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Opinion

Opinion: Los Angeles might actually get the 2024 Olympics. Yikes! Are we sure we want to do this?

Olympics
An Olympic themed monument stands beside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Rival Budapest has dropped its bid for the 2024 Olympics.
(Mark Ralston / AFP/Getty Images)

It’s starting to seem all too real, people. With Budapest saying it will  drop out of the competition to host the 2024 Summer Games, only Los Angeles and Paris remain in the running to be named host city when the International Olympic Committee announces its decision in September.

Remember, when Mayor Eric Garcetti and other city officials first decided to compete against other U.S. cities to be the nation’s bid city for the 2024 Games, L.A. was a long shot. And indeed, the U.S. Olympic Committee picked Boston to represent — a bad decision, it turned out, because a good many Bostonians didn’t actually want the honor of being on the financial hook for an event many couldn’t even afford to attend. This left an opening for Los Angeles to step in as the nation’s bid city.

Since then, interest in hosting an Olympic Games has waned worldwide because, as Nate Silver’s oddsmaking blog FiveThirtyEight.com has noted, it is a terrible investment. One by one, other cities dropped out of the international competition — Hamburg, GermanyRome; and finally Budapest — all of them citing the potential cost involved.

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But Garcetti and other city officials are adamant that Angelenos have nothing to fear about getting stuck with a huge Olympic bill because the city has most of the sports venues and infrastructure in place. Also, they point to the one Olympics in modern times that hasn’t had serious cost overruns — the 1984 Summer Games in L.A. (Though what they don’t mention is that Angelenos back then also weren’t interested in paying billions for Olympics construction and voted on a “cost control” measure that forced then-Mayor Tom Bradley to tell the IOC the city was pulling out if it didn’t get a waiver for financial liability. It did.) The City Council has already voted to assume cost overruns if it comes to that.

I hope they are right that L.A. can’t possibly lose with this Olympic venture. But a lot can happen in the next seven years to upset the carefully crafted plans of the LA2024 committee. And if something does go wrong, Angelenos may have no choice but to follow the example of Quebecers, who taxed themselves extra for 30 years to pay off $1.5 billion in debt from the 1976 Games. Yikes.

mariel.garza@latimes.com

Follow me @marielgarzaLAT

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