets to scrutiny by internationally accepted accounting experts, those reports routinely to be made matters of public record

— stabilize if not energize the Olympic movement in the host nation and around the world

— spark sponsor and audience interest domestically and internationally

If the IOC did that for 2024, there would be only one conclusion. It would be so easy. Crisis solved.

A 2024 dose of -- common sense


Back in the day, a young person who was maybe having a little trouble understanding a concept might meet up with an older fella. This older fella might feel so inclined to help impart some wisdom rather directly by means of what in some parts of the United States might be referred to as a switch.

This practice has largely fallen out of favor, given as a switch is pretty much a tree branch and beating people about the head with a stick is no longer considered what we in modern times would call best practice. Actually, we would probably call that a felony.

Even so, when it comes to the race for the 2024 Summer Games between Los Angeles and Paris and, now, perhaps the joined-at-the-hip contest for the 2028 Summer Games, too, let us turn for just a few moments to our new imaginary friend, the common-sense switch.

Good lord.

This is not difficult. Indeed, the way this is trending it is so painfully obvious. It’s truly simply common sense.

Item No. 1:

Tony Estanguet, the Paris 2024 co-president, gets sent to London earlier this week to meet with a gaggle of reporters.

This job would age anyone. IOC president Thomas Bach, left, this week at headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, with Macky Sall, president of Senegal // IOC

In Monaco in December 2014, pushing Agenda 2020, which the members unanimously approved. Since, taxpayers, primarily in western Europe, have suggested signaled little if anything substantive // Getty Images

It’s telling that Estanguet is the guy who gets sent to London in the first instance — but let's not digress.

There he delivers through the press an ultimatum: “It’s now or never. We will not come back for 2028. If the IOC can find a solution with Los Angeles, that’s great — but our project is only possible for 2024.”

Reaction: why adopt a black-and-white, either-or position six months before the purported decision date? Ask any sophisticated business person: how often does an ultimatum prove a successful negotiating position?

Item No. 2:

Jules Boykoff, an American professor, writes an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times loaded with trigger words (first paragraph alone: “profit-gobbling cartel” when the International Olympic Committee is not in the business of turning a profit) that asserts, amid all the glibness, that LA and Paris should press the IOC to assume a larger share of cost overruns.

In particular “… it’s time the organization stepped up and contributed to infrastructure costs as well.”

Since 1960, Mr. Boykoff says, “every single Olympics with reliable data has gone over budget, by an average of 156 percent in real terms.”

To be clear:

Zero quarrel here with Mr. Boykoff and his focus on reforming certain elements of the Olympic movement. Trigger words get attention. Mr. Boykoff wants to position himself as one of the Olympic voices in academia to turn to. All good.

The quarrel here is with my former employer, the LA Times, which didn’t challenge the underlying premises of the piece.

A little fact-checking would have made plain what is, again, so obvious — the key distinction between the Los Angeles and Paris plans for 2024, and why, as this space keeps pointing out repeatedly, the IOC would do well to seize the common-sense opportunity right in front of its very face or be prepared to face what the potentially (not being dramatic here) existential consequences.

Because, after 25 years of boondoggles, taxpayers in the west are mightily pissed off.

To explain:

The single most important difference between the LA and Paris bids is that everything that matters in Los Angeles is already built. It exists. Now.

Oops. OK. Wait. Mea culpa. The new NFL stadium in Inglewood doesn't exist yet. But it's being privately financed in a deal driven by the guy who owns the LA Rams. That's a $3-billion, state-of-the-art stadium for which LA24 organizers would not have to pay anything to help construct. So, thanks, right?

Paris would have to build an athletes’ village, media housing and an aquatics complex. Those are big projects, and history shows they inevitably produce cost overruns. They would in Paris. Guaranteed.

The Paris bid files (click here, see pages 28-31) project the village at $1.607 billion, the media housing another $373.8 million. Aquatics would be another $158.05 million. Now you're talking over $2 billion. As an AP story noted, there's also discussion of new public transport infrastructure to make the athletes' village more accessible, via a new train station and construction of a road interchange so that you could get to the village from central Paris in 20 minutes, at least in theory, by car.

