Op-Ed

Six reasons to worry about the 2028 Olympics

Mayor Eric Garcetti and the L.A. 2028 Olympic bid committee are in a tremendous hurry to pass the new Host City Contract that they negotiated privately with the International Olympic Committee last month through the City Council. They’ve hosted zero public community gatherings to specifically discuss the 2028 bid — unless you count one-minute comments at Friday’s ad hoc council meeting — but they want you to think that previous deliberations about the 2024 bid should suffice. They don’t.

Make no mistake: L.A. lost the 2024 bid to Paris and took the 2028 option, rebranding and pivoting to 2028 as a win instead of a last resort. The L.A. bid committee finished second in a race of two. This is not a triumph for anyone. The IOC is attempting to award two Summer Olympics simultaneously out of fear that the Olympic brand is broken and that there won’t be multiple (or any) cities vying for 2028, which would be embarrassing.

Unfortunately for the residents of Los Angeles, City Council members and Garcetti don’t think it’s necessary to vet the 2028 Host City Contract properly via independent entities, including conducting financial studies as they did with the 2024 bid proposal. These outside bodies would and should calculate the risk of committing to an Olympics 11 years away from all possible angles.

There are many crucial questions that remain unanswered. Here are the most pressing:

1. How will 2028 affect immigrant communities?

The 2024 proposal designated the Games as a National Special Security Event, which the bid committee and mayor promoted as a cost-saving measure, since it offloads security costs to federal taxpayers. They did not focus on the fact that the special security event designation gives the Department of Homeland Security (which includes Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and other federal law enforcement agencies joint jurisdiction over roughly 700 square miles of Southern California.

Although the designation does not provide the DHS or any other department the authority to commandeer local law enforcement authorities, it's worrisome to consider how emboldened federal agents may treat the city's enormous immigrant population, both documented and not, in the run-up to and during the Olympics. And there’s not much clarity around how the NSSE would be implemented. Already, fear of deportation due to collaboration between the L.A. police and ICE has led to a sharp decrease in reports of sexual assault and domestic violence among L.A.'s Latino population.

There's no easy way out, though. Given the taxpayer guaranty in the HCC, which demands that Los Angeles and California cover any cost overruns from the Games, altering or removing the special security event designation would almost certainly devastate our city and state budget.

2. How much will the Olympics exacerbate homelessness and contribute to our affordable housing shortage? Earlier this year, our homeless population exploded by 23%. Previous Olympics have accelerated displacement and homelessness. Are there any safeguards in place to make sure that doesn’t happen here? (No, there are not.)

3. How can anyone claim full confidence in the Games’ financial success without a budget?

The bid committee doesn’t plan on submitting a budget for 2028 until 2018, long after the City Council signs a binding agreement. This is financial brinkmanship at its ugliest. Tokyo, which will host the Summer 2020 Games, is already roughly $8 billion over budget, nearly twice its original estimate, and its Games are still three years away.

4. How much will the Olympics increase police militarization?

Previous modern Olympics, including the L.A. Olympics in 1984, led to huge rises in unchecked data collecting and police militarization.

5. Why are Garcetti and the 2028 bid committee singing Trump’s praises?

LA2028 called Trump a "true partner" at a recent press conference. How can the mayor and our city fight Trump if they have to be partners? Doesn’t the Olympic bid stand in direct opposition to the goal of resistance?

6. Why does the IOC get to call the shots on timing?

The IOC set a contract deadline of Sept. 13 for an event that won’t happen for another 11 years. That’s their choice, but why is L.A. so willing to go along? The City Council has claimed that they’re not willing to host the Olympics “at any cost.” We should all have more time to parse this out.

In endorsing the 2028 Olympics, Garcetti et al keep repeating that tired “youth sports combat poverty” narrative. But youth sports and the Olympics won’t fix poverty, won’t fix homelessness, won’t fix our healthcare crisis, won’t fix our density and transit issues, won’t fix our prison system, and certainly won’t help our anemic public education system.

Los Angeles doesn’t need the Olympics. Garcetti has dozens of other priorities he and his staff should be focusing on. In so many ways, the L.A. of the past is dying, and we need a mayor who won’t gamble our future to create a win so he can ascend the national political ladder. It’s not too late for the City Council to delay the vote and do the right thing.

Jonny Coleman is an organizer with NOlympics LA.

This article originally stated that the bid committee would submit a budget for 2028 in 2019. Actually, it will submit a budget in 2018. It also implied that the National Special Security Event designation would void existing prohibitions on collaboration between local law enforcement and federal immigration agents. That is not the case.
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