Los Angeles, site of two Olympic Games, appears to have surprisingly uncertain chances of making a preliminary cut as it bids for a third, the 2012 Summer Games, with some U.S. Olympic insiders viewing New York, Washington, Houston and perhaps San Francisco or Tampa, Fla., as more attractive possibilities, sources said Monday.
By objective measures, Los Angeles should be a shoo-in when the U.S. Olympic Committee's executive committee meets Friday to trim a list of eight U.S. cities vying for the 2012 Games to four. L.A. has indisputably the best existing facilities in the country for the Games, with only one of 33 venues--a shooting range--needing to be built. The L.A. 2012 proposal also envisions a profit conservatively estimated at about $100 million.
On the minus side, however, the fact that Los Angeles has played host to the Games in 1932 and 1984 has led some USOC officials to question the viability of a third bid.
Also, Olympic business is driven by relationships, personality and protocol, and in this area Los Angeles has lagged--though it is far from clear whether USOC dissatisfaction is with the bid team or with government officials, and whether it will prove sufficient to weigh against the facilities and potential profit.
It was noted during a four-day USOC task force visit to Los Angeles in late August that Mayor Jim Hahn, who has long regaled colleagues with his own Olympic memories, was on vacation; the vacation was the mayor's first since being elected. The mayor's designated city substitute, Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas--who has played a key role in the on-again, off-again possibilities of NFL football returning to the Coliseum--apparently impressed some on the task force but not others.
"I thought he filled in admirably," said David Simon, president of the L.A. 2012 bid, which has adopted a theme of "Ready, Set, Gold." Ridley-Thomas could not be reached for comment.
Opinions about Los Angeles' chances to survive the cut vary considerably. Many within the task force--which meets this week in Salt Lake City, ahead of the executive committee's Friday vote formally trimming the bid-city list--were clearly impressed with New York, Washington and Houston.
Newsday reports in today's edition that New York, San Francisco and Washington are the top three, and Tampa and Houston deserve extra consideration for meeting financial conditions.
"I think L.A. is going down," one knowledgeable insider said, adding, "Basically, L.A. assumed they would be in the next round, adopted a know-it-all attitude and seemed to suggest we would be lucky if they were willing to host the Games.
"The real reason that matters is our ability to be partners with those folks. I don't think we would penalize the world and the United States by us not allowing a city to go forward just because we didn't like them. It goes to our ability to work with them. We haven't felt real great about our ability to work with L.A."
Another, however, said that the four cities most often mentioned are New York, San Francisco, Washington and Los Angeles, adding in a reference to the 1996 Atlanta Games, most often remembered for transport woes and a bombing, "There are a lot of people who say, 'Why would we ever in this century select a city south of the Mason-Dixon line?' Because it won't win. Even though Dallas and Houston are Texas, they're still southern."
Around the Rings, an Olympics newsletter, said recently that New York, Washington and Los Angeles "should be the only [U.S.] finalists," the only three cities it said can "match or exceed the reputations of possible [overseas] rivals." Then again, USA Today last week fixed the odds of winning the bid at 3-1 for San Francisco and New York, 8-1 for L.A. and 25-1 for Washington.
With decision day fast approaching, Simon said, "I don't think any of the cities have a clue how this is going to turn out."
It is unclear what effect, if any, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon will have. After trimming the list to four this week, the USOC next year will pick one U.S. candidate. In 2005, the International Olympic Committee will pick the 2012 site. A number of cities around the world have also expressed interest in bidding for the 2012 Games. Among them: London, Rome, Berlin, Madrid, Toronto, Rio de Janeiro, even Havana and Tel Aviv.
In another development involving the USOC, Lloyd Ward, selected Sunday to be its new CEO, reached agreement Monday on a contract.
He is due to meet this weekend in Salt Lake City with the USOC's board of directors; he is expected to formally begin work at the USOC's Colorado Springs, Colo., headquarters on Nov. 1.