When I was young and dumb, my friend and I drove from Key West to Los Angeles for the 1984 Olympic Games. I’m not much smarter now but I'd never try that again. Neither should Los Angeles, when it comes to hosting the Olympic Games for a third time.
City Controller Ron Galperin, a pretty smart guy, warned the City Council about its sunny optimism toward the Olympics, suggesting members get a firm hold on reality. The City Council is required, Galperin wrote, to “safeguard Angelenos and our city government from possible losses — and to avoid placing our city in a position wherein we might have to indemnify the U.S. Olympic Committee or any other entity from losses they might incur.”
Cities like Hamburg, Germany, and Boston don't have Ron Galperin, but they nixed the Olympics anyway. We'd be smart to follow. But instead, the City Council is going to dither for months over whether to back that insane cost-overrun guarantee that is rightly freaking out Galperin.
You'll see Mayor Eric Garcetti and other civic boosters out working the handshake circuit as they ask you to believe that L.A. is the best spot for the Olympics. In fact, it'll be a hot mess. The costs, both in dollars and in wasted human capital, could linger for years. Here, then, are the top eight reasons Los Angeles should give it up for the 2024 Paris Olympics:
1. Need Versus Want
This is where you teach a kid that you'll provide their shoes and meals, but they have to spend their own money on the latest smartphone. L.A. has bursting 90-year-old water pipes, crumbling sidewalks and potholes with their own echoes. We have long-festering needs. And hosting what amounts to a two-week party with medals will suck up every bit of air from that room. If L.A. holds the Olympics, add a good five years to every single need you thought was finally going to be addressed here.
2. Paris Deserves a Party
L.A. shouldn’t host it because Paris clearly should. They want it — so say 79 percent of Parisians. They’re willing to spend more than L.A. And maybe the pageantry of the Games will help heal the suffering brought on by the horrible attacks that insane terrorists have heaped upon the City of Light. Besides, who wouldn’t pay to see beach volleyball played in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower?
3. Traffic Last Time
When L.A. hosted the '84 Olympics, everyone was all worried about traffic. In the end, people took the warnings to avoid downtown Los Angeles so seriously that the streets were empty, and Olympics planners got scared they wouldn't sell enough tickets. But things went smoothly and Olympics CEO Peter Ueberroth was a hero. That was 30 years ago, when L.A. had 3 million people who complained about “rush hour.” Today, we are edging toward 4 million people and rush hour is a lifestyle.
4. Traffic This Time
Remember when city leaders insisted that an NFL stadium downtown wouldn’t cause traffic jams because games were on Sundays? Some developer declared, “Traffic is so light on the 110 freeway that you could roll a bowling ball down the highway and never hit a car.” You may not remember that quote with our clarity, but maybe you should. During the Farmers Field NFL stadium frenzy, L.A. leaders squirmed out of discussing the $100 million in taxpayer costs to rebuild onramps and new lanes for the stadium. Now, Garcetti is making a move to beg the feds for money to finish the Metro Purple Line for the Olympics. Guess who might get stuck with that overrun?
5. Our Crappy Theme Song
Seriously, haven’t we heard “I Love L.A.” enough to last 10 lifetimes?
6. East Coast Jealousy
If we get the games, we get the media onslaught. Every website, every newscast, is going to detail L.A.'s problems, starting with the skyrocketing homelessness, while we blow money on festivities. And it'll be much worse because it'll be August, when the other side of the nation, naturally, rationalizes life in muggy Washington, New York or Miami.
7. Plenty of Visitors
Aren’t there enough people from somewhere else here already? We're all dying to meet an L.A. native.
8. El Niño Is Screwing Us
Will there be water for our guests and all those green playing fields? What if you turned on the faucet, and sand came out? We’re going to need a couple more El Niños to fill L.A.'s reservoirs. Or will the L.A. Olympic Committee, or whatever they call themselves, follow the advice of late Alaska Gov. Wally Hickel? Hickel solved California's drought of the early 1990s, but nobody would listen. He said we should use a fleet of tugboats to haul a glacier to L.A.
Come to think of it, Hickel's plan makes more sense than signing a document that puts Los Angeles taxpayers on the line for “cost overruns” in a glittery pageant of athletics for which the bill will be everlasting, and thus far more than we can afford.