LOS ANGELES — The City Council Aug. 11 unanimously approved a new memorandum of understanding and host city contract for the 2028 Olympics, despite lacking finalized figures about the costs and potential financial liabilities of an event Los Angeles originally wanted to host four years earlier.
Approval of the agreements is one of the final hurdles needed to officially bring the Games back to the Southland for the first time since 1984.
The vote immediately followed a meeting of the council’s committee on the Olympics, which also unanimously voted for the agreements.
By signing off on the documents, the council commits the city to pursuing the 2028 Games while ceding the 2024 Games to Paris, despite not knowing the full financial outlook the change could bring.
LA 2028, the renamed committee leading the city’s bid, proposed a balanced budget of $5.3 billion for 2024 — a low figure compared to other modern Olympics — by utilizing existing venues and not building any new permanent structures just for the Games. However, an independent analysis of a new budget in the works for 2028 will not likely be completed for months.
Los Angeles started off competing with other cities around the world for the 2024 Games, but eventually all cities except L.A. and Paris dropped out.
In July, the International Olympic Committee approved the idea of awarding both the 2024 and 2028 Games simultaneously.
On July 31, Mayor Eric Garcetti and other leaders announced a tentative agreement to host in 2028 as long as the Los Angeles City Council and U.S. Olympic Committee Board of Directors also approve the change. If that approval is given, the IOC, Los Angeles and Paris will work on a formal three-way agreement in advance of the IOC’s meeting in Lima, Peru, on Sept. 13, when the Games will officially be awarded.
At the committee and council meeting, a lineup of prominent Angelenos and Olympic supporters spoke in favor of the 2028 bid, including Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Michelle King, former Councilman Tom LaBonge and Olympic medalist Carl Lewis.
“This is about people’s lives. It’s about bringing people together. It’s about inspiring children,” said Lewis who won four gold medals in track and field in the 1984 Olympics, which were held here.
Los Angeles would receive some significant financial concessions for waiting the extra four years to host. Under the terms of the 2028 host city contract, the IOC would advance $180 million to the Los Angeles organizing committee due to the longer planning period and to fund youth sports in the years leading up to the Games.
The IOC also agreed to waive $50 million in fees and contribute up to $2 billion of its broadcast and sponsorship revenues to the Games, more than the $1.7 billion pledged to Paris for 2024. The IOC also agreed to funnel any of its profits from the Games back to the city.
Despite not yet having a full budget, both the Office of the Chief Legislative Analyst and the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer recommended that the council approve the host city contract and memorandum of understanding.
The new memorandum provides city representation on the LA 2028 Board of Directors, gives the city consent rights over significant venue changes within Los Angeles and $270 million of the projected $500 million Games budget contingency, an increase from $250 million, according to LA 2028.
The memorandum also requires new, more frequent LA 2028 presentations and updates to the City Council in the first three years, invites additional city participation in developing LA 2028′s overall insurance and risk management strategy, requires LA 2028 to acquire additional insurance and requires an independent review of the LA 2028′s Games budget, which is to be paid for by LA 2028, according to the committee.
The memorandum also requires the city and LA 2028 to formalize an agreement to support city youth sports programming in the years leading up to the Games.
“My top priorities in this process are to protect Los Angeles taxpayers and create new opportunities for young Angelenos to play sports, and be healthy,” Garcetti said in a statement before the vote. “This new MOU ensures that our city priorities remain front-and-center in LA 2028′s preparations for the Games. Under the city’s leadership, we can be sure that the up to $160 million we will receive to fund youth sports programs from LA 2028 will be put to the best, most impactful use.”
A potential risk factor in moving forward with 2028 is that part of the 2024 deal included $250 million from the state. With the Legislature on recess, it is not guaranteed that the state will approve the same amount for 2028 by a deadline of Aug. 18.
However, both Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon have submitted letters to the council stating their support for the 2028 bid and commitment to work to secure the funding, which would be used to cover any budget overruns. L.A. would cover the first $250 million in overruns and any over $500 million.
Despite the risk to taxpayers, interim Chief Administrative Officer Rich Llewellyn told the council’s Olympics committee the new deal “balances rewards with the risks.”
Council President Herb Wesson delivered passionate remarks defending the new deal and said despite the late change to 2028 from 2024, the council had worked on the Olympics for more than two years.
“If we, members, are going to have a bold city, we need to be bold,” Wesson said.
After the council’s vote, Garcetti, Wesson, Lewis and others held a news conference in the forecourt of City Hall surrounded by former Olympic athletes. But speakers at the news conference were periodically interrupted by a group of about a dozen protesters who gathered on the sidewalk outside the secured area.
The protesters chanted, “Homes not games!” suggesting they wanted the city to invest in affordable housing and not the Olympics, although the $5.3 billion budget does not include any public money and the city would only have to pay if the Games go over budget.
A recent poll by Loyola Marymount University that found 83 percent of Los Angeles residents support the 2028 bid.
“Don’t take our word for it. Take the word of Angelenos who came up to me from the first time I ever entered this City Hall and said — back then, council member, now mayor — fight to bring the Olympics home,” Garcetti said over the chants.