The International Olympic Committee executive board on Friday unanimously recommended that the IOC award both the 2024 and 2028 Summer Olympics simultaneously this summer, an unprecedented move that increases the likelihood Los Angeles will host.
So is it a done deal that Los Angeles will be awarded either the 2024 or 2028 Games?
Done deal? No. Very likely? Yes. But a few more hurdles need to be cleared. IOC president Thomas Bach was exceptionally careful during a Friday teleconference with reporters not to step on the toes of his IOC members, whose biggest perk in their gig is to award a new host city every two years. The membership will vote on the executive board's recommendation during a special meeting at IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, on July 11 and 12. Should that vote pass, as many expect, Bach said conversations will then begin between the IOC, Paris and Los Angeles to create a set of circumstances that would result in a "win-win-win" for all three parties. "It's a pretty complicated procedure," Bach said. "We don't want to decide this unilaterally."
Why is the IOC doing this in the first place? Why doesn't it just pick a winner for 2024 and worry about 2028 in four years?
Finding cities willing to line up and spend a few billion dollars to host the Olympics isn't nearly as easy as it once was -- especially in Western democracies. Seven of the past 11 bid cities have bailed on their proposals midcampaign due to everything from cost concerns to failed public referendums. Now that the IOC has two finalists for 2024 that its evaluation commission believes are exceptional, it wants both. Or, as Bach explained in the most unique of ways Friday, "In German, we have a saying. It is better to have a small bird in your hand than a big bird on your roof. Well, we have two big birds in our hands. And I cannot see any small bird on the roof. There may be some flying around the roof making noise, but none has landed on the roof; so, this is an opportunity to keep these two big birds in our hands."
Is the city that will have to wait until 2028 technically the "loser?"
Don't let Bach hear you say that "L" word. One of the reasons he likes the idea of awarding both cities with a bid is he believes the Olympic host city bid process creates "too many losers." Contrary to what some number-crunching academics might suggest, Bach couldn't possibly envision a scenario in which a city winning the right to host the Olympics would be considered a loser. In fact, he suggested Friday that the IOC would need to put even greater trust in the city selected to host in 2028. "It's an expression of mutual confidence," Bach said. "We would express our confidence in this city, maybe even more than in the city for '24 because it is such a long-term commitment."
OK, but there has to be some sort of incentive for one city to step aside and take 2028, right?
That was the prevailing thought heading into Friday, with Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti insinuating last week that perhaps there would be some sort of financial incentive that could help youth sports in Los Angeles. There is also talk that the IOC might increase the amount it gives to the 2028 city to help offset the cost of hosting the Games. Right now, the amount for 2024 is set at roughly $1.7 billion, and the city that has to wait until 2028 will likely request additional funds to keep its operation running an additional four years.
Having said all that, Bach didn't exactly sound like he was ready to open the Olympic coffers. "I don't think you need to reward somebody if you give somebody a present," he said. "This city would get the right to host the Olympic Games without the risk of a defeat in an election procedure. This is a win-win for the candidate city and the IOC, and it would put this city on an equal basis with the 2024 city."
So, if the IOC membership agrees to this recommendation in July, what happens next?
Bach was very limited with specifics Friday. He was also somewhat confusing. He said discussions and negotiations between the IOC, Paris and L.A. won't start until the IOC membership agrees to the proposal. At the same time, Bach said the IOC has already had discussions with both cities about dual bids and "nobody has closed the door."
After the IOC membership vote next month, the behind-the-scenes negotiations will begin. Paris has publicly positioned itself as only interested in hosting in 2024. L.A. has been more flexible, with bid chair Casey Wasserman releasing a statement Wednesday saying, in part, "We didn't say it's 'L.A. first,' or it's 'now or never for LA.' We don't believe in ultimatums. We believe in partnership."
For now, Bach said the race for 2024 will go on as initiated. When asked Friday if both cities are open to the idea of hosting in 2028, he seemingly danced around the issue. "I think both cities are open to being approached by the IOC after such a vote to discuss how to achieve a win-win-win situation. This is what I'm gathering from our conversations with the candidate cities."
There are two cities remaining. If the IOC members agree to this dual bid process, there will be two Olympic Games to award. Doesn't that take away all the drama?
It will certainly be far less of a spectacle than what we've seen in previous years. The IOC is expected to announce the host city for the 2024 Olympic Games at the 130th IOC Congress on Sept. 13 in Lima, Peru. Bach said Friday there will still be a vote in Lima. Again, he doesn't want to alienate his membership. But, at this point, at least publicly, no one really knows what the members will be voting on.
Will there be a sheet of paper with 2024 and 2028 on it and they will pick which city they think should host which Games? Will they merely pick the winner for 2024 and then allow IOC leadership to begin negotiations with the runner-up city for 2028? At this point, it's unclear ... or the IOC is disinclined to publicly reveal its plans until after the membership vote in July. Bach did say the working group of four IOC vice presidents that initially investigated the possibility of a dual bid and recommended the executive board move forward with the idea will continue to explore over the next three months how to make this all work logistically.
What was LA 2024's response to Friday's news?
Shiny, happy and brief. About what you'd expect. In a short statement attributed to Garcetti and Wasserman, the committee said, "We welcome the IOC Executive Board's decision to recognize two excellent bids from two of the world's greatest cities. With no new permanent venues to build and unwavering public support, Los Angeles is an eternal Olympic city and ideal partner for the IOC. We look forward to sharing our unique story with the IOC membership in July and working together to offer the best path forward for our city and the Olympic Movement's future."