L.A. Seen as Immune to Any IOC Backlash
With memories of the grid-locked and brain-locked Atlanta Olympics still causing pain around the temples, the International Olympic Committee now deals with the headache of Salt Lake City, target site of four investigations into alleged vote-buying during its campaign to host the 2002 Winter Games.
This is not the recommended route for persuading the IOC to plant another Olympics on American soil, as Los Angeles and seven other U.S. cities currently are trying to do.
The 2012 Summer Games are the prize at stake, with Los Angeles bidding to add them to an Olympic portfolio that already includes the Summer Games of 1932 and 1984.
Los Angeles’ track record with the IOC is a good one, and two current IOC members--Anita DeFrantz and Jim Easton--live in the area. But the errors of Atlanta and the alleged transgressions of Salt Lake City loom as potential obstacles to the 2012 bid process.
Obstacles too big for the IOC to ignore?
“I don’t think so,” says John Argue, the Los Angeles attorney who directed the city’s 1984 Olympic bid and is chairman of the 2012 bid committee. “L.A. has an absolutely pristine record with [the IOC].
“We’ve had the Games twice. We’ve put them on--they think--well. And there wasn’t a hint of scandal, then or now.
“I would think that would probably help us. We’re a safe place for the Olympics to go.”
DeFrantz, an IOC vice president, acknowledges she is not unbiased on the issue, having been instrumental in the organization of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and now president of the Los Angeles-based Amateur Athletic Foundation.
“I guess if I were not someone who lived here, it would be more acceptable to say these things, but I’ll say them anyhow,” DeFrantz says. “Los Angeles has a very clear conscience. On bidding for the Games. On putting them on. We did a good job. . . .
“And, by the way, we did not cheat. Unequivocally. I am absolutely certain. According to John Argue, we did not even invite anybody [to inspect the city]. They came on their own accord.”
Times have changed, of course, since Los Angeles launched that bid in the late 1970s. Then, the Olympics were seen as such a financial drain and logistical hassle that only two cities--Los Angeles and Tehran--bid for the 1984 Games. Once Tehran withdrew after the deposing of the shah, Los Angeles was the lone candidate.
The bid process, according to David Simon, president of the Los Angeles 2012 bid committee, “wound up a big contract negotiation, is what it was.”
After Los Angeles showed it was possible to put on an Olympics and turn a profit, the game changed. Now, the bid procedure has turned into a manic exercise in out-wining-and-dining the other candidate cities--spawning an atmosphere that, it is alleged, encouraged Salt Lake City to ply IOC members with lavish gifts, college scholarships and free medical care.
The ripples emanating from Salt Lake City won’t capsize the Los Angeles bid, DeFrantz says, because “One of the amazing things about the IOC, if one looks at the history, is that every time you think you have a trend or believe that you’ve got it figured out, you’ll find that there is an exception.
“The ’76 [Winter] Games that were to be held in Denver were given up in ’74. Denver had a problem with public financing and two years before the Games, it said, ‘Thanks, but we can’t do it.’ Well, what happened in 1980? Lake Placid.
“In spite of what happened with Denver, Lake Placid got the 1980 Winter Games.”
Argue contends that the IOC “understands the difference between L.A. and any of the other [U.S.] cities involved. I know they do. For example, whatever happened in Atlanta, I don’t think rubbed off on us at all.
“Atlanta took a lot of pains to make sure it was not Los Angeles during the bid and during the Games. They took a lot of pride in making it ‘a Southern Games’ and not a Los Angeles Games. That’s just the way they played it.
“I don’t think anybody has any misunderstanding as far as the difference between L.A. and the other cities in the United States.”
A campaign slogan appears to be crystallizing: “L.A. 2012--We’re Not Atlanta and We’re Not Salt Lake.”
“We are a large country,” DeFrantz says. “And we are a country that has, save for a nanosecond [the 1980 U.S. Olympic boycott], been absolutely loyal to the Olympic movement--and I think that’s well understood throughout the world.”
For that reason, Simon believes there will not be an IOC backlash against the United States.
"[IOC President Juan Antonio] Samaranch always says that the USOC is the IOC’s most important national Olympic committee,” he says. “I think the U.S. is too valuable overall to the Olympic movement for this one thing to reflect negatively on the overall U.S. relationship [with the IOC].
“It has potential to reflect poorly on the Salt Lake-IOC relationship, but that’s different from the USOC-IOC relationship, I believe. And with the USOC seeming to act quickly and make some recommendations to make sure nothing like this happens again, to me, that’s the most important thing. . . .
“On the other hand, even if there were a U.S. backlash, I don’t think it would affect L.A. L.A.'s credibility within the Olympic movement is separate from what’s going on in Salt Lake.”