There was good news and bad news last week insofar as Los Angeles and its quest for the 1984 Olympics were concerned. The International Olympic Committee, meeting in Athens with representatives from L.A., including Mayor Tom Bradley, awarded the Games to that city on a provisional basis, the provision being that by July 31 the city would agree on a contract that conforms to IOC rules.
And therein lay the bad news. L.A. officials had flown to Athens hoping that, as the only city offering to host the Games, it could pressure the IOC into letting it wriggle clear of that organization's Rule 4, which states that the host city and its national Olympic committee must bear full financial responsibility for the Games. The IOC said, in effect, nothing doing. You pay the bill.
Chaos followed. L.A. city councilman Robert Ronka returned from Athens calling the IOC a group of "archaic and arcane aristocrats" who had "double-crossed" the city. He thought the chances of the Olympics being held in L.A. were slim, but then Ronka had long been opposed to hosting the Games. But when he got back, Mayor Bradley had another story to tell.
"It is far better to have the option we have than to have none at all," said Bradley. He claimed he had held his ground in Athens, even when it seemed the IOC might take away the Games, and that the impasse had been broken when an IOC member had mentioned that perhaps the city could cover itself against possible financial losses by insurance.
A little pie-in-the-sky there. No insurance company, not even Lloyds of London, would handle that kind of policy. Perhaps Bradley should have realized that, too, but being a shrewd politician, he needed something—anything—to get him out of Athens alive.
So what it comes down to is money, and, sad to say, the financial climate in Los Angeles is such that if the citizens—who on June 6 are expected to approve a proposition that will roll back property taxes to 1% of assessed valuation from approximately 2%—are led to believe that hosting an Olympics would cost them even a dollar each in increased taxes, they probably would reject the Games. Montreal is supposedly still $1 billon in the hole after the 1976 Games, but this figure is misleading because that city had to construct, among other facilities, a stadium—cost $300 million—and an Olympic Village. The Village is now an apartment complex and the stadium brings in revenue as the home of the baseball Expos and football Alouettes.
Mayor Bradley needs to convince eight of the 15 city council members, who will decide whether or not Los Angeles should go through with the project, that the Games will be self-supporting. Unlike Montreal, Los Angeles already has a stadium, the Coliseum, used for the '32 Olympics, and the athletes can be housed in local college dormitories. In fact, all L.A. needs is a swimming pool complex, a rowing course without tidal flow and a velodrome. In 1977, the city estimated that the total cost of hosting the Olympics would be $183.5 million.
As for income, television and ticket sales are expected to bring in $184 million. This may be optimistic, but there seems every expectation that the Federal Government will chip in, as it did for Lake Placid—$56 million worth—when it secured the 1980 Winter Games. "I expect them to give it to us, same as they did for Lake Placid," Bradley said. "I repeat, the city will not accept financial responsibility or liability for the Games. If no provision can be worked out...I will be the first to say, 'Sorry, you will have to take it elsewhere.' "
In the days between now and July 31, we will see how good a politician Tom Bradley is.