The Olympics could be a boon for Los Angeles, but it’s foolish to think we can’t lose – Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles scored a major victory this week by securing both the right to host the 2028 Summer Olympic Games and concessions from the International Olympic Committee worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Mayor Eric Garcetti and the city’s Olympic committee officials get credit for extracting a better deal from the IOC in exchange for agreeing to wait an additional four years and let Paris host the 2024 Games.

As Garcetti correctly points out, the city (not to mention the region, state and nation) has much to gain in terms of direct and indirect economic benefits, infrastructure improvements and goodwill from hosting the Games. But it would be foolish for city leaders to assume that L.A. just can’t lose, as Garcetti and other Olympics boosters have asserted. Of course it can. There are no guarantees when it comes to ticket sales, sponsorship deals or labor and materials costs for an event more than a decade away. And because the IOC refuses to share the risk of cost overruns, host cities are on the hook for any budget-busting developments.

Ideally, Garcetti would have insisted that the IOC protect the city from cost overruns in exchange for accepting the later date. But the city’s experience with the 1984 Summer Games suggests that the window for negotiations hasn’t fully closed. In the run-up to the ’84 Games, public concern about the potential for a taxpayer bailout led voters to approve a ballot measure that threatened to withdraw L.A. as host unless the IOC reduced the city’s risk. That’s what led the IOC to waive the requirement that L.A. shoulder all unanticipated costs.

Regardless, city leaders need to start working now to make sure the $5.3-billion project doesn’t turn into a boondoggle over the coming 11 years. Before committing the city’s treasury to such a massive undertaking, city leaders must also commit themselves and their successors to vigilant oversight. That responsibility begins as soon as next week, when the L.A. City Council is expected to take up the new host city contract. Council members must make sure that all the promises made by the IOC are in the document before the deal is finalized in Lima, Peru, on Sept. 13.

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