It has been conventional wisdom that President Donald Trump – with his America-first philosophy – hurts the chances for Los Angeles to be chosen to host the 2024 Olympics, with one Olympics historian calling his election ‘a catastrophe’ for L.A.'s chances.
But the head of the group trying to win the bid for L.A. said Thursday that Trump has been actively involved in helping beat out the competition -- Paris.
LA2024 CEO Gene Sykes said Trump's been lobbying leaders of the International Olympic Committee, who pick the winner, inviting them to the White House and making sure his travel ban didn’t hold up athletes coming to the U.S. for qualifying events. Sykes made the remarks during a panel discussion about the Olympics on Thursday at the Montgomery Conference in Santa Monica.
"The Donald Trump effect, for us, is a double-edged sword," Sykes said, explaining that the President's support has been valuable in recent weeks, despite his controversial stance on world affairs.
He contrasted that with Obama, who Sykes said lost interest in the Olympics after a bruising experience trying to secure the games for the former president's hometown of Chicago in 2009.
That year, in the midst of a busy time in Washington with fights over healthcare and Afghanistan, Obama flew to Copenhagen to make an impassioned plea to committee members for Chicago to host the Olympics in 2016.
Chicago lost in the first round, and Obama was criticized for making the trip Sykes said he stayed out of the competition after that.
"He never went to an Olympic games, never met with the IOC [International Olympic Committee] leadership, never talked to them by phone, and showed sort of a disregard and that was deeply frustrating to the leaders of the IOC,” Sykes said.
During Trump's first immigration ban, a group of Iranian archers on their way to Las Vegas for a World Cup competition were turned back at the airport, but Sykes noted the White House stepped in.
“As soon as they learned they had created a problem for us they said 'We’ll help you. We’ll solve the problem,' ” Sykes said. "They’ve set up a team in the White House to help us.”
But Sykes also acknowledged some committee members are dismayed with Trump's rhetoric. They'll pick a winning city in September.
“The President presents an image which is a challenging image for some of these voters," Sykes said. "They don’t like the anti-immigrant stance. They don’t like the presumed anti-Muslim rhetoric. All that is alarming to them. We’ve heard it. We continue to hear it. It’s an issue."