As Los Angeles begins work on a potential bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics, Asics L.A. Marathon CEO Tracey Russell and other organizers are already preparing for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon on Feb. 16, 2016.
The course design for the trials has not been finalized, but may be revealed by the March 15 running of the 2015 LA Marathon. It is expected to be a criterium-style course with a two-mile first loop and then four six-mile loops run central to downtown Los Angeles.
“We originally wanted to do a course that would emulate [the 2016 Olympic course in Rio de Janiero], but as of a few months ago they did not have anything finalized,” Russell said during a recent conversation with ESPN.com. “We debated waiting for them or moving forward. With a major city like Los Angeles, we wanted to get all of the necessary approvals with plenty of time for athletes to come in and run some of the course.”
United States Track and Field and L.A. Marathon organizers decided to move forward and design a course that appeals to athletes, spectators and television. The course will feature Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, where Joan Benoit Samuelson won the first women’s Olympic marathon in 1984.
“It’s being designed where we can showcase our runners and showcase our city,” Russell said.
The course for the 2015 L.A. Marathon will remain the same as in past years, but athletes participating in the U.S. Marathon Championship will have the opportunity to test the atmosphere and hospitality for a taste of what to expect in 2016. Higher-profile American runners targeting spring marathons like London, Berlin or Boston will be invited as ambassadors.
Although television broadcast contracts have not been finalized, plans are for the Olympic Trials to be showcased to thousands more viewers with a live race broadcast. This will be the first time the Olympic Trials Marathon will be broadcast live in its entirety since 1988 men’s race, and first time for the women’s race. Most recently, NBC has relied on tape delay for their broadcasts.
“In this day and age, it’s hard to run sports in a tape-delayed atmosphere,” Russell said. “Being able to present the Olympic trials to the U.S. and to the world in a live capacity is going to be great for everyone.”
The 2016 Olympic Trials will also feature record prize money with a grand total of $600,000 on the line. The purse will be equally distributed between the men’s and women’s races. The men’s and women’s champions will take home $80,000, the most since the men’s champion took home $100,000 in 1996.
“We’re excited to recognize and honor not just the three runners that go on to represent the U.S. in Rio, but also provide some additional support to the athletes that finish in anywhere from fourth to tenth,” Russell said. “It’s a good representation that we’re both in this with USATF and it’s all about the athletes.”
Typically run in March, the 2016 edition of the race will move to February. This allows recovery time for runners who failed to make the Olympic team to recover and focus on the track and field Olympic Trials held in Eugene, Oregon from July 1-10.
It has been 30 years since the 1984 Olympics and being a legacy of those Summer Games, the LA Marathon is prepared to show the International Olympic Committee why the time may be right to return the rings to U.S. soil.
“If we find out in the next months that L.A. gets the bid, it also allows us to put on the Trials during the international campaign window and be able to say, 'Here is Los Angeles’ capability to put on a major event outside of an arena and shuts down downtown L.A.',” Russell said.
The United States Olympic Committee has confirmed it will bid for the 2024 Games, and whether that bid belongs to Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco or Washington, D.C., is not expected to be announced until late December or early 2015.
If selected by the USOC and then chosen by the IOC, Los Angeles would host its third Olympics after also welcoming the Games in 1932 and 1984.