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Olympic evaluators come to LA — does the visit matter?

The Olympic evaluators will tour proposed venues, such as the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
The Olympic evaluators will tour proposed venues, such as the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

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The International Olympic Committee's evaluation commission visits Los Angeles this week to see firsthand how well the city is prepared to host the 2024 Games. The 13 members will visit proposed venues such as the Rose Bowl and the Coliseum, and hold working sessions with LA 2024, the group pushing the city's bid.

But will the four-day visit beginning Tuesday have much impact on whether L.A. beats out Paris and gets the games? Probably not, Olympics experts say. 

"It’s less important than it appears," said David Wallechinsky, president of the International Society of Olympic Historians. "You have two cities that are really strong. Is there really something that’s going to come out of these visits? I don’t think so."

Wallechinsky says site visits can be important when cities are less well known, such as when Almaty, Kazakhstan was competing with Beijing for the 2022 Winter Olympics. Evaluators had to see whether there was enough snow for downhill ski racing. (Beijing won the bid.) 

"But a lot of these voters have already been to Paris or L.A. on their own, so they don’t need an evaluation committee," said Wallechinsky.

The commission will publish a report on the two bids in July, right before Paris and L.A. make their final presentations to the IOC in Lausanne, Switzerland. The roughly 85 members will then gather in Lima, Peru on Sept. 13 to select the city that will host the 2024 Games.

L.A. should be worried about the people who will be voting in Lima, not the 13 on the evaluation commission, according to Wallechinsky.

"In the end this vote takes place with 85 people, and it’s hard to tell how many of them will look carefully at this evaluation," he said. "Those 85 people have different kinds of agendas."

Some may vote based on which city has the best venues or will generate the most revenue, said Wallechinsky. "And then there's gonna be those people who go, 'I think my wife would like to go shopping in Paris, or maybe if we go to L.A. we'll meet some movie stars.'"

The evaluation commission arrives in L.A. in the wake of corruption charges. In March, the group's chairman, Frank Fredericks, stepped down after a French police investigation found he may have taken hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from a wealthy Brazilian the same day the IOC awarded Rio de Janeiro the 2016 Olympics. (Fredericks has denied any wrongdoing.)

IOC member Patrick Baumann, secretary general of the International Basketball Federation, has replaced Fredericks.  However, the IOC remains vulnerable to corruption, according to Andrew Zimbalist, co-author of the new book, "No Boston Olympics: How and Why Smart Cities Are Passing on the Torch." 

"When you have an international monopoly that has no regulatory body that sits over it, you have an enormous amount of power," said Zimbalist. "Unfortunately, people who are in that circumstance and who have that kind of leverage try to take advantage of it. It comes with the territory."

But Zimbalist added: "I don’t think [corruption is] legion in the IOC."