Another highly appealing reality at the time was the official insistence that L.A.'s Olympics would be a "Spartan Games," run on a low budget in facilities that had been built years ago—the Coliseum, the Rose Bowl, the Forum, etc. A rough—and perhaps somewhat questionable—estimate of expenses and revenues put together last year by Olympic proponents indicated that capital costs for new construction for the Games would be no more than $33,500,000, a pittance. The only new facilities would be a swimming stadium ($15 million), a rowing channel ($3 million) and a temporary velodrome ($500,000). The refurbishing of existing facilities would cost another $15 million. Overall expenditures would be $183 million. The figures seem optimistic to the point of being dreams—but the fact remains that L.A. cannot possibly come close to the terrifying $900 million deficit run up by the mad builders of Montreal in 1976. At the same time, Los Angeles' Olympic optimists are quick to point out that if one subtracts from that deficit the monumental spending for capital construction in Montreal (some of which is being regularly used today by professional teams), the Montreal Olympics actually profited by $126 million—from revenues brought in by everything from stamps and coins to tickets, programs and concessions. The Los Angeles projection for income is fairly conservative: $184,250,000, including such items as $74 million from ticket sales (at an average price of $14.50 per ticket), $10 million from licensing rights, $750,000 from concession income and half a million from program sales. This would leave a profit of slightly over $1 million, without adding money that could be forthcoming from stamp, coin and medal promotions, which the President's Commission on Olympic Sports estimated at a whopping $500 million.
No federal money was included in these early estimates. But it is assumed that a good deal of it will be forthcoming if L.A. gets the Summer Games. California Congresswoman Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, a leading Olympic advocate on Capitol Hill says, "The government has appropriated $58 million for the Lake Placid [Winter] Games in 1980 and $12 million for the Pan-American Games in Puerto Rico in 1979. Certainly there will be a sizable amount available for a Summer Olympics in Los Angeles." The California Congressional delegation has been inclined to support the Olympics in L.A., and two weeks ago California Senator Alan Cranston, a former quarter-miler at Stanford, wrote President Carter asking for strong White House backing in getting the Federal Government to provide for security measures at the Games, which otherwise would be a costly expenditure. Here, of course, we enter politics again. Thus far the anti-frills Carter Administration has not been as outspokenly pro-Olympics as that of Gerald Ford and, should there be a contest between austerity-conscious California Governor Jerry Brown and President Carter to outfrugal each other in real or imagined conflict over the Democratic Presidential nomination, the Olympic support could become an issue. Sooner or later, too, there will arise the question of U.S. prestige vs. Russian prestige in the matter of holding—or not holding—an Olympic Games.
There certainly will be some federal money available—and there certainly will be some television money, too. The question is how much? In the rough estimate produced last fall, a profit from television of $66 million was added into the revenues. That would be after the IOC had taken its one-third cut. "I'll eat my hat if we don't get twice that," says John Argue.
Whatever the bottom line after all these estimates, no one in Los Angeles favors hosting the Olympics if there is any risk that it will result in a deficit for the city treasury. A private poll taken last fall to determine if there was grass-roots support for the Games revealed that 80.9% of the people approved if they could be held without spending any city money. That figure plunged to 35% if the Games might result in a deficit. This is indicative of a new worldwide attitude toward the Olympics—a switch from the universal view of a few years ago that the Games were a grand acquisition for any city and any nation.
Nevertheless, one final reality appeared to bulwark L.A.'s bid—in all the world there may be no city more oriented toward sport. Every game and contest seems to flourish in its sunshine, a matchless ambience for world competition that turned the 1932 Games into an oddly idyllic affair that earned a $1 million profit despite the fact that it was held in the darkest Depression year of them all.
Somehow all these factors were so beautifully interlocked that it should have been impossible for L.A. to lose the Olympics. And yet....
The whole fabric began to show flaws early in the winter of 1978. First there was the matter of a number of questionnaires from the IOC and the sports federations, which every municipal applicant for an Olympic bid must fill out. The IOC is used to answers that are verbose, and most applicant cities fairly wallow in the baroque prose of diplomacy. The approach of the L.A. people was the reverse. They replied in terse, no-nonsense terms, declaring their intention to retain control of everything that happened in their Olympics pertaining to finances, including the negotiation and acceptance of TV contracts, as well as all costs and designs of facilities to be constructed or refurbished. "All final decisions," L.A. told the IOC, "must be reserved to the local organizing committee pursuant to contractual agreements." Period.
This flew in the face of all that the IOC has come to believe about itself and about the quadrennial spectacle it bestows on some lucky city. Lord Killanin, a usually genial pipe smoker with an affable manner, cracked back with uncharacteristic sharpness: "All the needs of the IOC, the international federations and the USOC shall be met by the city...and the IOC is the final authority over the Games." And to cut off all further debate on the question of money he reminded L.A. that the national Olympic Committee and the city chosen must "assume complete financial responsibility for the Games." Period.
European journalists, as accustomed as the IOC to the more florid language of less independent applicants, quickly labeled the L.A. document "belligerent" and "arrogant." In hindsight, John Argue says, "It was terse, let's say, and it could have been stated in nicer language." And, as luck—and city hall politics—would have it, Argue recalls, those replies to the questionnaires were drafted in the office of L.A.'s chief administrative officer, C. Erwin Piper, an outspoken official who, as a matter of political philosophy, believes that not a dime should be spent for any project that is not fully under control of city bureaus. Piper had also consistently disputed the expenditure figures of the pro-Olympics forces, insisting that the Games would cost many millions more than anticipated. Thus, the political struggles inside city hall were introduced directly into the negotiations between the city and the IOC.
There was to be more of this in the drafting of another important missive to the IOC, the long and detailed contract that the city presented as the sole legal document of agreement between the two bodies concerning the Games. The work on this paper was done in the office of Burt Pines, the city attorney, and what came out was a piece of lengthy (25 pages) legalese written in the precise, detailed style of U.S. contractual agreements rather than in the less specific language of European contracts to which the IOC is accustomed. "The city attorney's contract was written like a marriage arrangement that had the divorce agreement drawn up ahead of time," says Anton Calleia. "It demanded: 'Give the city the Games,' but the city refuses to take any responsibility for them."