Sports

LA 2024 officials try to impress IOC President Thomas Bach during tour of L.A.

A cold breeze rose up by late afternoon but the soccer players waited around.

When Thomas Bach finally arrived at the intramural field on UCLA's campus, the students kicked the ball with him, then let him take a penalty shot.

"All of this was very well prepared," a smiling Bach said.

It was no accident the president of the International Olympic Committee got to play for a few minutes Monday.

Los Angeles represented the final stop in Bach's tour of four cities — including Paris, Rome and Budapest — that are bidding to host the 2024 Summer Games. LA 2024 officials wanted to make an impression.

"It was a very short but good introduction," said Anita DeFrantz, a long-time IOC member who has assumed a role in the bid. "I think it was important for us."

The day began at 8 a.m. as Mayor Eric Garcetti and Herb Wesson, president of the Los Angeles City Council, hosted Bach for breakfast. The group proceeded to USC to hear about proposed media housing on that campus and renovations to the Coliseum.

Bach had already visited Staples Center the night before, meeting Kobe Bryant and watching the Lakers.

"You are in a very fortunate position to have so many sports facilities," he said later.

UCLA was probably the most important stop, with Garcetti donning a blue U.S. team jacket and former Olympians such as Carl Lewis, Bart Conner and Nadia Comaneci in attendance.

Last week, LA 2024 proposed housing athletes on the Westwood campus, thereby saving $1 billion or more on construction of a separate Olympic village.

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The cost-cutting plan drew praise from Andrew Zimbalist, an economics professor at Smith College in Massachusetts who has studied the business of the Games.

"I think it's a bold move," said Zimbalist, who wrote "Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup." He added: "It carries some risk."

For IOC voters, visions of modest dorms might come to mind. So bid officials showed Bach the student housing and adjacent sports venues such as Drake Stadium and the Wooden Center that athletes could use during the Games. The group ate lunch at a dining hall.

UCLA and USC housed athletes during the 1984 Summer Games but Scott Blackmun, chief executive of the U.S. Olympic Committee, said colleges are now forced to offer more.

"It's a different world than it was in 1984 when you were really just trying to find a place to put the students," Blackmun said. "Now people have to compete for students."

After spending a final few minutes with the soccer players, Bach praised all four bid cities and offered a reminder that only one will be selected.

"There is no silver, there is no bronze," he said. "It is only the gold medal."

The competition will stretch another 19 months with host candidates vying to impress IOC voters around the world. DeFrantz said Bach was only a first step.

"It's the rest of my colleagues that have to understand this is a 21st Century L.A.," she said. "We have some time."

david.wharton@latimes.com

Twitter: @LATimesWharton

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on February 02, 2016, in the Sports section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "LA 2024 officials try to impress Bach - L.A. is the IOC president's final stop on his tour of four Olympic bid cities." — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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