Who wants to guess, when the cash register stops wildly spinning and cha-chinging, what obscenely large number would be in neon-bright digits?

And who would end up paying for a big chunk of this?

French taxpayers.

Reality: for credibility purposes, the IOC cannot afford these kind of building sprees anymore, not after 25 years of massive overruns — Barcelona 1992, which jumpstarted the whole Olympics-as-urban-renewal thing, is celebrating its anniversary even now.

Compare and contrast: if you don’t have anything to build, why would you have infrastructure cost overruns? This is the LA story.

Thus to the central thesis of the LAT op-ed piece? Why would the LA24 people want to challenge the IOC on cost overruns when LA24 doesn’t have logical reason to anticipate even one red penny? Hello? LAT editors -- 17 years for me as a staff writer there and have things really gotten that sloppy in the 10 years since I left Spring Street?


Paris is largely a government project. LA is privately financed. Because LA is a private deal, just like it was in 1984, there is no margin for error, no room for costly boondoggles.

Indeed, LA 2024, early on, considered the construction of a new athletes’ village near downtown Los Angeles. But officials decided not to do it. Why? Because it would have been too expensive! Instead, completely in line with the purported reforms known as Agenda 2020 championed by the IOC president, Thomas Bach, LA 2024 turned to the existing dorms at UCLA. Which are world-class.

Turning to the 156 percent figure:

That comes from an academic survey published last year. Click here if you want to read it in detail. Be mindful that, like any survey, it is only as good as the underlying data — for instance, as it notes, the “vigilant reader” may well be suspicious of some numbers, because “the lowest cost overrun of all Games was found for Beijing 2008,” a reported 2 percent on a reputed $40-billion all-in monster of a bill, because “China is known for its lack of reliability in economic reporting.”


At any rate:

You know what else is really fascinating in that survey?

Turn to page 12, Table 3, “Sports-related cost overruns, Olympics 1960-2012, calculated in local currencies, real terms.”

Here, for instance, you see that the Montreal 1976 Games incurred a 720 percent cost overrun.

Barcelona: 266 percent.

You know what’s missing from this chart?

Los Angeles 1984. Totally not there.

Turn, please, to page 25. There the authors have referenced the LA 84 official report. Now turn to page 309 of that official report, section 11.01.10, “Revenue and the operating surplus.” There it says the LA84 organizing committee turned a surplus — attention, LA Times editors, when referring to non-profit enterprises such as the IOC, it’s “surplus,” not “profit” — of at least $215 million, perhaps as much as $250 million.

The final number, as history would prove, was $232.5 million.

Since, through the LA84 Foundation, millions upon millions of dollars have gone into the promotion of youth sport around Southern California. That is real Olympic legacy.

Returning, as we were, to Table 3:

Let’s assume friends in France and Canada (Montreal 76) are more transparent in reporting financial details than friends in China, because these numbers seem genuinely fascinating in considering a Paris bid for 2024:

Grenoble, France, 1968 Winter Games, cost overrun: 181 percent.

Albertville, France, 1992 Winter Games, cost overrun: 137 percent.

Item No. 3:

The California legislative analyst’s office, the state legislature’s nonpartisan fiscal and policy advisor’s arm, issued a report Thursday on the LA24 bid that could not have been more — common sense.

The state, like the city of Los Angeles, has an interest in protecting taxpayers. The reason taxpayers in and around Southern California have repeatedly proven so high on a return of the Games to LA is the consistent belief that a privately run Games will not dent their wallets.

That's just — common sense.

From the report, and be mindful that these legislative offerings tend to prose measured with exacting precision. It is not often one sees “fun” or successful” in the stylings of an official California state report:

“… Los Angeles’ bid makes significant efforts to reduce the financial risks that have plagued prior Olympic cities. Basing its bid on existing or already‑on‑track venues and infrastructure reduces the chance that cost overruns will occur. More broadly, if Los Angeles is selected, Olympic organizers and local leaders can focus largely for the next seven years on preparing the region to host a fun, successful event for athletes and visitors, rather than focusing on keeping big construction projects on time and on budget. We agree with city officials that the current Olympic bid plan is fairly low risk for the city and, by extension, the state as well.”

