The International Olympic Committee's 2024 host-city evaluation committee is in town this week, grading our possible venues and trying to spot celebrities (we assume). So L.A. is trying to look extra impressive by having some of its landmarks, including City Hall, the Getty and the still-unfinished Wilshire Grand, light up in special Olympic colors at night.
But not every Angeleno is so enamored of the prospect of our fair city playing host to the finest athletes from around the globe. A poll taken in February may have found that a whopping 88 percent of the city supports hosting the games in 2024 — but what about the other 12 percent? Who are they?
We now know who at least a few of them are: socialists!
Well, democratic socialists, that is.
The Democratic Socialists of America isn't really a political party; it's a political group that takes stances and endorses candidates and whatnot. And they're not socialists in the decidedly non-democratic mode of Lenin/Trotsky/Stalin. They're more like Canadians, Scandinavians or Bernie Sandersians. The DSA is trying to capture some of that Bernie-mania and use it to fuel lefty causes.
Anne Orchier, Steve Ducey and Jonny Coleman (who writes for L.A. Weekly) are members of the DSA Los Angeles chapter, and they have started a group and corresponding website dubbed “Nolympics L.A.” The name says it all — they're against L.A. hosting the Olympic Games.
“Our main concern is that the organizers of the Olympic bid don’t have the best interests of the city in mind,” Ducey says. “Their interests are running a successful games. That's not a benchmark that is all that noble. It doesn’t enrich the lives of working Los Angeles. Their interests are going to be cast aside in favor of the interest of profits for the corporations that have a vested interest in the games.”
A spokesman for L.A.'s bid committee, LA 2024, declined to comment on the democratic socialists' objections.
Several cities, including Boston, have withdrawn their bids to host the 2024 Summer Games, based partly on concerns that the event will be a drain on the host city's resources. But from the start, Los Angeles has argued that it is perhaps the only city on Earth in the position to produce a financially sound Olympics. For one thing, L.A. hosted the games not too long ago, in 1984. And those games were the first profitable Summer Olympics since 1932 (also held in L.A.). More important, L.A. already has a ton of stadiums — including two currently being built, the Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park, which will host the Chargers, and the Banc of California Stadium in Exposition Park, which will host L.A.'s newest soccer team, L.A. FC.
LA 2024 has said the budget for the games would be around $5.3 billion, the cost of which would largely be covered by corporate sponsorship, television rights and ticket sales. An independent analysis by the KPMG accounting firm signed off on the plan, and a report from the state's Legislative Analyst’s Office called the plan a “low-cost, low-risk approach.”
Those two endorsements were enough to win over City Hall critic Jack Humphreville, who has in the past expressed skepticism over the city's Olympic bid. Humphreville also was comforted by the presence of former Goldman Sachs executive Gene Sykes' appointment as chief operating officer of LA 2024.
“I don’t trust Garcetti, I don't trust the City Council, but I trust Gene Sykes,” Humphreville says.
But the promise of corporate sponsorships and ticket sales and a Goldman Sachs executive doesn't exactly comfort the socialists, who are concerned that the Olympics will only tighten L.A.'s housing crunch and make the city even more unaffordable.
“We can pretty much assume that the games will be used as a foundation to execute any big real estate plans that shareholders are interested in moving forward,” Orchier says. “This will accelerate the process of gentrification.”
The Nolympics group also is worried about what LAPD will do in the run-up to the games. A 2012 article in The Nation argued that the 1984 Olympics were used by LAPD Chief Daryl Gates as a pretext to expand police sweeps and other tactics, which would later become the backbone of “Operation Hammer.” Orchier and Ducey say LAPD might adopt similar tactics in 2024 and employ them on suspected gang members and people who are homeless.
Joe Domanick, the associate director of the Center on Media, Crime & Justice at John Jay College in New York and the author of the book Blue: The LAPD and the Battle to Redeem American Policing, scoffs at the socialists' suggestion.
“That absolutely should not be a concern in terms of the future Olympics,” Domanick says. “If you observe the crowd control on the Women's March, there was not one arrest, not one incident.”
It should be said that although the Democratic Socialists claim to speak for L.A.'s struggling working class, the actual members of L.A.'s struggling working class are enthusiastic about the idea of another Olympic Games in L.A. — after all, 88 percent is a lot of people.
“First of all, it’s just one poll,” Orchier says. “I think especially in this political moment, it’s not reasonable to look at a single poll, let alone many polls, and take that as incontestable truth.” Plus, she says: “There hasn’t really been any public opposition until now.”
The host city for the 2024 Games will be chosen by the IOC in September. The bidding is down to just two municipalities — Los Angeles and Paris, which last hosted the Olympics in 1924 (100 years before 2024, for those slow at math). Paris is considered the favorite, though unlike L.A., the French capital's bid “relies more heavily on government funding and requires some major construction,” according to the Los Angeles Times. The IOC also could choose to award the 2024 Games to Paris and the 2028 Games to Los Angeles.