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L.A. Faces Changes in Sports Planning Landscape for Olympic Bid

9 Sep, 2015

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

The last time Los Angeles bid to host the Olympics, the term ‘sports tourism’ meant a trip to the Super Bowl.  A sports commission might have been defined as a royalty made by the vendor who sold a ticket to that game.

Now that Los Angeles is the official U.S. nominee city for the 2024 Olympics, there is a whole new economic landscape for sports planners in the area to deal with. As a result, the process of planning an Olympics – even of making advance contingency plans in case the area is awarded the Olympics – is a lot more complicated. Consider, for example, the ways the sports tourism industry has made the Los Angeles of 1984 a far different world from the Los Angeles of 2024, and the ways today’s planners for the area will be navigating those issues:

Long-Term Contracts: These days, sports events, as well as conventions, have long-term relationships with cities, and often have multi-year plans in effect that involve using convention centers, hotels, municipal facilities and more. Should L.A. win the bid, it will have to address pre-existing contracts for events taking place during the time of the Olympics and Paralympics.

Sports Facilities: Same principle, really. There’s pretty much no way the existing sports facilities – at least those of the caliber to host international-level competition – will be unaffected. And it stands to reason that in the years and months leading up to a hometown Olympics, all facilities will need to be examined and more than likely upgraded or at least spruced up. There go the best-laid plans of a few more events.

Construction: One of Los Angeles’ great charms, particularly to the USOC (and maybe the IOC soon enough), is it has a lot of infrastructure in place. But that still means some construction will be necessary. According to an Associated Press Report, the bid calls for building a $1 billion athletes' village on a rail yard the city doesn't own yet. (Other sports facilities will be needed, as will a media center. There will also be a necessary renovation of the Coliseum.) Should Los Angeles win the bid, planners who have events scheduled for Los Angeles (even those that don't involve sports facilities) leading up to the time of the Olympics will have to contend with traffic delays or detours caused by construction.

Accommodations: It’s a rare event planner these days who doesn’t draw into his or her contract the need for a hotel to notify them if significant renovations, reconstruction or other work is planned that could disrupt activities in the hotel. (This in turn allows the planner to decide upon whether to move the event somewhere else rather than have attendees disturbed or meetings disrupted.) The odds are good that a lot of hotels will decide to make their expansions and enhancements in advance of the 2024 Olympics.

Connectivity: Every sports facility, every facility, every area, period – is going to have to be ready to accommodate the demand of unprecedented numbers of spectators, athletes, media and others who need to stay connected – even if it’s just to check-in on Facebook.

The advent of sports tourism has caused changes in the hospitality industry over the years, and other changes in society – and in the Games themselves – have created a few other hurdles for L.A. and for planners there:

Safety:  Perhaps it’s part of sports facilities, but the fact is that recently, there have been an unprecedented number of accidents occurring in baseball stadiums. In 1984, sports facilities were a far less litigious backdrop than they are now – and more than likely, than they will be in 2024. Count on every sports facility to need to install additional safeguards to protect athletes and spectators.

The Sharing Economy: L.A. did not have Uber, Lyft, Airbnb and others in 1984. It will be interesting to see how event organizers handle the conundrum of independent contractors who will be in competition with an organized travel industry.

Paralympics: L.A complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, if the Olympics land in L.A. in 2024, it will mean the city will also host the Paralympic Games. (In fact, the Summer Olympics in 1984 – when L.A. last hosted – were the last Olympics not to flow directly into the Paralympics once the traditional Olympics had concluded; the summer Paralympics were held in New York that year instead.) For 2024, an influx of Paralympians from around the world (and of spectators who may or may not have physical challenges) means sports facilities and other accommodations will more than likely need more accessibility than an ADA baseline will require -- something else L.A. will need to take into consideration.

Much has changed since the parade of athletes last streamed into the Coliseum in 1984, just as much had changed there since it had entered the city in 1932. And nothing is an insurmountable obstacle, particularly if you ask L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, who has boundless optimism concerning his city's capabilities. But today’s sports planners will be watching the run-up to the 2024 Games – wherever they happen to be – through a slightly different vantage point from that of the typical spectator, and will be looking for the ways L.A. tackles sports tourism on the world’s biggest stage.

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