I was born in L.A., and now I live in Paris. So, I’ve been following the Olympic committee deliberations with great interest. When both were virtually guaranteed to each play host, I was pleased to not have to play favorites. I remember the disappointment around me when London won over Paris for the 2012 games, which turned into negative sniping at the organisers and unfounded accusations of cheating on the part of the Brits. The self-esteem of Parisians took a beating that day, as did their honor.
This time, Parisians should be happy. They really WILL host the Olympics. But the way it’s been awarded has sucked all the enthusiasm out of it. First, there was the acknowledgement that there will be two winners, diffusing excitement for any one city. Second, Paris decided to publicly state that they’re only interested if they can go first. Yet another gaffe by Mayor Hidalgo, painting the city into a corner. She really likes ultimatums. If she’s re-elected in 2020 (representing a party that scarcely exists anymore), she wants to bask in the glory of the ceremony. And Third, now we have to wait until September for the official announcement, when everybody knows already what the committee will say. There’s no Wow, no Ta-Da, no Voilà.
Personally, I’m glad for two reasons. 2024 marks the 100-year anniversary of the last Olympic games in Paris, the ‘Chariots of Fire’ games. (Did you notice I posted this at 19:24 Paris-time? I’m a magician!) It’s fitting that Paris will show off all that’s new, and all thats been preserved from that time. The earlier date is also fitting because Paris is ready. Paris has BEEN ready for awhile. Only slight infrastructure improvements are needed. Facilities, housing and transportation are in good working order. In chapter 6 of French License, I state some numbers concerning the amazing capacity Paris has for accomodating passengers and tourists. It’s high season here now, and you never feel stifled walking along the avenues, the parks, the sights. All those people are absorbed very smartly.
L.A., on the other hand, could use a bit more time, so 2028 sounds right to me. I’m thrilled about the new stadium for the Rams, and now it doesn’t need to be rushed. I’m happy to see the rail network grow, but it’s still inadequate, and underused. Plus, the fact that 11 years and several elections separate us from the L.A. games, there’s less temptation for politicians to use the win for their personal gain. There’s a real chance for planners to work on the things which are going to make a real difference for Angelinos in the long run.
Planning is what’s needed in L.A. because I don’t see the same scenario playing itself out as with the 1984 games. I remember back then everyone panicking about traffic gridlock because of all the visitors, with no viable way to move around except by the freeways. So, the locals scheduled a mass exodus. Meanwhile, Russia and the Eastern bloc countries didn’t come, drastically reducing foreign tourists. The result was the smoothest traffic in L.A. in years, and the most profitable games, as the USA swept most competitions, keeping visitors from Ohio sticking around and spending more dollars. That won’t happen again, and today’s Games are at least twice as big. L.A. needs massive investment, communication and coordination. 2028 should give them that time.
On a lighter note, my francophone friends will ‘amuse themselves’ at this food guide I found at a Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles: