February 27, 2017 - From the February, 2017 issue

The Transformative Prospects Of An LA 2024 Olympics

VerdeXchange 2017 and the Urban Land Institute-Los Angeles’s FutureBuild brought together regional leaders who are championing the LA 2024 Olympic bid. Now that it is currently down to a two city race-between LA and Paris-the prospects of a third LA Games is more likely than ever. Many of the region’s most ambitious projects are already underway—including the dramatic expansion of Metro rail, investments of our university housing facilities, and the stadium-led revitalization of Inglewood—a plethora of infrastructure upgrades, transit expansions, and development opportunities is in store if Los Angeles wins the bid. How will LA build upon its successful legacy, when the 1984 Games generated a profit of $93 million. TPR presents excerpts by LA 2024 CEO Gene Sykes and Director Brence Culp, LA84 CEO Renata Simril, Metro CEO Phil Washington, and AECOM VP Bill Hanway. Watch the entire panel discussion here.

Gene Sykes

”Our goal is not just to have a bid that wins. We are bold enough to say that our bid will transform the Olympic Games. We’ve called it New Games for a New Era…We believe that if you think holistically, work within your own resources, and devise a game plan that does not stress the community, then many more cities will be able to host the Olympic Games in the future." – Gene Sykes, CEO, LA2024

Gene Skyes: It’s a very exciting time for LA2024’s bid. This week, we deliver our final package to the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne. On September 13, the IOC will gather in Lima and vote for the city that will host the 2024 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games.

This bid was launched almost three years ago by Mayor Eric Garcetti and Casey Wasserman, our bid chair. It was designated by the US Olympic Committee as the candidate city for the United States in September 2015. We’re competing against Paris and Budapest, and we have a very distinctive approach.

The fact that Los Angeles has a heritage of having successfully run the Olympic Games gives us inherent credibility. It’s a remarkable legacy, and one reason we’ve had such tremendous public support for hosting the Olympic Games.

A poll last year showed 88 percent support in Los Angeles for hosting the Games. This was in contrast to almost every other city in the world. Three candidate cities—Boston, Hamburg, and Rome—had to drop out of the competition when their own communities didn’t support their bids, because hosting the Games seemed so daunting or expensive. We decided that there is a way to do this that is much less stressful for our communities. We start with a tremendous infrastructure in place for sports.

More than 1,000 Olympic athletes from all over the world live and train in Southern California because of our weather, our training facilities, and our first-class universities, which host great programs to support Olympic athletes. We have the foundation in our communities.

Our infrastructure is vastly superior to what it was in 1984, as well. A number of the things that we intend to use as part of our Olympic Games program were not here in 1984—like the Staples Center, L.A. Live, or much of the UCLA residences, where we’re creating the Olympic Village.

Moreover, even the new sporting infrastructure coming to LA will not cost taxpayers anything. The new LA Football Club stadium at Exposition Park, and the LA Stadium at Hollywood Park where the Rams and Chargers will play, will be built without any taxpayer assistance.

This approach exemplifies the principles for the Olympic Agenda 2020: sustainability, credibility, and relying on partners.

But our goal is not just to have a bid that wins. We are bold enough to say that our bid will transform the Olympic Games. We’ve called it New Games for a New Era.

We’re putting together our bid in a way that is responsible, forward-thinking, and offers a platform for the Olympic Games to think about its own future. We believe that if you think holistically, work within your own resources, and devise a game plan that does not stress the community, then many more cities will be able to host the Olympic Games in the future.

We’re oriented toward the future, and designing things that are native to the way young people operate. That’s more important, perhaps, than any other legacy we can offer to the Olympic Games.

LA is the place where the future is experienced and where it’s designed today, and we’ll put all of that to work for the Olympic movement. That’s why we hope the IOC members will choose LA.

Renata Simril: I like to say that LA is an Olympic city. Each Olympic Games we’ve hosted has been transformative, and has left a lasting legacy on our city and our region.

The 1932 Games yielded a $1-million surplus. At the time, it was the first city to do so, and it elevated the profile of Los Angeles as a business, tourist, and sporting mecca.

The 1984 Games are considered one of the most successful, and certainly the most profitable, Games in Olympic history. By creating the LA84 Foundation, it has enabled us to benefit the lives of more than 3 million youth.

Those Games were transformative, not only in how they were financed, but also in how we leveraged existing venues and maximized transportation assets for both athletes and spectators. It was a time when there was no traffic in LA, which is a feat unto itself.

The LA2024 bid honors the legacy and the history of Los Angeles while embracing our future. Our bid seeks to reimagine a new model to do three things: 1) focus on innovation to minimize risk; 2) use high technology to refine sustainability; and 3) tap into our creative climate to engage the local, regional, national, and global youth audience to support and embrace the Olympic movement.

Bill, I also like to say that LA is the sport capital of the world. We have eight professional sports teams and 11 NCA Division 1 teams, and, as a result of that, a number of sports facilities. Venue construction is a huge cost to any Olympic Game. How are we capitalizing on our advantage to minimize venue-delivery risk?

Bill Hanway: I had the privilege of working for nine years on the London 2012 Games, six years on the Rio 2016 Games, two years on the Tokyo Games, and now three years working on LA. You have to look at the scale of the challenge.

In London, we had to transform a 500-acre industrial wasteland. We built four new major venues and three temporary ones. In Rio, we had a 200-acre park that was an old F1 racetrack. There, we had to build six new venues plus three temporary ones.

In Los Angeles, we have to build no new venues. That instantly reduces risk. And the most sustainable thing you can do in terms of the Olympic Games is be financially viable and not build anything new.

We’re creating a different narrative in Los Angeles. Rather than building a single megapark, we’re looking at a cluster of four sports parks that take advantage of existing facilities—including the Staples Center, the Coliseum, the Honda Center in Anaheim, and the Stubhub Center in Carson. This is a very different approach that allows us to be much more sustainable and viable.

Renata Simril: Phil, 2016 was a busy year for Metro—with the passage of Measure M, the opening of the Expo Line extension to Santa Monica, Metro bikeshare, and the Regional Connector, to name a few things. 2017 is also starting off with a bang, with the announcement of the extension of the Purple Line. How is the completion and expansion of these lines helping to connect the venues in LA’s bid? 

Phillip Washington: In addition to being the sports capital of the world, I think LA is also becoming the infrastructure capital of the world.

This transportation infrastructure is so important to the Olympic effort. The Airport Connector station,[e1]  the Crenshaw Line, and the Purple Line—in fact, the entire Westside subway—will be completed. The Regional Connector, which is a huge project that will allow for a one-seat ride all the way from Azusa to Long Beach, is a game-changer. All of these megaprojects will be completed in time for the Olympics, and the Olympic Committee will see this timeline as they make their decision.

Renata Simril: A guiding principle for the LA2024 bid is the International Olympic Committee’s Agenda 2020, which focuses on sustainability, in both its most broad and narrow senses; creating greater appeal for our youth to engage in sport; and preserving the Olympic movement. How does LA2024’s bid embrace and manifest these ideals?

Brence Culp: For me, our sustainability platform is the most exciting aspect of our bid because it touches so many different goals.

The overriding principle for sustainability is simple but profound: work with what you have. In Los Angeles, we are blessed because we have not only venues and infrastructure, but also great partners.

The Games have incredible catalyzing power. It just happens. When people find that the Games are coming to their city, suddenly, there’s a way to get the line open from LAX to Union Station.

They also have great convening power. A thousand exquisitely experienced and forward-looking people are participating in this effort.

The Sustainability Plan has three goals. One is to bring forward and sustain everything that’s amazing and unique about the Olympic Games themselves. In this city, that means figuring out a way to host the Games that’s transparent, financially responsible, and gives something back to the community.

The second is making sure that people are engaged in the Games. The opportunity for community engagement—both in person and virtually—is profound. It’s good for the Olympics, and it’s good for our communities.

Our third goal is sustainability in the classic sense. We’re working with our venue owners and operators, and everybody else who touches the Games, to make sure that we’re preserving our natural resources, reducing our carbon footprint, and reusing our materials.

That is tremendously exciting, because there’s so much already being done in LA and California—so much technology emerging, and so many partners in these areas.


For one example, the LA Coliseum, under stewardship and operation from USC, has achieved zero waste. That’s very difficult, and it took them several years to do it.

Essentially, they take the many tons of waste from 80,000 people gathered in one place, and through the end of a long process, create compost that’s used by farmers in the Central Valley, providing the food back to us to eat in these venues. That’s called a circular economy—a continuing cycle of giving back.

Each of our other venue owners and operators has something like that to share, and we learn from their shared experiences.

Renata Simril: Los Angeles used the 1932 and 1984 Olympic Games as an opportunity to elevate the city’s profile and brand. Mayor Butts, how is Inglewood doing that in the lead-up to the bid?

James Butts: I’ve had the opportunity to work for three different cities: Santa Monica, Los Angeles, and Inglewood. I have perspective as to how cities evolve and attract major events.

Los Angeles has sports, high-end retail, and dining. Cities like that prosper throughout.

Inglewood has had only sports: the Lakers, the Kings, and the racetrack. There were days when the racetrack would draw 70,000 people for a Triple Crown. But when sports and horseracing died, the city died.

Because of the investments required to renew stadiums, when stadiums become obsolete, football teams tend to leave the city. Today, Inglewood is unique in that our stadium has no public investment. It’s 100-percent owner-financed. That means in 20 years, the owner can’t just walk away. We now have “football in our time” for the Los Angeles region.

