Opinion

Mayor backs away from cool ideas with big price tags for L.A. 2024 Olympics

Those worried about the cost to Angelenos should the city win a bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics will be relieved by Mayor Eric Garcetti's announcement today that UCLA will house the athletes, same as it did in 1984.

It was a shrewd move by the mayor to deflate the biggest single source of the controversy related to the city's Olympic bid so far -- the proposal to build an Olympic Village along the L.A. River near downtown.

The village proposal was sort of a two-birds-with-one-stone idea. Los Angeles badly needs more housing, and city officials envisioned the athlete's housing being transformed into private housing once the games were over. Piggyback Yard, owned by Union Pacific Railroad, is one of the few places in the city where such a large-scale housing project would be feasible.

Cool idea, but one with many potential problems, starting with the fact that Union Pacific Railroad owns the land and ending with the risk associated with building a $1-billion -- maybe as much as $2-billion --  project.

A little extra economy on the front end is wise especially in light of the Olympic jitters afflicting other cities competing for the 2024 games. Hamburg, Germany, pulled out of the competition in November after the public voted in favor of dropping the bid. And while Hungary's high court last week rejected a referendum vote on Budapest's bid, it hasn't stopped efforts to put it to some sort of vote. There's talk too of an Olympics bid referendum in Rome.

And let us not forget that the only reason L.A. is the U.S. representative in the 2024 bidding is because Boston famously bowed out after residents decided the costs for hosting the games was too high.

It's not at all clear which cities will still be in play when the winning city is picked in September 2017, but Garcetti seems intent on making sure L.A. is one of them.

 

mariel.garza@latimes.com

Follow me @marielgarzaLAT

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