L.A. puts on its best face for USOC visitors

Times Staff Writer

The political chess game, Olympic style, continued in Los Angeles and Chicago on Thursday -- in front of the cameras and behind the scenes.

Los Angeles and Chicago are the finalists to become the U.S. bid city for the Summer Games in 2016, and an evaluation team from the U.S. Olympic Committee was in Los Angeles, meeting with officials from the Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games at UCLA. The first day of a two-day visit was sunny and smog-free, the kind of day usually served up for the Rose Bowl game.

Not so coincidentally, two time zones away, bid officials from Chicago made sure the spotlight didn’t stray far, holding a gala dinner and raising $9.4 million, according to organizers. The USOC will pick either Los Angeles or Chicago on April 14.


The theme of the Chicago dinner was, “You Can Make It Happen.”

Los Angeles’ message was a short film produced by Disney: “Why L.A?”

Featured were Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Olympic gold medalists Mark Spitz, Serena Williams, Carl Lewis, Peter Vidmar and Janet Evans, among others.

Day 1 in L.A. featured presentations to evaluators on more than a dozen themes, ranging from transportation, accommodations, marketing, medical capabilities and security. Evaluators also saw the Disney film and went on a walking tour of what will be the athletes’ village at UCLA.

Today’s schedule includes a morning bus tour of some of the venues, starting with the Home Depot Center in Carson, and finishing in downtown Los Angeles.

USOC officials will be conducting a news conference after a tour of Staples Center and one topic is almost certain to come up -- L.A.’s traffic problem.

Villaraigosa addressed that issue Thursday, speaking about the last time Los Angeles played host to the Games.

“In 1984, people talked about doomsday and Armageddon,” he said. “And yet traffic flowed. It flowed because there were leadership decisions made.... We expect full cooperation.”