LOS ANGELES -- As Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti stood before a crowd outside the Los Angeles Convention Center on Saturday morning prior to the start of the U.S. Olympic Team Trials Marathon, he smiled as he looked around at the palm trees lining the streets and the sun-kissed glass façade of the convention center on a picturesque 75-degree day.
The marathon's results will help determine the first batch of track and field athletes to qualify for the 2016 U.S. Olympic team that will compete this summer in Rio de Janeiro, but Garcetti couldn't help but think ahead eight years, when he hopes Los Angeles will host the 2024 Summer Games.
"What do you guys think? Do you want to bring the Olympics back to American soil?" Garcetti asked the cheering crowd before the race. "Let's bring it back for a third time! Let's bring the Olympics back home! Let's do it in 2024!"
Los Angeles, which hosted the 1932 and 1984 Summer Olympics, is one of four candidate cities, along with Budapest, Paris and Rome, to host the 2024 Games. The host city will be chosen on Sept. 13, 2017, but Los Angeles believes it is already well on its way to building an Olympic city long before the International Olympic Committee holds its election next year in Lima, Peru.
Whether or not Los Angeles is chosen as the host city, ground will be broken later this year on a nearly $3 billion world-class football stadium in Inglewood, which will be the new home of the Los Angeles Rams, and on a $250 million soccer stadium on the site of the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, which will be the new home of Los Angeles FC, an expansion Major League Soccer team. The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum will also undergo a nearly $300 million renovation beginning next year. All of the stadiums are expected to be completed by 2019.
In addition to those facilities, over the past three years, the Rose Bowl has undergone a $182 million renovation; UCLA's Pauley Pavilion underwent a $136 million makeover; The Forum got a $100 million facelift, and even new facilities such as the Staples Center and StubHub Center have gotten a combined $25 million worth of upgrades and touchups, maintaining their status as premier homes in the NBA, NHL and MLS.
"The stars are aligning," LA 2024 Chairman Casey Wasserman told ESPN. "We are thrilled that the Rams will be returning to Los Angeles and playing in a brand new, state-of-the-art stadium in Inglewood, bringing exciting possibilities for its use in 2024. The wealth of existing and planned infrastructure in Los Angeles means LA 2024 has the luxury of selecting the best choices for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, not building them from scratch.
"And this extends to more than just outstanding sports venues. For decades, L.A. has been making the strategic investments in to make our city Olympic-ready, including the largest transit construction program in the United States, making our city greener, more liveable and better connected than ever before by 2024."
Los Angeles has long been criticized for a lack of a mass transit system, but that will change later this year when the Expo Line, a 15.2-mile, $2.5 billion light-rail line, will connect Downtown Los Angeles to Downtown Santa Monica. LAX airport will also begin a massive overhaul and renovation later this year, which will include a consolidated rental car center, a people-mover train and access to the under-construction Crenshaw Line light rail, which will be completed by 2023 for about $5 billion. From new sports facilities to groundbreaking transportation lines, Los Angeles is in the midst of a renaissance completely independent of its Olympic bid.
"We can offer a bid that not only doesn't go into debt, but everything is going to be used long after the Olympics and will already be built before the Olympics," Garcetti told ESPN. "It's all new facilities since the 1984 Olympics with the exception of the Coliseum, which will be upgraded and has the history. We're talking about cutting-edge facilities such as the stadium in Inglewood, which will be the most expensive and most technologically advanced stadium ever built. The Olympics want a more sustainable model for host cities, and Los Angeles is the perfect embodiment of that. More than 85 percent of our venues are already built or will be built regardless of whether we have the Olympics. We are fitting the plan for the Olympic Games to our city, not the other way around."
The LA 2024 bid calls for UCLA's modern residences to serve as its Olympic Village with USC, which is currently building a 15-acre, $700 million mixed-use "University Village" slated to be completed by 2018, as its Media Village. Both schools have also recently built several athletic and training facilities on campus, including the $147 million Galen Center and $70 million John McKay Center at USC, and the $70 million Wasserman Football Center and Mo Ostin Basketball Center at UCLA, which broke ground last year.
Both schools housed Olympians during the 1984 Summer Games and between them have produced 821 Olympians (423 for USC, 398 for UCLA) and 539 Olympic medals (USC 288; UCLA 251). Their combined Olympic medals account for more than 20 percent of all U.S. medals.
On Saturday, the U.S. Olympic Team Trials course took marathon runners through the USC campus, past the Coliseum -- which was the home of the opening and closing ceremonies of the 1932 and 1984 Summer Games -- and alongside a spectator-lined Olympic Blvd., which was originally called 10th Street, but renamed after the 1932 Olympics, the 10th Olympiad. Wasserman and Garcetti are hoping that history combined with a new-look Los Angeles will propel the city to join London as the only cities to host the Olympics three times.
"We are so excited that Los Angeles has played host to so many chapters in Olympics history, and we hope to soon write another chapter," Garcetti said. "Los Angeles has the capacity, infrastructure, people and experience to make it happen. We have the strongest package in the world. This is a town that has been home to more Olympic athletes than any place on the face of the Earth."
When the race was over, runners walked on red carpets set up outside of the convention center for the Grammy Awards, which will take place Monday night at the Staples Center. Before the end of the month, the arena will also host 10 Lakers, Clippers and Kings games in 12 days, all of which are sold out. As much as Saturday's Olympic team trials and Sunday's L.A. Marathon will be used as a showcase for Los Angeles' Olympic bid, the city is constantly juggling world-class events from sports and entertainment, proving it is more than capable of hosting the Olympics.
"It certainly elevates the 2024 bid by showing how well we can do these sorts of events," Garcetti said. "As was the Special Olympics World Games last year, or having a Lakers or Clippers game following a Kings game at Staples Center the same day there's a USC football game at the Coliseum. L.A. knows how to get this done, and a lot of cities can't pull that off logistically. We know how to do this."