​Los Angeles approves plan to host the 2028 Games

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The Los Angeles City Council voted Friday to approve plans to host the 2028 Olympic Games in a 12-0 vote, despite questions about future costs.

The Council endorsed documents at the heart of its plan to stage the Summer Olympics for the third time since 1932. The contract outlines Los Angeles' financial responsibility in hosting the games, although a budget for the proposed 2028 Games has not been completed. The vote allows L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Council President to sign an agreement with the International Olympic Committee. 

The vote took place less than two weeks after the city announced an agreement with international Olympic leaders ceding the 2024 Games to rival Paris, while opening the way for Los Angeles to host the 2028 Games.

In advance of the vote, a council committee took public comment Friday morning, hearing a mix of criticism, praise and encouragement.

Steve Ducey of No Olympics LA said the vote would take place without budget analysis.

"Shame on you," he said.

Olympic champions Carl Lewis and Janet Evans, who are part of a private committee behind the bid, urged approval of the plan.

Lewis, holder of nine Olympic gold medals in track-and-field, said the Games are not just an event, "it's about a whole city."

Evans, a four-time gold medalist in swimming, said that watching the 1984 Games in LA inspired her to strive to become an Olympian.

Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson has called the agreement a "win-win-win scenario."

As Wesson and the other council members cast their votes in favor of the deal, protestors hissed and chanted their objections. Several of the council members punctuated their aye votes with cheers for the future games.

The deal comes with millions of dollars of financial sweeteners for accepting the later date. However, the extra four years pose challenges for Los Angeles from maintaining public interest to rewriting deals for stadiums, arenas and housing that were all hooked to 2024.

City analysts recommended the council approve the contract, which faces an Aug. 18 deadline, but also emphasized a revised budget for 2028 could take months to complete.

"There are inherent risks to hosting such major events so far into the future," city analysts noted in a report on the agreement.

During Friday’s council meeting, city staff rebuffed claims that the Olympic deal was being rushed, arguing that L.A.’s Olympic bid committee has been negotiating with the IOC for more than two years (albeit for the 2024 Games, not 2028). 

Sharon Tso, L.A.’s chief legislative analyst, said the current memorandum of understanding between L.A and the IOC includes financial safeguards to protect the city’s coffers, such as a $270 million contingency fund that would require city council approval to dip into. 

Tso told the council Olympic organizers are required to complete an independent analysis of the budget, carry an additional insurance policy to address any "unforeseen circumstances that may arise,” and submit regular reports to the city over the coming 11 years. If organizers want to change any of the Olympic venues from what is currently planned, they would need city council approval. The city will also have representatives on the organizing committee's board. 

L.A. will need to recast financial guarantees approved by the city and state to cover potential shortfalls connected with the 2024 bid. Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation last September that puts California taxpayers on the hook for up to $250 million if Los Angeles was awarded the 2024 Games and they ran over budget. The city had matched the amount.

Those reserve costs would apparently go up for 2028. And city analysts say the question of state support might not be resolved until 2018, though legislative leaders have expressed support.

The Olympics have a notorious history of runaway costs, but city officials have argued their plan will stay in the black by relying on the region's many existing stadiums and arenas, including the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and the Staples Center. State analysts previously concluded the 2024 plan carried relatively low risk, because it avoided major new construction projects.

The 2028 plan is expected to remain largely unchanged, without building any new, permanent venues.

The U.S. Olympic Committee board of directors must also approve the deal.

The International Olympic Committee vote is scheduled for September, in Lima, Peru.

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