Surprise Twist In Games

Photo provided courtesy of the International Olympic Committee

This week details emerge regarding the tripartite agreement the International Olympic Committee, along with the Cities of Los Angeles and Paris are working on completing.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has announced their intent to award the 2028 Games to Los Angeles. That would mean that the 2024 Games will most likely be hosted by Paris.

As we previously reported, following their independent bid presentations to host the 2024 Summer Games, Paris and Los Angeles met with the IOC jointly to discuss the potential of a dual Games award with one country hosting in 2024 and the next in 2028. At the time of that announcement, based on Los Angeles’ already existing venue structures and the recent government approvals in France to build facilities for the Games, it seemed reasonable to assume that Los Angeles would take 2024 with France to follow in 2028.

In a surprise announcement this week the Committee explained that it will actually be Los Angeles who hosts in 2028. Within the joint bid proposal Los Angeles agreed to being overlooked in 2024 in favor of their Host City Organizing Committee funds being made immediately available.

The $1.8B, generally used to build infrastructures for upcoming games, are not necessary in Los Angeles aside from some desperately needed transit upgrades. The funds will instead be filtered into the local youth sports programs in and around the greater Los Angeles area. A request somehow apropos for the City of Angels.

Two driving forces behind any award for the IOC are sustainability and legacy. The 2028 proposal in front of the Committee from Los Angeles addresses both in a uniquely preliminary way for the Games. Generally, host cities use the funds following the Games to finance their Olympic legacies and the funding provided prior to the games for creating sustainable structures and events.

From a sustainability perspective, Los Angeles has plenty of amazing sports facilities and three universities in the area that can easily provide dormitory living to comprise the Athlete Village. There is also a fairly decent public transit system to get to and between these venues, though improvements will certainly have to be made before the Games. This means no building structures that, in turn, may become abandoned or forgotten in future years.

Furthermore, since 2010, all buildings in California have been constructed under, or upgraded to meet, the California Energy Code minimum standards set in place for energy efficiency. The code includes heating, cooling and water regulations. An example of these regulations being met is that the Staple Center, one of the facilities likely to be used for hosting the Games, has 1,727 solar panels on their rooftop. Many of the sports facilities and campuses likely to be used for the Games already employ environmental programs including recycling and use of biodegradable food packaging. Many also have donation programs to ensure food overages never go to waste. The city will also have their pick from dozens of eco and green event planners, a thriving business in the area, for opening and closing ceremonies.

As to legacy, Los Angeles addresses this with their youth sports development program. For the poorest cities in Los Angeles County this will no doubt be welcome change. Places like Compton, Willowbrook, Englewood, Hunington Park, Maywood, Sante Fe Springs and Palmdale may soon have facilities for children to play once more. This decision is a step in the direction of building opportunities for kids, whose towns currently lack the facilities and funding for programs, to travel outside of their neighborhoods and build their path toward better lives.

To access these facilities it is likely there will be an increase in the public transit routes in the lower income areas so that kids can get to and from practices with ease. Most families in the poorer cities have no cars and parents who work multiple jobs. This can lead to lack of structure in the life of the area youth. Sports are a great opportunity to provide a healthy, safe, environment for kids to learn and grow while giving their parents peace of mind that their children have supervision and opportunities to flourish.

Many of these counties have suffered tremendous government funding loses due to the State’s poor economic health. This is a chance to fund programs that could otherwise not exist and to afford kids in these areas opportunities that today they can only dream about. What percentage of this money will be earmarked for the lower income areas remains to be seen but the opportunity to do good is now squarely in the laps of the Olympic Committee selected to oversee the Los Angeles Games.

It no doubt will also enable the city to upgrade their better-equipped facilities to meet Olympic standards. Those facilities will likely be on or near their university campuses affording a future revenue stream, solidifying D1 opportunities for some programs and, in general, increasing the ability for the city to host more revenue-generating international tournaments in future years.

According to the IOC marketing materials “Each host city creates a unique set of environmental, social and economic legacies that can change a community, a region and a nation forever.” If the city and their committee structure their legacy correctly, then lower income communities will have both improved public transit and a healthy lifestyle alternative for neighborhood kids to participate in within their poorest communities.

They will also help to expedite the 10 outstanding projects on the metro system’s agenda that they are desperately trying to fund with a half cent tax over the next 30 years. These two small improvements could bring in revenue, in the form of better jobs closer to home - such as coaching or rail construction - and decreased congestion on their motorways. That is an impact everyone – across every pay scale in Los Angeles - can appreciate. Less cars, less time wasted on the highway each year, less frustration and more time for socializing are all unbelievable legacies the Los Angeles Olympic team could leave for the city to benefit from for decades to come.

For Los Angeles this will mark their third hosting of the Games. They previously hosted in 1932 and in 1984. For Paris, 2024 will mark a 100-year anniversary since they last hosted the Summer Olympics in 1924. That was likely rolled into the marketing plan and is probably behind their rush to host in 2024. Prior to 1924, they had also hosted in the summer of 1900.

The three sides - Paris, Los Angeles and the International Olympic Committee - will continue to hammer out the details this month before presenting their final Agreement for ratification during the IOC session in Lima in September.

One additional, not small, positive in Paris hosting first is the simple fact that the sitting US president is currently trying to close their boarders. With travel bans and new restrictions nearly every week, the uncertainty of bringing athletes and their families from around the world is, simply stated, a visa nightmare. One, most likely, the Olympic Committee is happy to wait out in hopes of not having to face it under new leadership. With term limits, no matter what happens in the 2024 presidential race, there is no way that the current president would be in office in the summer of 2028. That is the best-case scenario for securing visas in the quantities necessary to pull of a successful Games.

For Paris specifically, and Europe in general, this is a huge opportunity. Having a Games so close to so many top baseball and softball programs across Europe will do more than help the athletes involved in the sports from our area. It will bring the reality of the Games to the neighborhoods and cities within Europe in a far more reaching way than simply tuning into the games from thousands of miles away by TV or internet. Seeing these athletes in neighborhood parks week after week after watching them in the 2020 Olympics is a turning point for fan development.

As players, knowing that you are playing against people who will participate in the qualifying tournaments leading up to the 2020 Olympics steps up the competitive drive in everyone. It is now closer, tangental. It is a future in the sport. Increased interest in our sports, combined with strong showings in the stands, as well as on the field, in 2020 plus the additional funding from government programs likely through 2028, will be paramount to building the level of play and interest in the development of baseball and softball through a new generation of players in a way that has been missing from Europe’s games since we said goodbye to the Games at the turn of the century.

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