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Olympic dreams

BARRY A. SANDERS is chairman of the Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games. Website: www.sccog.org.

LOS ANGELES HAS a historic opportunity, one that could unite Southern Californians and leave a legacy for our community.

The Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa have announced Los Angeles’ intention to bid for the 2016 Olympic Games. The United States Olympic Committee is considering whether it wants to offer an American bid. If it decides to go forward, the USOC must choose an American candidate city by 2007, and the International Olympic Committee will select the host city by 2009. If successful, Los Angeles would become the second city, after London, to host the Games three times.

Our chances of success are good, and the potential benefits are great.

By 2016, the Games will have been away from North America for 20 years, the longest such stretch since they first appeared live on television in 1960. Many believe it is time for them to return. But why Los Angeles?

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Los Angeles is a diverse, exciting and glamorous world city. Every language is spoken here. The Olympic teams of every nation have a dedicated base of fans here.

The Los Angeles area has existing infrastructure to handle this enormous event. We have in place virtually all of the necessary sports venues, transportation facilities and housing. Of the current 26 Olympic sports, 25 could be held in existing or temporary facilities. About two-thirds of these facilities are new since 1984, including Staples Center, Arrowhead Pond, the enlarged Los Angeles Convention Center and the Home Depot Center. We have added hundreds of miles of light and heavy rail lines.

With little construction needed, revenue from corporate sponsorships, television rights and ticket sales can ensure that the Games finish in the black and create future value for the Olympic movement, as in 1984. In that year, Los Angeles’ $235-million operating surplus was shared by the USOC and the local community, giving rise to the Amateur Athletic Foundation -- a lasting legacy for our young people.

For Los Angeles, there are plenty of reasons to want to bring the Games back. The Olympics are in our DNA. We offer ourselves and the Olympic movement the opportunity to make attending the Olympics a multigenerational family tradition.

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When L.A. bids, the Olympics will become not a 16-day event but an 11-year event that can help bind our community together in pursuit of a common, shared goal. Unlike other cities where the need to build stadiums and to use tax money for the Games can create controversy, in L.A. the Games traditionally receive near universal support. Our committee intends to draw on that support by inviting broad participation by the public.

Its members plan to break new ground by using the bid process itself to create a legacy for L.A. We will find the best ways to bring the Olympic ideals of body, mind and will to our young people, and not just after we have been chosen as the 2016 host. While bidding, we will sponsor local programs to inculcate into the lives of young Californians the values of the Olympics, which will enhance their education, health and character. We hope to win, and will work to win. But we expect to do lasting things for the young people of our community so that even if we are not selected, Los Angeles wins.

The character of other cities may be embedded in bricks and mortar, in a statue in the harbor or in bridges across a bay. But L.A.'s character is imagined as a place of exciting events and lofty dreams. We must do the special things, such as the Olympics, that keep our dreams alive and create the special experiences of a lifetime. Without these moments, we are not Los Angeles.


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