On Monday, LA 2024, the local Olympic bid committee, named UCLA as the site of its Olympic Village. Should Los Angeles receive the bid, the school will host 16,500 athletes, coaches and team officials.
The committee came to its senses after it proposed building an Olympic village from scratch near the Los Angeles River, a proposition which would have cost the city between $1 and $2 billion.
This change by the bid committee is commendable, as it will allow the city to take advantage of what it has already built, instead of taking fiscally irresponsible measures that could leave the city with a bill future taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay.
Even assuming the proposed cost of a new village is one the city could afford, construction projects on this scale are often the reason Olympic cities are left unhappy after the games have concluded. In both the 2012 London Games, and 2010 Vancouver Games, city officials attempted to build villages similar to the one LA 2024 initially proposed. Neither project was completed on time and was rife with cost overruns.
Moreover, these new developments created specifically for the Olympics often become nothing but burdens for the cities that built them. Vancouver ended up rushing to sell sections of its Olympic village in order to cover part of its debt.
Fortunately, if there’s any city that knows how to avoid these pitfalls, it’s Los Angeles.
Los Angeles’ 1984 Summer Olympics is often looked at as the model for how to run a financially successful Olympic games. The city managed to make a profit of $232.5 million mainly because planners used many existing facilities instead of building everything from scratch.
Proposing to use UCLA’s housing facilities to avoid building a new village is evidence of following a similar approach, and it’s a significant step in the right direction.
This doesn’t mean there isn’t reason to worry though; times have changed, and the costs this time around are expected to be markedly higher than in 1984, with a current proposed budget of approximately $4.67 billion. Still, this is a fraction of the budgets for many of the past games, including the $51 billion Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014.
In any case, LA 2024’s estimates show that the games, based on their current estimates, will generate $161 million in profit. If they follow their own plan, and avoid unnecessary spending, there’s no reason this won’t be the case.
UCLA has an enormous amount to offer for the Olympics, including housing for the vast majority of incoming participants, and venues that can be used both for actual events and as warmup facilities for the athletes.
Los Angeles has been preparing for the return of the Olympics since the ’80s. This isn’t the only step to getting the Olympics to Los Angeles, but it is certainly a step in the right direction.
To ensure that the next iteration does as well as the last, it’s imperative that the LA 2024 committee continues to make these kinds of responsible and sensible decisions.