Paris 2024 and LA 2028: Selling a dream that's already been bought
By Callum Murray and Jonathan Rest in Lima
The IOC’s historic decision to award the 2024 and 2028 Olympic Games simultaneously to Paris and Los Angeles was, as expected, rubber stamped at the IOC Session in Lima, Peru on Wednesday, rendering more or less meaningless the bid presentations that followed – usually the crescendo of any Olympic bid city campaign.
Bereft of the competitive edge that normally accompanies such presentations, it was hard to feel that the bid teams were doing much more than going through the motions. With nothing at stake, it would have been good to see a different - perhaps more celebratory, even more entertaining - approach, but maybe the bids were already too far down the path of traditional final presentations to change.
Paris 2024 was up first. Film one – NOC president – Olympian – president of the region – film two – Paralympian – IOC member – video message from country’s president – sports minister – mayor – film three – bid president: the bid made no attempt to subvert the familiar format, despite the fact that hosting the games was already a done deal.
Much of the presentation was in French – fair enough, as it’s an official Olympic language and bid presentations always look disadvantaged when they’re made in a language that’s not the presenters’ own – but it did contribute to a suspicion that Paris 2024 wasn’t really trying. Had this really mattered, had this really been the last opportunity to influence wavering voters, surely more of it would have been delivered in English.
A surprise member of the presentation team was the relatively unknown Youssef Halaoua, a 29-year-old Franco-Tunisian basketball player representing the bid’s ‘Generation 2024’ youth project. He said: “I come from two countries: France and Tunisia. Sport is a world where I could proudly be French and Tunisian. Paris will be an open Olympics where everyone will be part of the show, with a legacy of more sports for more people. It will be a games with a sustainable approach.”
Emanuel Macron, France’s new, young rock star president, came across as surprisingly uneasy in his video message, his fixed stare belying the fact that the bid was already won – and perhaps reflecting that his own popularity back home is in freefall, with demonstrations and strikes planned nationwide against his contentious labour law reforms.
The presentation also lacked star appeal to compete with LA 2028’s Allyson Felix, save for a fleeting appearance in the first film of Neymar, the Brazilian soccer superstar, who repeated the Paris St Germain fans’ chant ‘Ici C’est Paris!’ (This Is Paris!).
As has been the case throughout the bid campaign, it was Tony Estanguet, the youthful co-chair of the bid (who was also re-confirmed as the chair of the organising committee) who most impressed, summing up the presentation to huge shouts and applause. Referring to the Paris 2024 slogan, ‘Made for sharing’, he said (in English): “When we were kids we all learned about sharing, that it’s not easy and you usually have to divide what you have. But with sports the more we share the more we have. Sport has a place for every person, wherever you come from. With Paris 2024 we built the project on sharing.”
Then, in the first and only reference to the fact that this was a final presentation like no other, Estanguet said: “Paris 2024 is made for sharing, but one thing we did not expect was even that this victory would be shared with our friends from Los Angeles. Today I will make one promise: we will give our heart and soul to this mission. All together we will share the unique power of Olympism, person to person, city by city. This is not the end; today is just the beginning.”
Then came the LA 2028 bid team, their attire epitomising the unusually relaxed atmosphere surrounding this IOC Session, the male bid leaders’ suits complemented by grey trainers (Nike, of course, a US Olympic Committee sponsor up to 2020).
Some didn’t even wear ties.
That casual approach was reflected in the city’s presentation to IOC members. This was, to quote bid chairman, Casey Wasserman, about bringing “California cool” to the Olympic movement.
Wasserman, who was later confirmed as the LA 2028 organising committee chairman, said: “Now, I know what you’re thinking… these LA guys seem pretty laid back. They’re not even wearing ties. And, they’re wearing sneakers!
“My grandfather told me the key to success was two simple things: Always be honest, and always stay true to who you are. Well, what you see onstage here today reflects who we are.”
Wasserman, alongside Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti, have been the superstars throughout for this Hollywood bid, something Scott Blackmun, chief executive of the USOC, was quick to point out.
“The quality of LA’s bid really boils down to the leadership of two people: Mayor Eric Garcetti and Casey Wasserman,” Blackmun said: “These two gentlemen never gave up on LA’s Olympic dreams – and thank goodness, they didn’t.”
The USOC chief executive told IOC members: “LA 2028 is simply the best US Olympic bid we’ve ever shared with you.”
Blackmun handed over to Allyson Felix, six times an Olympic gold medallist in the 200 and 400 metres and a Los Angeles native.
Felix, as she had done in presentations to the Association of National Olympic Committees and at the SportAccord Convention over the past 10 months, exuded confidence and quality – as impressive off the track as on it.
Felix has been the one throughout this process to tackle issues of intolerance and race head on, particularly in the early months of Donald Trump presidency – when there was a battle for the 2024 games – where fears were expressed that his positions on NATO, international trade and immigration could alienate IOC members.
Felix said: “Human interaction is the greatest defence against intolerance, and nothing brings humanity together better than the Olympic Games. But there is another, perhaps even more valuable benefit to being a member of the Olympic family.
“The Olympic Movement teaches us about respect. Respect is a powerful word, isn’t it? All it takes is a little respect … and, some diplomacy.”
In a joint press conference that followed, Garcetti and his Paris counterpart Anne Hidalgo both insisted it had been an “emotional day,” despite the fact that this was, in all senses and for all purposes, a foregone conclusion.
Throughout this process both cities have insisted they are safe bets for the Olympic movement, a common phrase used by Tokyo four years ago. Since then, the Japanese capital’s games budget has escalated four-fold from the one advertised in the bid book.
That will not be repeated for 2024 and 2028, the two mayors declared.
Referencing the new LA Rams NFL stadium being built in the city that will play a part in the opening and closing ceremonies, Garcetti said: “If costs go up, then that’s down to the Rams. Transportation improvements have already been cleared. UCLA [the athletes’’ village in 20208] will be a college campus in 2028 no matter what, and they will need to house their students. Even if we had cost overruns, we have more than enough cushion for that. We feel very secure about that. We have backstops from city and state of California. People ask about costs going up. I say, for what?”
Hidalgo added: “We are very confident. We have 95 per cent of the venues, the necessary transportation and hotels. We have all what we need and are very confident in our ability.”