The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Evaluation Commission has delivered, as expected, glowing appraisals for both the Los Angeles and Paris bids to host the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The commission, chaired by IOC member Patrick Baumann, published its 180-page report on Wednesday following two days of technical briefings and site visits in both candidate cities in May.
The document heaps praise on the technical merits, venue plans and funding models of both bids, which are the only two left in the race after the withdrawals of Hamburg, Rome and, most recently, Budapest.
Addressing LA’s bid, which has consistently trumpeted its 'sustainable, low-risk Games Plan’ since it entered the race two years ago, the commission’s report praised an entirely privately-funded proposal that requires the construction of no additional permanent infrastructure other than three new venues that were already planned ‘irrespective of the Olympic Games.’
The report - presented, for the first time, in three parts: a video highlighting key features of each proposal; the written report; and annexes including venue photographs and other reference material - describes LA’s bid as "dynamic" and "futuristic", reserving particular praise for the way in which the American effort would seek to leverage California’s robust technology and innovation sectors.
Addressing Paris - which, like LA, is vying to host the Games for a third time - the report lauds the local organisers’ plan to utilise the French capital’s world-famous landmarks and a compact Games concept that is “fully aligned with long-term development plans of the city and the region”.
However, the report outlines several challenges facing both bids. In Paris, for example, organisers’ plans to construct an Olympic Village remain contingent upon the acquisition of 30 per cent of the land required for the site. Contingency plans for any potential cost overruns still need to be worked out as well, while the French organisers must also address pollution in Paris’ River Seine if they are to use it, as planned, to host triathlon and marathon swimming events.
By comparison, the report highlights LA’s proposed Olympic Village at UCLA, which, it says, "would offer high-quality accommodation and catering on a green, tree-filled campus with numerous top-notch athletic facilities." There are, however, concerns over limited accessibility on the campus, where “certain areas within the Paralympic Village would be difficult for wheelchair users due to steep gradients”.
The Evaluation Commission firmly believes that both Los Angeles and Paris are more than capable of hosting outstanding Olympic and Paralympic Games. Their candidatures have put the Olympic Movement in a win-win situation, with very little to separate the two projects.
In LA, transport also remains a concern, with the report noting the car-reliant nature of travel in the city and the limited capacity and network coverage to the two venue hubs in South Bay Sports Park and Valley Sports Park - although it adds that LA 2024 "has offered a credible plan to address the city’s well-known traffic issues."
In contrast, the report points that the Paris 2024 transport plan "would ensure high-capacity public transport within 400 metres of every venue in Paris – an amazing feat in such a huge metropolis."
"In conclusion," the report says, "the Evaluation Commission firmly believes that both Los Angeles and Paris are more than capable of hosting outstanding Olympic and Paralympic Games. Their candidatures have put the Olympic Movement in a win-win situation, with very little to separate the two projects."
There is, however, an important disparity between the two bids in terms of the strength of their public support. The commission’s report cites a recent IOC opinion poll that found an impressive 78 per cent support for the LA 2024 bid within the Californian city and just 63 per cent support for the Paris effort among Parisians.
The same survey, conducted in February by British company Sports Marketing Surveys, suggested only eight per cent of LA residents oppose hosting the Games while some 23 per cent of Parisian respondents are against the idea of their city staging them.
Back in 2005, when Paris bid unsuccessfully for the 2012 Games, the city had far stronger public support - 85 per cent in the city itself and 79 per cent across France. Recent terror attacks in the country, which remains under a state of emergency, are thought to have contributed to the marked decline in public support.
The IOC’s report notes that the "current security threat level across the Paris region is classified as “high” by French authorities." It nevertheless adds that the "proposed security measures for 2024 would reduce the risk level in Olympic Venues to “very low” and the Olympic Route Network to “low”, thereby providing a safe environment for Games’ constituents."
The two projects are different in nature, but each city presents a proposal which is genuinely authentic and reflects the best of what each has to offer.
According to the report, French authorities estimate the risk in the public domain would be “medium”. By comparison, the report claims that Los Angeles' proposed security measures would ensure the risk in the public domain would be "very low”.
On the subject of funding, meanwhile, the report describes Paris’ organising committee budget of US$3.964 billion as “feasible”, with financial risk “reasonably low for this stage of planning and budget development.” It adds that security, overlay and temporary infrastructure costs “may be understated”, although they “could be offset by potential expenditure reductions in other areas”.
The report uses the same terms to describe LA’s US$5.325 billion budget, however it notes the way in which “some venue-use agreements are based on revenue or cost-recovery arrangements, where the amount payable is not fixed, creating some financial and operational risk."
"Members of the Evaluation Commission have used the terms ‘forward-looking’, ‘innovative’, ‘vibrant’, and ‘cool’ to describe the Los Angeles candidature, and ‘historical’, ‘cultural’, ‘iconic’ and ‘amazing backdrops’ for that of Paris,” Baumann says in the report.
"However, whatever the description, it truly is a tale of two great Olympic cities. The two projects are different in nature, but each city presents a proposal which is genuinely authentic and reflects the best of what each has to offer.”
On Wednesday, the release of the report was welcomed by both bid teams, with the two parties claiming to be pleased with its findings.
"We are honoured that Paris’ compact, city-centre Games Plan received extensive praise and that recognition was given to our public engagement programmes and plans to promote the values and the spirit of the Olympic Movement, particularly among young people,” said Paris 2024 co-bid leader Tony Estanguet.
LA 2024 chairman Casey Wasserman added: “LA 2024 set out to redefine Olympic sustainability, guided by the IOC’s Olympic Agenda 2020 reforms, and we are delighted that our efforts have resonated so clearly with the IOC Evaluation Commission.”
With the evaluation commission’s findings now published, members of the IOC and both bid teams will convene in Lausanne next week for a candidate city briefing on 11th and 12th July. An extraordinary session will also be held in which the committee is expected to ratify a proposal by its executive board to award the 2028 Games along with the 2024 edition during the final vote on 13th September in Lima, Peru.