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Olympic bids by L.A., 2 other cities face tough issues

French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve delivers a speech Friday on behalf of Paris, which hopes to host the 2024 Olympic Games.
(Associated Press)

This week should have been a time of pure celebration for the three cities campaigning to host the 2024 Summer Olympics.

Bid leaders from Los Angeles, Paris and Budapest, Hungary, submitted their final documents to International Olympic Committee headquarters, culminating months of painstaking work.

Yet, developments on Friday reminded each of the cities that difficult issues remain.

LA 2024 faces concerns about President Trump and his international policies — a tense situation that prompted Iran to bar U.S. wrestlers from a prestigious tournament in that country.

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In Paris, the specter of terrorism resurfaced as soldiers shot a machete-wielding attacker outside the Louvre Museum.

And Budapest 2024 leaders declined to release the specifics of their bid, waiting as a Hungarian political organization collects signatures for a possible referendum on the issue.

Though politics are not supposed to influence the IOC, its membership does not exist in a vacuum.

“People are people,” said Dick Pound, an influential member from Canada. “They decide things for different reasons.”

Now that all the paperwork is filed, the candidates will embark on an “international promotion” stage during which they have numerous opportunities to meet with the 90 or so Olympic voters.

Each city will be visited by evaluators, then receive feedback during a July dress rehearsal at IOC headquarters in Switzerland. Members will cast their votes in Lima, Peru, in September.

“We are certain the merits of our bid are outstanding,” said Casey Wasserman, chairman of the private LA 2024 committee. “And I’m confident that IOC members will see our bid as that.”

Answering questions about Trump is nothing new to the L.A. group. Bid leaders heard rumblings of concerns at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro last summer and addressed the issue again at an international sports assembly in the fall.

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On Friday, Iran’s official IRNA news agency reported that U.S. wrestlers will not be allowed to enter the country for the Freestyle World Cup later this month, a decision triggered in part by Trump’s executive order banning travel visas for citizens of Iran and six other predominantly Muslim countries.

While the announcement may have been politically predictable, it came as a jolt to the sports world because Iran and the U.S. have for nearly two decades enjoyed a close relationship when it comes to wrestling.

The mood among IOC members has been mixed.

Samih Moudallal of Syria issued a statement expressing confidence the U.S. would ultimately “support the Olympic values.” But Richard Peterkin of St. Lucia tweeted: “Trump’s executive order on immigration is totally contrary to Olympic ideals.”

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So it probably makes sense — from a competitive standpoint — that Paris 2024’s proposal begins with the line: “Olympism and its values of universality, diversity and friendship have never held more meaning than they do today.”

The French bid features numerous venues clustered on the banks of the Seine river. The city’s many landmarks would play a leading role, with beach volleyball in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower and equestrian events held on the grounds at Versailles.

The average ticket price for the opening ceremony would be less than $1,500, as compared to more than $1,700 in L.A. Paris’ overall average would be $117 as compared to $137.

The total organizing budget for Paris 2024 is estimated at about $4 billion, an amount that does not include the construction of an arena, aquatics center and the often costly athletes’ village. L.A. bid leaders have projected they could stage the Games for $5.3 billion with no major structures to build.

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But finances are only part of the story for the French, who have faced concerns stemming from two major terrorist attacks in Paris in 2015 and another in Nice last July.

The bid devotes several pages to the subject of security and promises “the French government is committed to implement, if necessary, additional measures to guarantee the effectiveness of Games’ safety.”

The assailant at the Louvre on Friday shouted “Allahu Akbar” as he rushed at soldiers in what authorities characterized as “a terror attack.” He was hospitalized in a life-threatening condition.

As for the Budapest bid, details remained unclear.

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Hungarian officials recently decided to delay the final stage of their campaign until they know whether a group called the Momentum Movement has collected enough signatures to force a referendum. Previous attempts to bring the bid to a vote have failed.

On Friday, a spokesman for Budapest 2024 told the Los Angeles Times in an email: “We will publish the [full bid] once we start the international promotion.”

Pound said the next eight months should give candidates sufficient time to address each of their challenges and provide IOC membership with answers to a crucial question.

“You have an increasingly sharp focus now,” Pound said. “Can you be convincing about why it should be you instead of somebody else?”

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david.wharton@latimes.com

Follow @LAtimesWharton on Twitter


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