Column: In shunning L.A., USOC turns down a gold-medal performer

Balloons are released at the Coliseum during opening ceremonies of the 1984 Olympic Games.
(Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times)

The U.S. Olympic Committee could have taken a big step toward bringing home the 2024 Summer Games on Thursday by nominating a diverse entertainment capital with perfect weather, sparkling venues, past Olympic experience and a welcoming public.

Instead, it chose Boston.

Huh? How on Earth does Los Angeles lose the Olympic bid to Boston? How does the only American city to host both an Olympics (twice) and a World Cup final lose a chance to bid on the planet’s biggest sports competition to a parochial burg that’s never even hosted a Super Bowl or Final Four?

It feels like a Kevin McHale clothesline. It looks like a Frank McCourt smirk. It makes absolutely no sense.

In trying to convince the International Olympic Committee to bring the Summer Games back to the United States for the first time in 28 years, the USOC would have had a better than decent chance with the safe and sensible choice of Los Angeles.

By choosing Boston, it essentially raised the white flag, albeit one with a Dunkin’ Donuts logo.


Start with the start. Where would the Boston opening ceremony take place? Right now, nowhere.

The city doesn’t have an Olympic-type stadium. It would have to build a one. We offered the Coliseum, they offered some blueprints for a 60,000-seat modular deal that would be torn down or repurposed after the Games. Just what the Olympic reputation needs, more millions of dollars shredded by cities trying to spend their way into international respect. Then again, one supposes anything is better than the idea of the world’s athletes winding their way through the creaky aisles of that firetrap known as Fenway Park.

Boston is currently missing a few other things, some of which are amazingly not mandatory for a nomination. Like a swimming pool. How do you bid for the Olympics without a place to house one of its most popular sports? Believe it or not, Boston would have to build an aquatics center, either that or fill up one of Bill Belichick’s hoodies. Boston also does not have a velodrome for cycling. And, oh yeah, about those 10,500 athletes who show up for the Games? Even with dozens of colleges dotting the landscape, Boston has not figured out one place to put them all.

But hey, you can bet they’ll be ready for the Olympic marathon.

Boston is an inspirational American icon of a city whose citizens have thrown tea parties and triumphed over terrorism. It’s filled with world-class education and culture. It’s a wonderful pro sports city with four major teams and crazy passion for them.

But it’s just not an Olympic city, not like Los Angeles, not even close.

It is impossible to fathom the USOC’s turning its back on the ready-made venues present in the Los Angeles bid, places within a javelin’s throw of each other like the Coliseum, Galen Center, Staples Center, Nokia Theatre, Dodger Stadium and Rose Bowl. Our Games would have stretched west to Pauley Pavilion and Drake Stadium, south to StubHub Center, and gone coastal for real actual beach volleyball and open-water swimming.

Boston’s Games can’t stretch anywhere. They will wind and snake and curl around the city’s ancient streets, creating the sort of traffic jams that somehow never occurred during Los Angeles’ wildly successful 1984 Olympics.

Then there’s this: Los Angeles residents have proved they would welcome the Games, while many in Boston already don’t want them. A Boston Globe poll last summer reported that 43% of the townsfolk opposed the Olympic invasion, mostly because of the high costs and hassles that Los Angeles either won’t incur or can calmly handle. What does it say about Boston that the most notable part of its presentation to the USOC last month was the “No Boston Olympics” protesters outside the doors? That’s right, they were picketing even the idea of the Olympics. They were the only naysayers in sight. Yet Boston was still chosen over Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., by Olympic officials who are foolishly trying to outguess the strange minds of the IOC.

The USOC’s fear was that the world’s Olympic bosses would look at Los Angeles as “been there, done that.” The thought was that the IOC is always hoping to cross new borders, forge new territory, bring the Games to groundbreaking places.

That is, incidentally, how they ended up in the mess that was Sochi.

But what if they are sick of uncertainty? What if they are weary of the cultural and logistical problems that arose in places like Beijing? With huge TV dollars at stakes, mostly flowing from the United States, what if they just wanted to, for once, relax and send the Games to a U.S. entertainment capital that was ready, willing and able to host them?

That is Los Angeles. That is not Boston. There seems to be little that the IOC will like or even understand about Boston. This means the 2024 Summer Games are probably going to end up elsewhere, maybe in Africa for the first time, in Johannesburg, which is cool enough.

But they could have come to the United States and hit a home run in an ideal Southland summer home. Instead, their only choice will be no choice at all. The Olympics are a ground ball, and Boston is Bill Buckner.

Twitter: @billplaschke