Los Angeles could be a step closer to hosting the 2024 Summer Olympics, with a rival bid from Rome sinking into political turmoil this week.
Speaking at a news conference Wednesday, the mayor of the Italian capital insisted that staging the Games would be financially irresponsible and asked the city assembly to vote on withdrawing from consideration.
"In light of the data we have, these Olympics are not sustainable,” Mayor Virginia Raggi told reporters. “They will bring only debt.”
If Rome bows out, L.A. would be left to compete against only Paris and Budapest, Hungary, in a race that has narrowed considerably with two other candidates having withdrawn over cost concerns.
“Technically, the Rome bid is still alive, but realistically I think it’s dead,” said Robert Livingstone, who follows Olympic bidding for the website Gamesbids.com. “I don’t see how they could move forward without the mayor’s support.”
Leaders of the Rome 2024 bid committee have vowed to forge ahead.
“The City Council will be responsible for what they have announced today,” they said via social media Wednesday. “We are going on until the formal decision."
Their campaign has a chance to survive if only because Raggi’s position, just three months after her election, has become tenuous with a number of top ministers resigning this month.
Yet because the International Olympic Committee wants its candidate cities to have the support of local government, anything short of her leaving office would probably be insufficient.
If Rome ends its bid, the effect on Los Angeles’ chances could be sizable.
“Obviously it narrows the field and it removes a very significant, symbolic capital,” said John J. MacAloon, a University of Chicago historian who has studied Olympic bidding and was involved in his city’s failed attempt to host the 2016 Games.
From the start, Los Angeles and Paris have been considered the front-runners for 2024.
The subtraction of Rome could lead to some political machinations when IOC voters cast their ballots in September 2017. With one less candidate to split the Western European vote, more support could gather behind Paris.
But that dynamic could dissipate as the multi-round vote proceeds to its final stages.
Budapest remains in the picture as a dark horse. Hungary has a significant sporting heritage and has put together an intriguing proposal for a smaller, more intimate Games.
As for Italy, its bid troubles do not come as a surprise.
Rome withdrew from the 2020 race only a few years ago. This time, as a candidate of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, Raggi made opposition to the Games a theme of her mayoral campaign.
Subsequent efforts to persuade her otherwise fell short and Wednesday’s announcement delivered a blow to the IOC, which has struggled to attract suitors in recent years.
Cost concerns led to a number of cities’ quitting the race for the 2022 Winter Games.
Olympic leaders quickly adopted reforms to make bidding and hosting more feasible. The changes seemed to work, at least initially, when five viable contenders announced their candidacies for 2024.
But lingering doubts soon caused Boston and Hamburg, Germany, to withdraw.
“This is not what the IOC needs right now,” said Jules Boykoff, a political science professor at Pacific University in Oregon who recently spent five months in Brazil studying the 2016 Summer Games. “If you’re them, you want a wide field of candidates … that makes you look strong.”
Since stepping in to replace Boston last September, the private LA 2024 bid committee has raised tens of millions to fund its campaign.
Bid leaders — working with Mayor Eric Garcetti — have proposed a budget for the Games that could exceed $6 billion. They predict broadcast rights, corporate sponsorships and other revenue streams can pay for all costs while generating a $161-million surplus.
An LA 2024 spokesman declined to comment on the situation in Rome.
One less bidder should not cause Los Angeles or any other remaining bid city to make any radical changes to its campaign, experts said.
“Fewer candidates make it less likely that a surprise can take place,” MacAloon said. “In that sense, it makes for a straighter horse race.”