Battle for 2024 heats up as IOC heads to LA

Battle for 2024 heats up as IOC heads to LA

Los Angeles, May 10 (AFP) A team of International Olympic Committee delegates kick off a three-day tour of Los Angeles Wednesday as the city attempts to demonstrate its readiness to stage the 2024 Olympics.

With just four months to go until a September 13 vote in Lima that will decide the race, the IOC's Evaluation Commission will spend this week studying the fine detail of Los Angeles's bid before heading to rival Paris next week.

The back-to-back visits of the only two cities in the running for the 2024 Games usher in what is expected to a frenzied final spurt of campaigning.

The bidding contest has been overshadowed in recent weeks by speculation that the IOC is aiming to offer the 2028 Olympics to whomever loses out on the 2024 Games, anxious to lock in two strong bids at a time when the pool of cities willing to stage the mammoth sporting spectacular is shrinking.

But Los Angeles will spend the next three days aiming to make the case that the Californian metropolis is the right city at the right time.

The Los Angeles bid, which enjoys wide public support according to recent surveys, has emphasized the fact that its vision for the 2024 Games would require no new venue construction, with events staged in an array of stadia which exist or are already in the process of being built.

IOC delegates will be ferried around the city to examine venues which include the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the iconic centerpiece of the 1932 and 1984 Olympics.

"We are very well prepared, we are enthusiastic, we have been rehearsing, literally every minute is planned," LA24 chief executive Gene Sykes told AFP.

One potential hurdle for LA 2024 officials to overcome this week as they seek to impress IOC delegates is traffic congestion, a perennial complaint of often-gridlocked locals.

- No 'fake version' of LA - 

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Bid chiefs are adamant however that there will be no attempt to ease the passage of the IOC delegation by rigging traffic lights as officials move around the city.

"That's against the rules," bid chief Casey Wasserman said.

"We're not trying to show them a fake version of what LA is -- we're trying to show them exactly what LA is, and exactly the LA they will get."

Los Angeles 2024 officials also point to the 88 billion of expanded subway, light rail, bus and express lane projects that will be operational by 2024, an investment Wasserman described as "the largest ongoing transportation and infrastructure project in American history."

Wasserman believes, too, that the city's notorious traffic congestion issues are overstated in the context of an Olympic fortnight.

"Ask anybody from LA what their best memory was of the 1984 Games and they'll say there was no traffic," said Wasserman, a successful sports talent agent who acted as an Olympic torch bearer during the flame relay for the 1984 games.

Wasserman believes the readiness of Los Angeles's venues and infrastructure, which includes plans to host the Olympic athletes village at the UCLA campus, creates a "very clear line in the sand" between the city and Paris.

"Los Angeles is a bid that can uniquely connect the Olympic Games with the future," Wasserman said at a recent briefing in London. "And the reason we can say that and the reason we can absolutely do that is because we've got universal public support and we've got all of our facilities that exist today.

"And if you take those two things, as risks, off the table, what you can actually do is focus on serving the Olympic movement for seven years. No other city can say that.

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