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David Ramsey: L.A., armed with economic sanity, leads Paris in race to host 2024 Olympics

April 14, 2017 Updated: April 14, 2017 at 4:25 pm
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Scott Blackmun, CEO of the United States Olympic Committee, spoke revolutionary words this week as he led cheers for the Los Angeles bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics.

Blackmun said the 2024 LA Games would cost $5.325 billion.

If you stacked $5.325 billion George Washingtons, the result would be a mountain of cash approximately as tall as Pikes Peak. It's a lot of money. I get that.

But $5.325 billion is a pittance by Olympic standards. The price tag of the 2008 Beijing Games soared to $44 billion, topped by the 2014 Sochi Games that cost Russian dictator Vladimir Putin $51 billion.

"It's an amazingly fiscally responsible bid," Blackmun said Wednesday at a SportsCorp luncheon.

Los Angeles boasts beaches, sunshine, ocean breezes and glamour as it seeks to host the Olympics for the third time.

But it's the sane and surprising price tag that ranks as the prime reason Blackmun, and I, believe the Games will return to United States soil for the first time since 2002.

"I'm very, very optimistic," Blackmun said.

If LA wins the International Olympic Committee's vote in September, the victory will mark a remarkable and unlikely comeback by Blackmun and the USOC. Blackmun wants a successful American Olympic bid as part of his CEO.

In July 2015, Boston taxpayers revolted against hosting the 2024 Games. The rejection marked a huge setback to the USOC and the Olympic movement. The rejection was a reaction to comical and troubling overspending in Sochi and Beijing.

"The Olympics have become the province of autocratic societies," a columnist for the Boston Globe writer declared. "That is not us. We are a free people."

The idea of ever hosting the Games in America, Land of the Free, was teetering. The entire Olympic movement was teetering, but that teetering is nothing new.

Los Angeles has rescued the idea of the Olympics before. No city wanted the 1984 Games because of rising costs. The 1976 Games left Montreal with a $1.6 billion debt that the city finally paid off in 2006.

The 1984 Games were a smash success. The Games cost little, made lots of money and turned into a parade of gold medals for Americans. (The Soviets boycotted.)

The 2024 LA Games will follow the same thrifty structure as the 1984 Games. When mayor Eric Garcetti mentions a "new Olympism," he's talking about using existing structures. Almost all of the Olympic venues are already built, and UCLA's willingness to offer campus housing for athletes helped LA cut $1 billion in costs.

The LA Games planners also came up with a brilliant idea for revenue. LA will offer two simultaneous opening ceremonies, one at the stadium built for the 1932 Games and another at the football palace Nuggets/Avs owner Enos Stanley Kroenke is constructing near Los Angeles International Airport. This means 180,000 ultra-expensive tickets will be available.

The LA Games are not a lock. Paris remains in play, and the bid boasts its own advantages. Most IOC members/voters live in Europe, and France can offer the sentimental lure of a 100-year anniversary celebration after hosting the Games in 1924. And, of course, Paris is Paris, a gorgeous, glorious, romantic, fantastic destination.

The IOC needs, maybe even requires, a fiscally responsible Games to revive the movement. Los Angeles is known its flash and for constructing massively expensive cinematic adventures.

But the residents and leaders of the city and region have proven they can step aside from flash and embrace Olympic economic sanity.

I believe LA will win. The Olympics will return, finally, to America in 2024.

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