Los Angeles to be an Olympics host unlike any other

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
The plan is for the 2028 Olympics to be the first summer Games in recent history in which no new venues will need to be constructed.

NEW YORK — When the Paris Olympics closes Aug. 11, the world can turn its attention to a handover ceremony that will feature a heavy Los Angeles theme. 

The moment was teased by U.S. Olympics committee CEO Sarah Hirschland and LA 2028 Chief Athlete Officer Janet Evans at the U.S. Olympics Media Summit in New York this week, but all of its key details of the ceremony are still under wraps. 

The ceremony will be the first tick in the countdown to the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics, the first Olympics hosted by LA since 1984 and the third overall.

“This very well may be the single most important decade in sports in this country and we see a massive obligation and massive opportunity,” Hirschland said. 

Many of the same pillars from 1984 will be reprised in 2028, but in many ways Los Angeles will be a vastly different host city from that of 1984. 

The plan is for the 2028 Olympics to be the first summer Games in modern history in which no new venues will need to be constructed, according to Hirschland and Evans. The city’s renaissance of high-price sports arenas and stadiums during the nearly the three decades has resulted in a plethora of venues.

“There is nothing to be created or constructed there,” Hirschland said. “It’s a city that hosts so many sports on a regular basis.”

There are the obvious big-ticket locations: SoFi Stadium, where the opening ceremony will take place; Crypto.com Arena, which has been open for 25 years but will host Olympics events for the first time; BMO Stadium, the Honda Center in Anaheim, the soon-to-open Intuit Dome in Inglewood and Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson. 

There are many lesser-known venues that also will be involved: the multi-use recreation space at Dignity Health Sports Park, the Sepulveda Basin Recreation Area in San Fernando Valley and Long Beach Arena. 

Also, the large legacy Olympic venues in Los Angeles will be used: Memorial Coliseum and the Rose Bowl Stadium will mark the first time in Olympics history that two stadiums will be used for a third Olympics. Both stadiums were used in the 1984 and 1932 Games.

While the complete venue plan for 2028 has not been finalized, Evans told The Sporting Tribune that Rose Bowl will be used for soccer and the Coliseum will be used for track and field events. 

Because of the city’s sports infrastructure, Los Angeles will get to skip the potential construction costs that have affected other host cities in favor of contracts to rent existing venues. 

Paris has come the closest to matching this achievement, keeping its new construction to two venues for the upcoming Games – an 8,000-seat arena for badminton that opened in February and an aquatics center that opened last year.

However, other cities like 2020 host Tokyo faced more daunting construction costs. The Tokyo Olympics, which had an operating budget of $15.4 billion, required the construction of eight permanent venues and 10 temporary sites. Of the permanent venues, five were large-scale stadiums and included the rebuilt-from-scratch Japan National Stadium, which alone cost $1.39 billion.

The 2016 Rio Olympics, which cost $13.1 billion, required $7.07 billion devoted to the construction of 17 venues, 10 of which were large-scale projects. Some of those buildings have been repurposed for non-sports functions, like the Handball Arena, which was converted into a school in 2022. 

The last time Los Angeles hosted, two venues had to be constructed – the Olympic Velodrome on the CSU-Dominguez Hills campus and the Olympic Swim Stadium at USC.

By avoiding those construction costs, the LA Games is set to cost an estimated $6.9 billion. If that holds, it would be the cheapest operating budget of any summer Games since the 2000 Sydney Olympics, which cost $6.6 billion. LA 2028 officials also said the Games will be financed privately. 

However, there are certain factors within the city that could pose additional costs by 2028. 

One concern is the possibility of seismic activity. Southern California sees an annual average of 15-20 earthquakes with a magnitude of 4.0 or greater, according to the United States Geological Survey. 

The downtown LA area where the Coliseum stands faces heightened risk of damage during a larger earthquake because its surface is made of a thick layer of sediment, sand and dirt that can amplify shaking during a temblor, according to research by the Southern California Earthquake Center.

The Coliseum was badly damaged by an earthquake in 1994, which had a magnitude of 6.7. The USGS predicts that another earthquake of a 6.7 magnitude has a 60% chance of happening in the next 30 years. 

“We have a lot of contingency plans, and if anything Tokyo taught us that,” Evans said. “There’s always going to be something and so we are well versed and well prepared for any kind of challenges thrown our way.”

LA also is in the midst of a state of emergency because of the city’s growing homeless population, which was enacted by Mayor Karen Bass in December 2022. Bass allocated $1.3 billion toward addressing the homelessness crisis last May. 

Despite Bass’ investment, the city saw a 10% increase in homelessness in 2023, according to the Los Angeles Times, with about 46,260 people experiencing homelessness in the city in the past year. This is a significantly higher number than other host cities. 

In Paris, there were 4,277 homeless people in this year’s edition of Nuit de la solidarité, which is an annual event in the city in which the number of homeless people is counted and recorded. Tokyo had 770 homeless when it hosted the Olympics in 2021, according to Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare’s survey. In 2016, Rio de Janeiro had a homeless population of less than 15,000, according to Reuters

“It is something that every big city is addressing,” Evans said. “We are delivering the Olympic and Paralympic games how we can impact the community through that is of the utmost importance to us, but the city of Los Angeles is supportive of our organizing committee and are very supportive of the decisions we make so we follow them with Mayor Bass leading that effort for us.”

The city has four years to end to the state of emergency. But as for the rest of Los Angeles residents, Evans has had very few concerns about locals opposing the city hosting the Games in 2028. 

“When we polled the residents of Los Angeles, it was a very high percentage, I want to say in 80s, of residents who wanted the Games because of the great things it brings, community support, economic impact,” Evans said. “I think the general feeling in Los Angeles is a strong sense of community pride and excitement.”