Primed by three days of tours, meetings and handshakes with furry mascots, the U.S. Olympic Committee's Site Evaluation Team will deliver its preliminary opinion today on the LA2012 bid committee's proposal to bring the Games to Los Angeles for an unprecedented third time.
According to people familiar with discussions held during the visit, LA2012 scored well in several key criteria, notably sports event experience and sports infrastructure. It also clearly expressed its intention to build on the success of the 1984 Los Angeles Games without trying to duplicate them.
However, the eight-member USOC team questioned LA2012's plans for handling traffic and transportation, and expressed concern poor air quality will hurt athletes.
The survey team will debrief LA2012 officials before holding a news conference today. It will meet Sept. 15 to rank the eight bid cities and will narrow the field to three or four by the end of the year. The USOC will choose a U.S. representative in October 2002, and the International Olympic Committee will pick the host city in 2005.
"They did raise some questions [Friday] on some subjects that came up [Saturday] and gave us their comments," LA2012 Chairman John Argue said after the group took a boat ride past proposed Long Beach aquatic sites and stopped at the Pyramid. "The particular subjects they picked turned out to be great for us and strong points in our favor .... They've been complimentary."
Although this was the last stop of a tour that began June 10, the delegates had open and inquisitive minds. They seemed impressed by the Pond of Anaheim, Staples Center, plans for the Anschutz Sports Center in Carson and UC Irvine's Bren Center. "Other places say, 'Trust us, we'll build it,"' Argue said. "But we already have these great venues."
Most of the questions centered on the location of warmup and practice areas. Occasionally, their questions were arcane, as when a delegate asked if the Bren Center's air conditioning will affect the flight of the shuttlecock during badminton matches. All were assured the air flow is so good, the international badminton federation insisted on that venue.
"These are people that know their business and ask extremely technical questions," Argue said. "They know what it takes to have a successful venue. We're fortunate we have people who can answer those questions."
Rival U.S. hopefuls Cincinnati, Dallas, Houston, New York, Tampa, the San Francisco Bay Area and Washington have strong points, but their drawbacks range from financing to transportation problems to extensive building plans, which are costly and risky. The Bay Area wants to use the Rose Bowl and the Anschutz Center as soccer venues and Cal State Fullerton, UCLA and the University of San Diego as training sites.
"We're not in a competition to find out which city is the best or most interesting," said Rich Perelman, author of LA2012's expansive bid. "The point is, who can win?"
By the time the IOC picks a winner, it will have been through the 2004 Games in Athens, which has been slow to turn its plans into reality. Venues here, for the most part, are reality--Argue said L.A. could be ready in 21/2 years.
"We would say, 'Isn't it time to come to a safe harbor and a place where it's about the athletes and not the city or country, because we've done it twice and had a number of international events here since then?' " Perelman said.
"If we don't put up L.A. [as the U.S. pick], there will be a first-time bidder against cities that have done it twice, and they'll use that. I think L.A. would stand up very well against London or Paris, and I don't think you can say that about the seven other cities, although they're nice cities."
Bob Condron, the USOC's director of media services, said despite sentiment to move the Games around, having twice been the host won't sink LA2012's bid.
"One of the areas [rated] is sports event experience, and you've got to say, 'We've done it,"' he said. "I guess it's divided opinion. It changed the Olympic movement in 1984 .... I don't know if it's a positive or negative. We can't judge it either way. It could be a tiebreaker."
Sasha Cohen of Laguna Niguel, who missed this year's U.S. figure skating championships because of a stress fracture in her back, has rebounded quickly and is ready to resume a full competitive schedule.
Cohen, whose balletic style helped her finish second in the 2000 U.S. championships at 15, will compete in the Goodwill Games next month in Brisbane, Australia. She will be part of an all-California women's delegation with world champion Michelle Kwan--a Torrance native--and U.S. third-place finisher Angela Nikodinov of Harbor City. The U.S. Figure Skating Assn. also assigned Cohen to compete at Skate America in Colorado Springs in October and the Trophee Lalique in Paris in November, prestigious events.