Los Angeles has been awarded the 2016 men’s and women’s Olympic marathon trials, a prestigious event that fits the city’s hope of bringing the Summer Games back in 2024.
The U.S. Olympic Team Trials-Marathon will be held Feb. 13, 2016, and will determine Team USA’s marathon entrants at the Rio de Janeiro Games. The races will take place on a multi-loop course that will be designed to closely simulate Rio’s course and will remain within Los Angeles, largely in the downtown area.
The men and women will have separate starts, and both races will be nationally televised.
The marathon trials will be followed a day later by the annual L.A. Marathon, whose executives moved up the 2016 race a month to create a weekend-long celebration of the sport. The L.A. Marathon will retain its “Stadium to the Sea” course.
“I think this is going to be the biggest running weekend in 30 years, since the birth of the women’s marathon at the ’84 Olympics,” said Tracey Russell, chief executive officer of L.A. Marathon LLC.
Los Angeles has never played host to the Olympic marathon trials. Its bid prevailed over fellow finalists Houston, site of the 2012 men’s and women’s marathon trials, and Cincinnati.
“We promise a world-class event that will showcase the best of L.A. and inspire athletes and fans alike,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday at a news conference outside the Coliseum, a landmark from the 1932 and 1984 Summer Olympics.
Garcetti called Los Angeles “the city that saved the Olympic movement” and said he would like to see other major events staged here, especially involving track and field. Los Angeles used to be a haven for track meets but a lack of sponsorship and competition from other sports drove those meets to extinction.
“We believe L.A. is and will continue to be the ideal location for future Olympic events of any size,” Garcetti said.
Athens Olympic marathon bronze medalist and American women’s marathon record holder Deena Kastor, who grew up in Agoura Hills, said she expects the 2016 trials to be a memorable experience for athletes and spectators.
“It’s an extraordinary day for the city, for someone who grew up here. All the athletes who will be competing are in for quite a show,” said Kastor, who has qualified to compete in the trials. “L.A. knows how to do this and present the athletes and the sport as best we can.”
The trials date was chosen to give runners enough recovery time to have the option of competing in other events at the U.S. Olympic track trials, to be held July 1-10 in Eugene, Ore.
Max Siegel, chief executive officer of USA Track and Field, said his organization was impressed by the bid from Los Angeles, “a brand-new partner in a city that has rich tradition of being involved in, and passion for, the Olympic movement.” He also said the plan’s public-private collaboration worked strongly in its favor.
“We wanted to put together an Olympic trials experience that would include events that engage the community, so we got a commitment from the group in L.A. to work with us to develop and host those type of events that will make this a fantastic experience,” he told The Times in an interview before the announcement.
AEG, which has a major presence downtown through its ownership of Staples Center, LA Live, two hotels and the Kings, assisted with the bid and offered its facilities and corporate support.
“We’re behind it all the way,” said Dan Beckerman, AEG’s chief executive officer. “Whatever we can do to support the bid, we want to do that.”
USATF President Stephanie Hightower, a former competitive hurdler, said Los Angeles more than met the organization’s criteria for choosing the host city.
“We look at several things: what the athlete experience will be like, and that’s first and foremost, how well the event will prepare athletes for the Olympic Games, and the amount of local support, for and from sponsors and television,” she said. “L.A. hit all of those out of the park.”
Russell said holding the Olympic trials a day before the L.A. Marathon will help the local race.
“We like to say we’re really aspiring to be a must-run, global marathon,” she said, “so by hosting the trials this is only going to help us as far as visibility as well as credibility as we move forward in the marathon industry as one of those must-run, global events.”