With the 2016 Summer Olympics at the midway point in Rio (and the men’s golf event nearing its conclusion), I thought I’d take a moment to share my experience of having lived through having an Olympics in my backyard and why Los Angeles is better equipped than any US city to host a summer Olympics.
The year was 1984, and my family had been living in Southern California for a couple years and watched, with interest, as the local news broadcasts predicted dire consequences due to traffic (if you’ve ever been there or lived there, traffic is a principal point of discussion- they practically invented traffic coverage and certainly made the high-speed police chase into an art form) over the upcoming summer Olympics. At the time, Los Angeles had no public transportation system of note (they’ve since built a subway which works fairly well) beyond buses. It was going to be a 24-hour traffic nightmare that would grind the city to a halt.
And it didn’t happen. People went on vacation, the tourists who came had a wonderful time, the Olympics didn’t leave the city or state in financial ruin, and whatever facilities did get built are still in use today (I discovered handball which is my favourite summer Olympic sport to watch). Since 1984 Los Angeles has added a decent subway (anyone experiencing the nightmare that WMATA is putting my fellow DMV residents through may not remember what a well-functioning subway is like); car traffic is still bad (based on a visit 2 summers ago) but they’ve also added toll roads.
What does Los Angeles have? In short, infrastructure, facilities, population, climate, and location. Off the top of my head, the following facilities that could be re-purposed for an Olympics include the following:
-Staples Center; downtown Los Angeles
-Pauley Pavillion, on UCLA campus (hosted gymnastics in 1984)
-Inglewood Forum, Inglewood (hosted basketball in 1984)
-LA Coliseum (hosted open/closing ceremonies & track/field in 1984)
-USC arena (former LA Sports Arena, hosted boxing in 1984)
-Long Beach State basketball arena
-Long Beach arena (hosted volleyball in 1984)
-Velodrome near CSU-Dominguez Hills
-Home Depot Center (soccer)
-Tennis facility adjacent to Home Depot Center (hosts ATP event every year)
-Rose Bowl (hosted soccer in 1984, men’s World Cup final in 1994, Women’s World Cup final in 1999)
-Anaheim Convention Center (hosted wrestling in 1984)
-Honda Center, Anaheim
-Cal-State Fullerton basketball gym.
-Veterans Stadium, Long Beach
-USC and UCLA both have outdoor swim facilities, baseball and softball facilities
-Dodger Stadium (hosted baseball as demonstration sport in 1984)
-UC Irvine (Orange County) also has a baseball/softball facility, outdoor swim facility, and an indoor arena.
Other than constructing an Athlete’s Village, there would be seemingly no reason to have to build anything other than a canoe/kayak facility, and that’s before a new NFL stadium gets built for the 2017/2018 season that could be used for soccer (you could also use stadia in Northern California and Phoenix (indoor) for soccer that would keep teams from exhaustive travel).
Since this is a golf blog, you have LA Country Club (hosting the 2021 US Open), and Riviera Country Club (host of the Northern Trust Open and hosted PGA Championships in 1983 and 1995) as courses central to Los Angeles that can stand up to the modern game with little effort needed. The romantic in me would love to see Rancho Park upgraded and used as the Olympic course. It’s currently just over 6,800 yards from the tips and would need to be toughened up in order to challenge modern pros, but its history is undeniable. Industry Hills has been used for the LPGA’s Kia Classic and is a robust test but would need some nips and tucks (at a minimum) to be considered. Torrey Pines is another great option although it is 2 hours away by car in San Diego. The hot conditions in Palm Springs (highs of 110 are normal) rules out going to PGA West or similar.
Counting Orange County (John Wayne) and San Diego Airports, you have 5 airports in Southern California (LAX, Long Beach, Ontario, Burbank, John Wayne, and San Diego) which makes getting to and from pretty easy.
In short, a return to Los Angeles wouldn’t leave the state of California with a bunch of white elephant projects. It’s time.