Jason Sisney, the chief deputy legislative analyst, added in an email, and note again the emphasis from a government official whose No. 1 priority it is to look out for the interest of the taxpayer:

“So far, the efforts of Los Angeles city officials and LA24 to manage financial risks are noteworthy. If Los Angeles wins the Games, this means city officials can spend the next seven years planning a fun, successful event and be less focused on the sometimes thankless task of guiding big Olympic infrastructure projects to completion.”

Let’s once more compare and contrast, because unlike the LA24 people, our Paris 2024 friends would indeed have to guide “big Olympic infrastructure projects to completion,” the biggest that athletes’ village.

If you don’t read French and in particular the fascinating reports detailing notes of interest in immobilier en France, French real estate, perhaps you missed this gem:

Last week saw a building and property trade show in Cannes (that's the sun-splashed ville where they do the film festival). It was called MIPIM.

Who put up a booth?

Paris 2024!

This is itself interesting, since the idea of the stand was to attract private investors but the Paris bid book makes plain that "government" is, for the athletes' village, the "body responsible for funding venue from construction until Games time."

At any rate, maybe the way you go about attracting investors and financing in France is different.

In the United States, you would call, say, Goldman Sachs or some other heavyweight for a project estimated in the billions. 

There, it’s a booth at a trade show. What, did our Paris 2024 friends give away pins? Better yet -- some of those 1.5 million Paris 2024 cloth bracelets (2 euros apiece!) that 18 months ago were touted as a crowdsourcing funding vehicle. Maybe a few are now left over? 

The story quotes a local dignitary from Seine-Saint-Denis, the Paris suburb where they want to plunk the village:

"This is an opportunity to reduce noise pollution, by creating noise-barriers along the A86 expressway (a major local highway), but also to decontaminate the soils and to place underground the EDF (French utility) electric networks and lines."

This is what an Olympic Games is supposed to be about?

Soil decontamination? Noise barriers? Utility lines?

Or a fun, successful event?

Common sense, people.

Could it be more plain? IOC needs time, stability


The International Olympic Committee, like the Kremlin, speaks in code.

Let us now decode Friday’s announcement from a meeting in South Korea of the IOC's policy-making executive board that a “working group” made up of the four IOC vice-presidents has been set up to "explore changes" in Olympic bidding. The obvious subtext: the possibility later this year of jointly awarding the 2024 and 2028 Games to Los Angeles and Paris or, you know, Paris and Los Angeles.

This panel is due to make its report at what is called, in IOC jargon, the “technical briefing” in mid-July in Lausanne, Switzerland, the show at which those two candidate cities get to make presentations before the big event itself, the September 13 vote — if there is going to be a vote — in Lima, Peru.

The announcement Friday comes as IOC confronts almost everywhere it looks what in gentle terms would be called a credibility gap. The IOC stands as the symbol of an establishment that regular people increasingly resent, and a lot. These regular folks, who in western democracies are taxpayers, have made it plain that they will accept the IOC only on certain terms.

Meaning their — taxpayer — terms. Which means back to the future. Which means 1984.

In this volatile and perhaps even existential moment for the Olympic movement, you know the sort of thing that further erodes IOC credibility, and in a big way?

When the 73-year-old Swiss head of the international ski federation, Gian-Franco Kasper, opens up his mouth and, like he did at that very same IOC meeting in Korea, draws an analogy to allegations of Russian doping: "I'm just against bans or sanctioning of innocent people. Like Mr. Hitler did — all Jews were to be killed, independently of what they did or did not do.”

He also reportedly said, "We call this sippenhaft in Germany — where the place you come from makes you guilty.”

The place Mr. Kasper is from is a canton in Switzerland where sits St. Moritz, site of the 1928 and 1948 Winter Games. There, twice in the past four years voters have been asked via the ballot whether they would be interested in staging the 2022 or 2026 Winter Games. Twice the answer, most recently during the 2017 alpine ski championships: no.

Mr. Kasper’s words were so offensive and ill-timed, given everything at stake, that the IOC itself issued an apology on his behalf.

