If Trump’s Election Ends LA’s Olympic Bid, The City Should Be Grateful
LA's Olympic planning committee is preparing for the Trump impact, for their own sake they should hope it costs them the Games
Los Angeles is one of the most diverse cities in America, and L.A. County voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by a nearly 3-to-1 margin, yet Trump’s victory may be what keeps the city from inflicting an economic disaster on itself.
While the president-elect’s stated immigration policies and total lack of qualifications for the job of governance are a serious threat to most any minority group as well as American stability—nation-wide protests on Wednesday included 1,000 protestors gathering in front of Los Angeles’ city hall and burning a Trump head in effigy—the international community’s distaste for the man could spare the city from hosting the 2024 Olympics.
That was the implicit admission of Dick Pound, the longest-serving International Olympics Committee member, at a meeting in Switzerland on Wednesday. When asked if Trump’s bigotry and xenophobia could have offended global IOC members, Pound acknowledged to the Associated Press, “It may have.”
Though a public opinion poll conducted by Loyola Marymount indicated that 88 percent of locals support the Olympic Games, the track record of the Olympics for host cities is one of financial ruin. The 2020 Tokyo Games, whose $30 billion cost estimate is quadruple the initial projection, is already scrapping some plans to save coin. The recently completed Rio Games were “only” $1.6 billion over budget, but that’s a gigantic sum for an area whose governor declared a financial state of emergency.
Three Oxford business professors have studied Olympic costs and found that the average over-run is 56 percent—and that’s for sports costs only and not including any related infrastructure spending. Admittedly, L.A.’s 1984 Games turned a rare profit of more than $220 million, which has turned into seed money for a youth sports foundation and has presumably colored the thinking of supporters. The LA 2024 bidding group says 97 percent of the necessary venues are already in existence or planned for other purposes. But the Olympics are more of a global, corporate event now and while not lavishing the area with single-use facilities will help, it’s hard to foresee that hosting will be a financial win.
As for Trump’s impact, well, the host committee is issuing statements and holding its breath, congratulating the Republican candidate and saying, “We strongly believe the Olympics and LA 2024 transcend politics and can help unify our diverse communities and our world.”
Spot the lie, though. As recently as August, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told the AP, “I think for some of the IOC members they would say, ‘Wait a second, can we go to a country like that, where we’ve heard things that we take offense to?”
Then again, maybe the IOC is willing to overlook such transgressions for the sake of a willing host in a prime location. The gears are already churning on this. Swiss IOC member Rene Fasel has rationalized Trump’s offensive campaign commentary as (an unorthodox) strategy to appeal voters, apparently forgetting that many of Trump’s racist and sexist actions and comments were documented throughout his life and not confined to the 2016 election cycle. “You saw his speech today and it’s already a different man,” Fasel told the wire service, referring to Trump’s acceptance speech.
Others are taking a different tack. South African IOC rep Sam Ramsamy dismissed concerns by saying Trump is universally terrible, telling the AP, “He has been rude to everybody. I don’t believe it will affect bidding in any way.”
If the IOC actually declines the LA 2024 bid over Trump—who may become an unsavory world leader but has not yet actually impinged civil liberties—the irony will be rich, given that Adolf Hitler’s Germany hosted the 1936 Games, the Soviet Union hosted in 1980, China hosted in 2008, and Vladimir Putin’s Russia hosted the 2014 Winter Games. World Cups are the second most-high profile international sporting event, and they’ve gone to Russia and Qatar in recent years.
One former FIFA secretary general admitted the appeal of host countries having less freedom for its citizens.
“I will say something which is crazy, but less democracy is sometimes better for organizing a World Cup,” Jérôme Valcke said in 2013. “When you have a very strong head of state who can decide, as maybe Putin can do in 2018…that is easier for us organizers than a country such as Germany….where you have to negotiate at different levels.”
(Consider the source, of course, as Valcke was later banned 12 years for ethics violations.)
Trump’s offenses, to date, are not on par with those in Olympic history, yet if his presence nixes L.A.’s bid to host, the city should be grateful they are spared the expense and hassle.