With a legion of Olympic medalists in attendance, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved an agreement to bring the 2028 Olympic games to Los Angeles Friday.
The vote, which followed a tense committee meeting about the games earlier in the morning, comes just 11 days after the city’s bid committee announced that it had reached a deal with the International Olympic Committee under which Paris will host in 2024 and LA will get the games four years later.
Until last week, LA had been pursuing the 2024 games, but, in July, members of the IOC made the unusual decision to award both the 2024 and 2028 games simultaneously. With Paris and LA the only cities left in contention for the games, the decision guaranteed both cities would get a chance to host as long as one city was willing to wait until 2028 to do so.
The City Council’s decision allows the city to enter into a host city contract with the IOC, should the full committee finalize the new agreement and officially award the 2028 games to Los Angeles, as they are expected to do in September. It also provides a commitment that the city will cover any financial shortfalls faced by the privately run bid committee.
A report on the new arrangement from city staff touts benefits to the city, such as a $160 million advance from the organizing committee that will fund youth sports programs in the years leading up to the games.
A representative of the City Attorney’s office told the council’s Olympics Committee that the City Attorney had reviewed the new contract and found it to be “far more robust” than the 2024 agreement, and “a better deal overall.”
But the report from city staff also notes that a revised 2028 budget for the games has not yet been completed, and a guarantee of financial assistance from the state might not be available until 2018.
Numerous critics of the games accused the council of rushing into a decision during a meeting of the Olympics Committee early Friday morning.
“We need time to weigh our options,” said Cynthia Strathmann, executive director of nonprofit tenant advocacy group SAJE. She echoed the concerns of other opponents of the games, arguing that the event would inspire land speculation and worsen the city’s homelessness crisis.
NOlympics LA spokesperson Jonny Coleman was more blunt. “This process has been a sham,” he told the committee.
At times, interactions between anti-Olympics advocates and members of the council grew tense.
“I’m tired of these people coming to us and questioning our decision making,” said Councilmember Joe Buscaino. He argued that the city’s plan for a fiscally responsible games would help the city avoid the financial calamities faced by other recent host cities.
“LA is no Rio,” Buscaino said.
Many other community members spoke fondly of their memories of the 1984 games—the last time LA hosted—and encouraged the council to bring Olympic competition back to the city.
Former Olympians, including Carl Lewis, Janet Evans, Jim Naber, Greg Louganis, and Nastia Liukin, spoke about the games’ potential to inspire local communities and to showcase the city on a global stage.
“We have a unique opportunity to show what Los Angeles can do,” said Lewis, who won four gold medals during the 1984 Olympic games.
Council president Herb Wesson acknowledged the complaints of critics. “A lot of concerns brought up today ... are legitimate concerns,” he said. But Wesson argued that the city would have plenty of time and opportunity to address issues like homelessness between now and 2028.
“If this city is going to be great, we must dare to be great,” he said, asking critics to think more positively about the games. “This opportunity is too great to pass up.”
Opponents of the plan shouted and jeered as the council voted.
On Spetember 13, the IOC will begin a four-day conference in Lima, during which the committee will officially award the 2024 and 2028 games.