If it seemed like two of the worst mayors in the world had become the front-runners to host the 2024 Olympics, that’s because they have.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo now remain the only things standing in the way of each other, and their respective cities’ opportunity to host the Olympics.
An opportunity which has lost much of its luster over the years.
Cities used to bid themselves into insolvency in hopes of attracting the Olympics and all the fame and fortune it promised. Now, though, most former host cities have found that the Olympic’s promise to bring long-lasting jobs, economic revitalization, and international exposure have proven, almost without exception, to be empty promises.
According to ESPN, “The past two Olympics have had corrosive effects on the event’s image: Sochi 2014 with its obscene $51 billion price tag and sabotaged anti-doping operation, and Rio 2016, whose vacant, deteriorating venues are a metaphor for its empty promise of a legacy for its citizens.
“Just last month, Tokyo 2020 organizers said costs for those Summer Games have doubled from what was initially estimated.”
In response, many cities have used public pressure to stop mayors from mortgaging their futures, for what all too often turns out to be a three week photo-op, leaving only cities that are among the most poorly led, least responsive, and fiscally irresponsible.
Enter, Paris and Los Angeles.
Garcetti, who once referred to President Trump as “the walking embodiment of the worst of our values,” in addition to saying that society owes a “debt of gratitude” to felons who have served their time and that those same felons should be thanked for having completed their jail sentences, has presided over a budget debacle in L.A. that has left the city with an enormous $224 million dollar gap.
A record that doesn’t bode well when it comes time to convince international institutions that he can manage a multi-billion dollar event, with long-lasting benefits for Angelinos.
For her part, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, has committed herself to turning Paris into the world’s first “post-car” city. Instead of automobile based transport, Hidalgo envisions a city honeycombed and crisscrossed by bike trails, foot paths, and electric tram cars. The irony of fighting against pollution and climate change, while hosting an event that will create metric tons of pollution, has apparently been lost on her.
For Garcetti, winning the bid for the Olympics fulfills a boyhood dream of bringing the games back to Los Angeles. Speaking of watching the 1984 Olympics as a young teenager, Garcetti told ESPN, “It was the defining experience of my childhood and of my city. It’s as simple as that.”
For Hidalgo, the Olympics present a way of binding Paris’ wounds after multiple, deadly terror attacks. “I saw my city scarred after the attacks of January 2015, and I told myself, we have to give hope to young people, we have to give them the possibility to think about the world with optimism, to be able to imagine themselves in a world that is going to be theirs. All the conditions came together for me to totally commit.”
Yet, despite their different motivations, Hidalgo and Garcetti are basically the same people. Both have multi-ethnic backgrounds, both are mayors of large cities, both are hard-left politicians, and they both have radical environmentalist agendas. Requisites, especially the ideological requisites, which seem to be high on the International Olympic Committee’s checklist when it comes to prospective host cities.
Also high on the checklist for the IOC, apparently, is transparency. IOC President Thomas Bach, in light of the disasters of Sochi and Rio, has launched an effort to change the criteria of how the Olympics get awarded. According to ESPN, “Bach proposed Agenda 2020, a series of reforms that included measures designed to make the bidding process for the Olympic and Paralympic Games less complicated and expensive.
“The new framework emphasized financial and structural sustainability, responsibility and transparency in choosing a host city. The 2024 Summer Games are the first to go through an entire bid cycle under Agenda 2020. Paris and L.A. tailored their pitches accordingly.”
Yet, much the same way that Hidalgo can talk about fighting climate change while aggressively bidding for international games with massive carbon footprints, Bach’s talks of reform will likely lead to more business as usual. As ESPN reports, “Despite the potential impact on millions of citizens of both cities, the full IOC membership has insisted on hearing the two bid presentations behind closed doors in Lausanne, Switzerland, on July 11.
“In a formal session later that day, those same IOC members are expected to vote on a process that would allow them to break decades of precedent and select the next two Summer Games hosts simultaneously. Most predict it will be Paris in 2024, L.A. in 2028. The official announcement is scheduled for Sept. 13 at the 131st IOC Session in Lima, Peru.”
How will people decide whether L.A. and Paris have achieved transparency or responsibility, when the meetings are held behind closed doors? Transparency held behind closed doors is what people used to call lack of transparency.
Furthermore, should the predicted outcome of Paris getting the 2024 games and L.A. getting the next go-around in 2028 actually come to fruition, that result will be very hard to see as anything but a political slap in the face to President Trump, given that Trump will have long since left office before the 2028 games arrive.
Even before the election, sources claimed that a Donald Trump presidency would have a disastrous effect on the L.A. Olympic bid, with one quoted source claiming Trump’s victory would count as an “8½ to 9 on a 10-point ‘catastrophe’ scale for L.A.’s chances.”
Could part of the reason for why the IOC asked for the closed door sessions in Lausanne on Tuesday be to inform Mayor Garcetti that his bid has been denied, because the IOC finds his president too politically unpalatable? If it is, then the IOC’s talk of transparency, while meeting behind closed doors and punishing other countries for the way they vote, will strongly suggest to all the IOC is far more concerned with politics, talk, and empty promises than making real reforms.
Kind of like being the mayor of Los Angeles.
Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter: @themightygwinn