The Los Angeles City Council cleared the way Tuesday for Mayor Eric Garcetti to strike agreements for a 2024 Olympics bid, putting the city on the verge of becoming the U.S. contender after Boston’s awkward collapse.
With the 15-0 vote, the U.S. Olympic Committee is expected to announce shortly that Los Angeles is the replacement candidate for 2024, about a month after Boston was dropped from contention amid shaky public support and questions about taxpayer spending and liability.
Garcetti has said Los Angeles, home to the Olympics in 1932 and 1984, would stage games both spectacular and profitable.
The city’s selection as the U.S. nominee would mark the start of a long competition. The International Olympic Committee will pick the host city in 2017, and Rome, Paris, Hamburg, Germany, and Budapest, Hungary, are also in pursuit of the 2024 Games.
A key issue has been whether approval of the resolution would saddle Los Angeles with potential cost overruns for an event that historically runs over budget. Council members were assured repeatedly that the approval starts a negotiation with Olympic officials and does not commit taxpayers to future spending to stage the Games.
“This is the engagement, not the wedding,” Council President Herb Wesson said.
The council’s vote authorizes Garcetti to execute agreements related to the bid, which outlines over $6 billion in public and private spending. The city’s 2024 plan calls for staging events from volleyball on Santa Monica Beach to mountain biking in Griffith Park, one of the nation’s largest urban green spaces.
The vote comes after council members received assurances from city lawyers that the resolution would not expose taxpayers to unchecked spending or debt. A so-called host city contract, which essentially sticks the city and state – not the IOC – with the burden of any cost overruns, became an obstacle in Boston.
For Los Angeles, a host city contract would come later, if the city is selected to stage the 2024 Games. For now, that temporarily pushes aside looming questions about costs.
Over the years Olympics have been notorious for cost overruns, and studies have questioned if host cities benefit economically. Russia has been struggling with costs from the 2014 Sochi Olympics, which have been called the most expensive Olympics of all time.
Many financial details of the Los Angeles plan remain vague.
The bid calls for building a $1 billion athletes village on a rail yard the city doesn’t own, and government analysts have warned that developing the site could significantly exceed the projected cost.
A private developer would invest most of the $925 million to build the village, but who would build the site, how the company would be selected and what type of financing would be used is unclear. The plan refers to necessary environmental and planning studies, but no cost estimates are given.
City analysts last week said they didn’t have enough information to verify the overall 2024 budget or determine the financial risk.
The IOC had set a Sept. 15 deadline for cities to enter the race for the 2025 Games.
The U.S. hasn’t hosted the Summer Games since 1996 in Atlanta.