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Boston beats out L.A. to be sole U.S. bidder for 2024 Olympics

Boston beats out L.A. to be sole U.S. bidder for 2024 Olympics

From the start, Los Angeles seemed like a safe choice to bid for the 2024 Olympics.

The Summer Games had been here twice before, in 1932 and 1984, and both times were successful. From the Rose Bowl southward to StubHub Center, there were ample stadiums and arenas in place.

But, in the end, it seems that city officials could not overcome a sense of been-there, done-that, losing out Thursday afternoon when the U.S. Olympic Committee unexpectedly named Boston as the nation’s official bid candidate.

“This selection is in recognition of our city’s talent, diversity and global leadership,” Mayor Marty Walsh said. “Boston hopes to welcome the world’s greatest athletes to one of the world’s greatest cities.”

The Massachusetts capital has focused its bid on creating a technology-based, “walkable” Games that would make use of numerous universities and colleges in the area.

“We couldn’t be more excited about the partnership we’ve established with the leadership team in Boston,” USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun said.

The USOC, whose board members convened at Denver International Airport, said in its news release the decision required “a spirited discussion and more than one round of voting.”

The result surprised many in and around the U.S. Olympic movement who had considered Los Angeles and San Francisco to be front-runners. The fourth finalist — Washington — was seen as a dark horse. The U.S. last hosted the Summer Olympics in Atlanta in 1996.

“I want to congratulate the city of Boston and hope the Games will be back on American soil in 2024,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said. “I’m incredibly proud of the bid we submitted.”

The mayor coordinated Los Angeles’ campaign from his office over the past eight months. Joined by sports executive Casey Wasserman, he proposed dividing the competition into several clusters.

Staples Center and a revamped Coliseum would have anchored a downtown grouping that would also have included Galen Center, Nokia Theatre, an expanded Convention Center.

UCLA and the beaches would have formed a coastal cluster. In Carson, numerous events could have been held at StubHub Center with its stadium, tennis facilities and velodrome.

In a departure from the 1984 Olympics, several venues would have been placed in the San Fernando Valley.

Though the Coliseum and the Rose Bowl — for soccer — hardly would have been new, Garcetti’s group placed 80% of events in venues either constructed or significantly refurbished after 1984.

Apparently, that wasn’t persuasive enough for USOC officials.

On a larger scale, the International Olympic Committee traditionally has sought to expand its brand — which has translated into placing the Games in cities where they have never been before, said Laurence Chalip, a University of Illinois professor who follows the Olympic movement.

The 2008 Beijing Olympics, for instance, offered access to the world’s largest developing market. The city is now a finalist to host the 2022 Winter Games.

“There’s another issue,” Chalip said. “Who’s going to throw the best party?”

Boston could put the Summer Olympics in the Northeast for the first time, placing events in a historically rich setting. The city also has a vibrant sports tradition that includes Fenway Park’s “Green Monster” and the Boston Celtics’ parquet floor.

These highlights overcame a well-organized opposition campaign.

“The boosters behind Boston 2024 won today,” a group called No Boston Olympics said in a statement Thursday. “But our Commonwealth is poorer for it.”

The cost of hosting the Games will almost certainly be a topic of public discussion in the coming months and years.

Last winter, Russia spent an estimated $51 billion on the 2014 Sochi Olympics. More recently, several candidate cities withdrew from consideration for the 2022 Winter Games, citing money as a major concern.

The IOC recently adopted a reform package that, among other things, seeks to make the Olympics more affordable.

The USOC emphasized that during the domestic competition and all four finalists submitted proposals with operating budgets of $3 billion to $5 billion. That would not include venue and infrastructure expenses.

Los Angeles was considered a particularly affordable candidate with so many venues in place. Boston officials have proposed cutting costs by holding a majority of events at temporary sites.

“We are passionate about sports because we believe in the power of sport to transform our city and inspire the world’s youth,” said John Fish, chairman of the winning bid committee. “A Boston Games can be one of the most innovative, sustainable and exciting in history.”

With USOC approval in hand, Fish’s group now begins the challenging work of charming IOC members.

Bid submissions are due by September with final applications required in early 2016. That spring, the IOC will winnow the candidates down to a few finalists.

If, as expected, the American bid advances, representatives of Boston would meet with IOC officials on many occasions and make an appearance at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games. An IOC evaluation commission would also visit Massachusetts.

The IOC will select the winning candidate in September, 2017. Rome is already a candidate, with bids expected from Germany and others.

Anita DeFrantz, a veteran IOC member from Los Angeles, expressed optimism about Boston’s bid, saying: “I very much want to bring the Games to the United States to share the incredible spirit of the Games with another generation of Americans.”

Twitter: @LATimesWharton

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