It is with this sort of ever-shifting and complex backdrop in mind that one approaches a more subtle decode of IOC "working group" messaging.

No. 1:

Whatever the IOC president wants is what the “working group” will “present” in July.

This is the way the IOC works. Now, then, presumably always.

If you don’t understand this basic premise about the IOC, you are still charmingly enrolled in naive school, which is fine but not the way the Olympic sphere operates.

The current IOC president, Thomas Bach of Germany, learned this from Juan Antonio Samaranch of Spain, president from 1980-2001. Outsiders hold to a stereotyped perception of Mr. Samaranch. The long view of history is more likely to trend toward a keen appreciation of Mr. Samaranch's style and manner of global leadership.

No. 2:

The four vice-presidents do not come to the table as neutrals.

Australia’s John Coates has every reason to push a Brisbane bid for 2028. Turkey’s Ugur Erdener, same for Istanbul. Spain’s Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr., absolutely for Madrid.

Then there is China’s Zaiqing Yu, and after Beijing for 2008 and 2022, why not Nanjing (Summer Youth Games 2014) or Shenzhen (Summer University Games 2011) or Shanghai for 2028?

Coates, Erdener and Yu are already on record as publicly opposed to the idea of a 2024-2028 double-double.

(Advice, IOC: you want the youth audience? Bring the Games back to SoCal sooner than later and send everyone to In-N-Out for the No. 1 special: double-double, fries, drink. Also, In-N-Out is a chain that encourages young people to, you know, read — a free burger for every five books that kids check out from the library and read. But I digress.)

Others who have said an Olympic double, hold the fries, may not make the best option: Gerhard Heiberg of Norway, the former IOC marketing director, and C.K. Wu of Taiwan, another executive board member and the boxing federation president.

That such heavyweights do not come as neutrals? Does not matter.

Why? See No. 1.

Moving on to No. 3:

With the announcement of this “working group,” the executive board bought itself roughly four months for Bach to canvass the Olympic scene’s wide range of stakeholders on the notion of a 2024-2028 double.

In this case, canvass is again code. It means, from the IOC president’s position, sure, I am glad to listen to you. Done? OK, now my turn, and be sure to listen closely, please, because we are facing some issues and we need to find a solution.

Mr. Bach, meanwhile, is walking a tremendous high-wire act, which he and perhaps only a few confidantes truly understand.

— Starting with the IOC members themselves:

In December 2014, Mr. Bach pushed through the IOC membership a purported wide-ranging reform plan dubbed Agenda 2020.

As evidence that the IOC does what the president wants: Agenda 2020 (all 40 points) was approved unanimously.

The reforms have so far failed to convince taxpayers in any number of European cities that they are in the least bit meaningful, leaving only two candidates in the 2015 vote for 2022 (Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan) and, now, for 2024 (LA, Paris).

A good many of the members already complain, if not for attribution, that being a member might make for a great way to speed through passport lines but what else? Being an IOC member is entirely a volunteer position. It carries no defined mandate. A member’s key “job” has in many ways been reduced to voting in the candidate city elections. And now, for 2024 and 2028, the IOC president would take that away?

Even more, for the 2022 Games race just two years ago, the situation was exactly the same — two cities — and yet the members duly exercised their franchise?

What’s so different now?

— Sticking with Agenda 2020:

In discussion about a 2024-2028 double, this space has made plain that the only way such a twist would work is that if it were LA for 2024, Paris for 2028.

Some European friends have floated the idea of Paris first, LA for 2028.

Our Paris bid friends suggest that it would have to be Paris first in any such rotation because the tender for the land on which an athletes’ village would have to be built is only available for 2024.

If past history is a reliable guide, and it is, the village would indisputably sink into a fat and ugly construction cost-overrun and delay-plagued boondoggle.

To reiterate, that is the very last thing the IOC — and beyond, the broader Olympic movement — wants or needs.

What all involved want and need is time and stability.

At any rate, if that tender is the sticking point, French friends: if it’s that critical to your project, get a better lawyer. That is just common sense. Maybe, you know, find a way to figure out how to make it happen instead of saying, all French-like, non, we cannot.

