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As Paris has Olympic struggles, L.A. should watch, learn and plan for 2028 Games

As Paris has Olympic struggles, L.A. should watch, learn and plan for 2028 Games
The Coliseum is framed by a plexiglass sign after Los Angeles was awarded the rights to host the 2028 Olympic Games on Sept. 13, 2017. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

The 2028 Summer Olympics are still almost 10 years off, but Los Angeles might do well to keep an eye on Paris as that city prepares for the 2024 Games.

This week, French President Emmanuel Macron complained that the 2024 organizing committee was not doing enough for poor neighborhoods that would be affected by the Olympics.

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“At the moment, we are not meeting the goals we should have for the parts of the Paris region that are most affected by this big event,” Macron was quoted as saying by Agence France-Presse. “So we are going to work on it because, for now, I’m not happy.”

The Olympic movement likes to talk about “legacy,” portraying itself as an agent for social good. With all the money that is spent on the massive sporting event, host cities are supposed to benefit in ways that extend beyond elite competition and last well after the Games are gone.

But too often in the past, these cities instead have been left with huge debt from the construction of stadiums and arenas.

Los Angeles has a different sort of Olympic history, staging successful Games in 1932 and 1984. In the latter case, hundreds of millions in surplus revenue continue to pay for public and youth recreation through the LA84 Foundation.

The 2028 organizing committee has insisted it can produce another winner by increasing sponsor revenues and, just as importantly, cutting costs through the use of existing venues such as Staples Center, Pauley Pavilion and the soon-to-be-completed NFL stadium in Inglewood.

As part of an unusual Olympic bidding competition that saw Paris get 2024 and L.A. agree to wait another four years, the International Olympic Committee guaranteed the LA 2028 a $180-million advance. Organizers have, in turn, pledged to begin funding youth programs citywide even before the Games come to town.

Organizers have an agreement with the city to produce a public benefit plan by September. On Friday, an LA 2028 spokesman said his group remained on track to present such a blueprint.

Compare that to what appears to be transpiring in Paris, where impoverished areas such Seine-Saint-Denis are still waiting. The 2024 organizing committee said it welcomed Macron’s comments.

“We will obviously be able to go further in helping people with a state that is highly motivated at our side,” said Tony Estanguet, a former Olympic canoeist who is heading Olympic preparations.

With considerable lead time, L.A. officials have a chance to stay ahead of the game.

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