First, I want to be very clear about something: I have no idea whether the Los Angeles region in the future will want to bid on hosting the Olympic Games. It’s a big decision involving a lot of money and many cities across the globe have wrestled with the question — which I don’t think has been definitively answered — of whether the Games are worth pursuing, although London seems pretty happy with its Games right now.
That said, it’s hard to ignore Los Angeles’ rich history with the Olympics and the appeal of the Games. The region hosted the Summer Games in 1932 and 1984 and pursued the 2016 games, although Chicago was eventually chosen to represent the United States in the bidding process (and lost out badly to Rio de Janeiro). UPDATE: Los Angeles has been chosen as the host for the 2015 Special Olympics Summer games, the first time in 16 years the event will be held in the United States.
What I think is interesting is that with or without a future Olympics, the transit landscape in Los Angeles County will be noticeably different the next time the Games may land here. The earliest possible date would be 2024, given that the United States Olympic Committee, citing financial reasons, has said it won’t bid for the 2020 Summer Games or 2022 Winter Games. (The finalists for 2020 are Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo).
The 1984 Games here were widely considered successful; please see this excellent post on the Metro Library’s Primary Resources blog. At that time, there was no Metro Rail nor was there Metrolink. Traffic was a major, major worry in the run-up to the games although regional gridlock did not come to pass. Buses successfully ferried people to and from events and many residents and businesses altered their commuting hours to avoid traffic. It was a team win similar, I think, to last year’s non-Carmageddon.
Consider everything that has changed since 1984.
We have four big sports venues now that didn’t exist in 1984 — Staples Center, the Galen Center at USC, the Honda Center in Anaheim and the Home Depot Center in Carson. Staples Center is adjacent to the Blue and Expo lines and near the Red/Purple lines, the Galen Center is next to the Expo Line and the Honda Center is a short walk from the Metrolink and Amtrak station in Anaheim. The Home Depot Center is along some bus lines.
And while I have no idea if the same venues used in 1984 would be used in the future, some of those are now better situated transit-wise than they were in 1984 — most notably the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the swimming stadium and the Sports Arena, all located in Expo Park and a short walk to three Expo Line stations. The Rose Bowl is a short shuttle bus ride away from the Gold Line in Pasadena. The Long Beach Convention Center (fencing) and marina (sailing) are near the Blue Line. Weingart Stadium at East Los Angeles College, used for field hockey in 1984, is about a mile walk or drive from the Gold Line’s Atlantic Station.
Other 1984 venues will be near future transit lines. Santa Anita Park — which hosted some equestrian events — will be a short ride from the Gold Line’s future Arcadia station, scheduled to open in 2015. The Forum is about a mile walk from the future Florence/La Brea station on the Crenshaw/LAX Line, which is scheduled for a 2018 opening. Pauley Paviion and the tennis center at UCLA are about a mile from the Rapid Bus on Wilshire Boulevard, which should have new peak hour bus lanes by 2015. If funding is found to accelerate subway construction, the Westside Subway Extension could reach Westwood by 2024. The LAX Metro Connector project proposes to build a transit connection to LAX — the type of transit (bus, light rail or people mover) and year of completion likely depends on funding and whether Measure R is accelerated.
Let’s be real. The International Olympic Committee is a political beast — as should be expected. No one really knows exactly what makes a winning bid, but based on the past it seems the IOC values (in no particular order) photogenic places, novelty, climate, infrastructure improvements (read: spectacular and/or gaudy architecture) and, undeniably most important, the prospect for a safe and secure Olympic Games.
Los Angeles is hardly the only American city that has pursued an Olympic Games or made noise about doing it in recent years. There has been talk from Dallas, New York, Chicago and Denver (for the Winter Olympics). Dallas and Denver are both in transit expansion mode, New York is adding to its largest-in-America subway system and Chicago, of course, has one of the largest rail networks in the U.S. It’s also worth noting that many cities throughout the world and here in the U.S. have leveraged the Olympic Games for infrastructure purposes. In 1984, for example, the Tom Bradley International Terminal was opened at LAX as a part of the preparation for the Games. Certainly that’s not a reason to pursue an Olympic bid but something to consider if the bid is successful.
The transit improvements being made in Los Angeles will pay off in a lot of ways — mostly for everyday people living here who need to travel throughout the region. The side benefit is that it will allow the region to confidently bid for the big events along with the world’s other major cities, including the biggest event of them all, the Olympic Games.
What do you think, Source readers? You want the Olympics back? Do you think the region could pull it off? Or would you rather see the Games land elsewhere in the U.S. or world? In keeping with Olympic spirit, please sprint in orderly fashion to the comment board.