— Back to the IOC president and Agenda 2020:

Mr. Bach was elected to a first eight-year term in 2013.

Let’s say for purposes of discussion that the IOC’s fascinatingly insightful new friends in the French prosecutor’s office, having already reached out to Frankie Fredericks, the IOC member from the west African nation of Namibia, don’t so intrude on Mr. Bach’s fate that he can fulfill not only that eight-year term but can, indeed, serve — as is IOC custom since the reforms associated with the late 1990s Salt Lake City affair — a second four-year term as president.

Math: the year 2013 plus 12 would take us to the year 2025.

Common sense:

Agenda 2020 is Mr. Bach’s project.

He is hugely invested in, indeed professionally identified with, making it real.

Assuming 12 years in office, the only Summer Games on Mr. Bach’s watch during which Agenda 2020 could be seen through, start to finish, would be 2024.

Of the two bids, the only Summer Games that even remotely aligns properly with Agenda 2020 is Los Angeles.

The Paris people may well protest.

They say that 95 percent of their stuff is already built, and good for them.

It’s the items to be built that are the killers — that athletes' village, an aquatics center and media housing. Those are big-ticket projects, and big-ticket items are at the core of what is killing the IOC’s credibility with taxpayers, because these projects are marketed as cost-factor x but then inevitably become real-cost x-plus. (Tokyo 2020: 2013 bid book $7.8 billion; post-2013 win as high as $30 billion; maybe now $15.2 billion, according to Bach. See, French friends? If the Japanese can cut $15 billion, you can find a good lawyer!)

The IOC president would never, ever — repeat, never, ever — say in public that big-ticket items like these are, in fact, killers.

Sports politics is absolutely politics, and you do not get to be the IOC president without being an adept politician of the first order.

But, and he knows this, the IOC absolutely needs to get out of the government-backed project business. That’s not what the Games are about.

It perhaps may have been little noticed except within certain Olympic precincts but last week offered up 110 percent evidence to that exact point: why the IOC desperately needs to get out of the business, at least for a safe-harbor seven-year stretch, of having sports events essentially backed — as Paris is and Los Angeles is not — by government.

There's something of an irony here: the IOC held its 2011 assembly in Durban, South Africa, and it was there that the IOC elected Pyeongchang, South Korea, the site of the 2018 Winter Games, which was where the IOC announced Friday it was going to have this "working group" all about 2024 and 2028.

Earlier in the week, Durban backed out of hosting the 2022 Commonwealth Games, the president of the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee saying that “without the necessary government guarantees, we couldn't move on.”

This comes of course just a few weeks after Budapest dropped out of the 2024 Summer Games campaign — following earlier exits by Rome and Hamburg, Germany.

It’s just so obvious what is what.

As in 1984, the LA 2024 project would be privately financed.

Decoding, again:

That’s what these next four months, and the behind-the-scenes talks, will be about while the "working group" does its thing.

If ever you wanted proof of how the IOC itself is struggling mightily in 2017 to bridge that credibility gap, consider:

At that meeting in Korea, the Games’ executive director, Christophe Dubi told a small pack of reporters that the Summer Games last year had “changed the sewer system” in Rio de Janeiro.

First and foremost, an Olympics is not now, was not then, will not ever be about changes to a city’s sewer system.

To appropriate one of Mr. Bach’s pet phrases, that is not what gets 16-year-old would-be surfing and skateboarding couch potatoes off the couch.

Secondly, with all due respect for Mr. Dubi, who is a fundamentally decent guy whose position often puts him between a rock and a sewage outlet, so to speak, that assertion simply cannot be true.

Each and every day in Rio, on the way into the Main Press Center, thousands of us were welcomed by the delightfully fragrant, indeed welcoming bouquet of an open sewage trench.

Decode: let’s cut the crap, people.

For 2024, Los Angeles. That buys time and stability, and access to the key youth demographic and the buzz and tech of California, and all those things are critically what's at issue, as well as perhaps the chance for Mr. Bach to see his reforms put into action while he’s IOC president. If Paris wants 2028, that’s altogether another matter. Some good lawyers can work that out.