There’s now a plethora of investment flowing into Inglewood to develop around what the future will bring starting in 2019. This can’t help but auger well for our bid for the 2024 Olympics. By 2024, Inglewood’s major arterials will look nothing like how they look right now.

Renata Simril: Bill, what role do temporary structures play in the LA bid? Was it similar in London and Rio?

Bill Hanway: In every city, the development of temporary venues evolved from a specific context.

In London, we used a 12,000-seat temporary venue for basketball and the handball finals. That venue was an entire element that could be demounted and used somewhere else.

In Rio, Mayor Eduardo Paes told us that the market in Brazil wouldn’t allow us to reuse large-scale temporary venues as the same entity. He asked us to look at something called nomadic architecture: designing buildings in module parts that can be reassembled later. We ended up being able to reuse the parts from the handball arena to build four primary schools. Swimming pools were disassembled and recreated as community pools.

In LA, because of the size and scale of the economy, the temporary venue market is very fluid and can absorb a lot more development. We’re looking at a slightly different technique here: temporary venues that can be easily and quickly demounted with the lightest touch on the environment, then put back into the market.

For the Santa Monica Beach volleyball court, we’re looking at 3D-printing walls from Santa Monica’s own sand so that after the games, they can be crushed in place and left right there on the beach. There are all kinds of ideas that are transforming what a sustainable temporary venue can be. 

Renata Simril: Phil, joint-use development around Metro stations has been a key driver of the agency’s goals and objectives. Where do you see development opportunities around your new transit lines? Is there any opportunity, with Measure M funding, to spur those along? 

Phillip Washington: There are tremendous opportunities for transit-oriented community development.

We know property values are appreciating around transportation investment. We’ve created a new transit-oriented community program that works with the community within a two-mile radius around our investment to make that area livable and walkable. The idea is not to just plop down a development at our station, but to work with communities to make sure that the investment looks like the community.

What we don’t want is gentrification and displacement of these communities, many of which are historic communities of color. We’re working to make sure that these communities do not just go away.

There should be value-capture opportunities for the agency as we build infrastructure in these areas, because we know the area is going to be enriched by our investment.

Renata Simril: Mayor Butts, what are some current development opportunities that exist around transit in Inglewood?

James Butts: Every parcel of land that’s laid fallow in Inglewood for the last 30 years is now prime for development.

In addition to the 2,500 residential units that will be part of the Champions Plaza campus, which is almost 300 acres—three times the size of Century City—there is a sizable plot of land near the exit of the 105 Freeway that will probably be developed into luxury housing.

We have about 55 acres right across the street from Champions Plaza that is going to be a very prime development opportunity, and we’re trying to figure out what could go there that would be synergistic as opposed to competitive.

About 177 units of housing are going to be developed on about 2.3 acres at the Cadillac site, across the street from the Metro station. That will become the gateway to Market Street, which used to be the Downtown business sector as well as the entertainment district for Inglewood. It’s going to be the catalyst for the development of something reminiscent of Old Town Pasadena. 

Renata Simril: Many of the world’s innovative media and technology companies reside in California—Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Disney, etc. Brence and Bill, how has it been leveraging these unique assets to fully engage the tech community—not only in helping to put on the Games, but also helping to promote the games nationally, regionally, and globally?

Brence Culp: Our opportunities for direct engagement are multiplied by media, social media, and all the new ways in which technology companies are working to connect folks.

We’ve had a lot of fun in the office thinking about how, for example, we could simultaneously host Opening Ceremonies in three different physical locations—the Coliseum, the Inglewood Stadium, and the community parade between the two. All of the people at one event could be engaged in all of them collectively, as could people who are not physically at any of them.

Of course, we can only begin to imagine now what might be possible with technology in 2024.

Bill Hanway: We’re trying to create an app where everything is done on your smartphone. When you get to a sports park or an event, your credit card will be registered. The app will tell you the best public transport line to take from the hotel you’re staying at. It will know your food preferences, and tell you which restaurants in LA serve the best quality of that food.

But most importantly, it will tell you if tickets are available for other events. If you’re at the LA Convention Center, say, at the fencing venue, you’ll be asked if you want four tickets to goalball or another event, and you’ll be able to just go there.

Evolving innovation to create a way of engaging all the spectators coming to the Games is very important. We’ll be working with the technology partners to achieve that. 

Renata Simril: We’ve gotten lucky with two football teams, a number of stadiums, and certainly, the team that has been put together—not just the LA Bid committee, but our municipal and agency partners as well. I think we’re in good hands, and the next seven and a half months is going to be a great opportunity to showcase the world that exists here in Los Angeles.


© 2024 The Planning Report | David Abel, Publisher, ABL, Inc.