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L.A. the Best Site, Bid Group Insists

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Intent on using existing facilities and staging a Games without government subsidies, officials with the failed Los Angeles 2012 Olympics bid say they still believe they had the right idea--even though the U.S. Olympic Committee clearly found the L.A. approach lacking.

“Our bid was like a square peg trying to fit in a round hole from [the USOC’s] point of view,” bid president David Simon said after the USOC on Friday knocked Los Angeles out of the race for 2012, along with Cincinnati, Dallas and Tampa, Fla.

Going forward are New York, San Francisco, Washington and Houston. Next year, the USOC will select one of those four to be the U.S. candidate; thereafter, in 2005, the International Olympic Committee will pick the 2012 site. Berlin, Madrid, Moscow, Rio de Janeiro and perhaps Toronto top the list of other serious contenders.

New York emerged after the Friday USOC vote as the U.S. front-runner, the city that for months has generated talk within the IOC among the U.S. candidates. The impact of the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon is, however, far from clear.

Peter Ueberroth, chief of the 1984 Los Angeles Games, said Saturday, “I would assume and applaud New York as a front-runner, and I’d encourage all those in the Los Angeles bid group to be their typical good sports and congratulate those who are going to get to spend money on their plans over another four years.”

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Los Angeles, site of the 1932 and 1984 Games, had sought to become the first city to stage the Games three times.

John Argue, chairman of the L.A. 2012 bid, observed Saturday, “One could say, look, this is a great country, we’ve got lots of great cities, L.A. has had [the Games] twice, other cities haven’t had it all--who’s to say they couldn’t do a great job at it?

“That’s a hard argument to answer.”

His response: “Some places are just better at one thing than others. L.A. happens to be better suited to the Olympics than others. We just are. We have venues. They’re used every day. We don’t have to build them. That means the risk to the taxpayers is much less.”

The L.A. 2012 plan sought to incorporate proven highlights from 1984. The Olympic Village, for instance, would have again been placed in residence halls at UCLA and USC.

The USOC indicated it wanted something new. But Simon said, “We weren’t going to be building new facilities.”

The L.A. plan also called for extensive use of existing facilities--several of them new since 1984, including Staples Center and Arrowhead Pond. Of the roughly three dozen venues in the 2012 plan, only 14 were used in 1984. Only one venue, a shooting range, needed to be built from scratch.

Construction costs for the shooting range--and other projects, including replacing the Coliseum track--amounted to less than $100 million, about 5% of the L.A. 2012 projected budget.

As in 1984, the Games would have been privately financed. The budget called for a profit conservatively estimated at $96 million.

Intriguingly, the L.A. plan was directly in line with calls by recently elected IOC President Jacques Rogge to downsize the costs and size of the Games.

Construction costs typically are the No. 1 item on the expense side of an Olympic ledger.

“It would be better,” the L.A. 2012 team had asserted in a written summary of the bid, “to have a host whose credentials, experience and finances were beyond question. Los Angeles offers this opportunity.”

All along, Argue and others said, the L.A. bid team figured it had a better chance with the IOC than the USOC. The idea had been to position Los Angeles as a “safe harbor,” particularly after the 2004 Games in Athens, preparations for which have been dogged by delay, and the 2008 Games in Beijing. The Games have never before been held in China.

If a U.S. or Canadian city doesn’t win in 2012, Argue said, Los Angeles will again be in the running for the next Games, in 2016.

Ueberroth said, “As far as I know in history, Los Angeles has never really won any bid for the Olympic Games.

“It competed for the 1976 Games and finished third of three. It competed for the 1980 Games, finished second of two. In 1984 the Olympic world family had no other choice,” selecting L.A. after Tehran, the only other city to show interest in staging the 1984 Games, dropped out. “It was not dissimilar in 1932, when Los Angeles had to rescue the Olympic movement.

“I think,” Ueberroth said, “that Los Angeles will get the Games again, probably before any other U.S. city. But it will be as the result of filling a worldwide need for sportswomen and sportsmen to compete under the Olympic banner. That’s the only way it has worked in the past and that’s the only way it will work in the future.”


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