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L.A. lawmakers obtain formal power over 2024 Olympic bid

Los Angeles lawmakers approved an agreement Friday that formally ensures the City Council would have to sign off on the upcoming bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics.

Council members contend that the pact with the LA 2024 Committee, known as a memorandum of understanding, will provide needed financial protections as L.A.'s Olympic proposal is developed.

"We are very supportive" of the 2024 bid, said Council President Herb Wesson. "But we also recognize we have a financial responsibility. And we don’t believe anything this big should occur without us being equal partners."

The agreement, approved on an 11-0 vote, gives the council the power to hire an accounting firm or other expert, at LA 2024's expense, to examine revenue and cost projections contained in the Olympic bid. It also requires a community meeting on L.A.'s Olympic effort in each of the council's 15 districts.

City officials have described municipal oversight as critical to making sure the cost of staging the Olympics does not ultimately fall on taxpayers. If Los Angeles is chosen next year, local Olympic organizers -- working with private developers -- would likely need to construct temporary housing for 17,000 athletes, coaches and other support staff.

“That village is really going to play a huge role in whether the city’s going to cough up money or not,” said Councilman Joe Buscaino, who represents a district stretching from Watts to the Port of Los Angeles.

LA 2024 identified a rail yard near the Los Angeles River as a possible village site last year, drawing concerns in and outside City Hall about the potential cost. On Friday, organizers said they are now examining as many as five sites, including the rail yard.

The International Olympic Committee typically demands that host cities provide a financial guarantee saying they will cover the overall cost of the Games if there's a deficit.

That makes construction of a village a potential danger for taxpayers, said former Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the L.A. Initiative at UCLA's Luskin School of Public Affairs and Department of History. 

In recent months, Yaroslavsky has recommended that Olympic organizers turn to housing at UCLA, USC or both campuses.

"The Olympic Village is the single biggest expenditure toward the 2024 bid," he said. "Whether the village is privately funded or not, construction of a new village puts the games at greater financial risk because of its multibillion-dollar price tag."

If L.A. is chosen to stage the Games, the International Olympic Committee would provide $1.7 billion in funding, said LA 2024 spokesman Jeff Millman. The remaining cost, he said, would be covered by sponsorships and tickets.

Meanwhile, any private developer tasked with building an Olympic Village would recoup its costs once the Games are over and the housing is sold, Millman added.

L.A. 2024 organizers plan to recommend a village site next month, when the next round of bidding documents are submitted to the International Olympic Committee.

Friday's agreement is now headed to Mayor Eric Garcetti for his signature. Then it goes on to the LA 2024 Committee. 

In a statement, Los Angeles 2024 Chairman Casey Wasserman said organizers want to hold an Olympic event that meets the city's "long-term needs."

"Achieving this is only possible with the city’s support," he said.

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