Should LA light the Olympic torch?

By Mateo Lopez, Feb. 16, 2021

Approximately 26 miles from CPP, Los Angeles will host the 2028 Summer Olympics, the third time the City of Angels will hold the games since last hosting them in 1984. However, one local organization is trying to prevent the Olympics from lighting its torch in Los Angeles.

NOlympics LA, is working to prevent the Olympic Games from being hosted in the city. The organization argues that hosting the event would exacerbate existing issues like homelessness and police expansion, while raising concerns about the operation’s cost.

“Our campaign is about how the Olympics makes policing and housing and other issues worse,” said Jonny Coleman, a volunteer organizer for No Olympics LA. “They accelerate policing, they accelerate surveillance and they accelerate real estate speculation and development. That means a lot of people are going to get kicked out of their homes, their homes might get bulldozed. If you’re kicked out of your home you may likely become homeless cause there’s nowhere affordable to live in LA.”

According to the Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority, the homeless count is currently at 54,291 people in the Los Angeles County, around 4,000 more people since 2019. Currently, the Los Angeles Police Department employs over 9,000 police officers, according to LAPD Compare Statistics Plus.

“There are over 80 law enforcement agencies in the county, so we can expect expansion of power and budget across the board,” said Coleman. “This isn’t just a City of LA problem but a County of Los Angeles problem, so all those cities (in the county) will be part of policing and development.”

Joining the LAPD, Los Angeles will receive assistance from the U.S. federal government. In the 2024 Olympic Games budget, now revised for the 2028 Olympic Games, the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and other agencies will be a part of security for the Olympics, while the U.S. Secret Service will design, plan and implement security detail.

While No Olympics LA are active in preventing the 2028 Olympic Games, the group has been noticing its lack of presence in the media despite being in a major media market.

“The LA media system, the local news media ecosystem has been very underfunded, underwhelming for a long time. We’re basically a one-newspaper town; we have 11 million people and we have one basic big newspaper,” said Coleman.

Despite No Olympics LA’s advocacy against the Olympic Games, Los Angeles is pressing on with its Summer Olympics plans, but not everyone is ready to welcome the event with open arms.

Luis Estrada, a first-year business student, had mixed feelings about the Olympics coming to Los Angeles.

“At first I was super excited about the Olympics coming to Los Angeles, but sadly I just think that when either a summer or winter city hosts an Olympic Games there’s always a lot of controversy and nightmares that come with the games,” said Estrada. “One of the first controversies is the price tag to host an Olympic Games.”

Since the 1984 Olympic Games, the Olympics have gone over budget in every host city, including the delayed 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If the 2028 Olympic Games goes over budget, Los Angeles and California taxpayers will pay for the cost overruns, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office Olympic Bid report by The California Legislature’s Nonpartisan Fiscal and Policy Advisor. Los Angeles will serve as the first financial backstop, California second after agreeing to provide $270 million each for cost overruns.

“I think it’s a bit unjust to spend billions of dollars to host an Olympic Games in Los Angeles and renovate stadiums and renovate public transportation, and build new venues and at the same time Los Angeles is struggling with funding schools, and being one of the most heavily populated cities with homelessness,” said Estrada.

While Estrada notes the issues between the Olympics and host cities, he does not want to give up on the Olympic Games.

“I believe there is a better way to run the Olympics. I do not think the Olympics should be dissolved,” said Estrada. “The Olympics are a beautiful opportunity for the world’s best athletes to compete in their respectable sport on the international stage.”

The 2028 Summer Olympics will be the 34th Olympic Games in its history, over a century since the first modern Olympic Games in Athens, Greece in 1896.

“The Summer Olympics for me it’s something that much like the World Cup in soccer, it unites the world in a way that I don’t think anything else can do,” said Jay Mason, head coach of CPP Women’s Soccer team.

“I think when anybody says, ‘The Olympics’, they immediately think the entire world and competition, and I think for me it symbolizes more of the fabric of competition and sport and unifying the world,” said Mason.

While fans like Mason enjoy the Olympics, the Games are not until seven more years. Until then, it is unknown whether Los Angeles will light the Olympic torch or cancel its bid.

“I think it would be a mistake,” said Mason on a possible cancellation. “I’d be sad, I mean I think it’s something most people look forward to and something that people across the world are a part of it when it’s going on.”

The Olympic events will be scattered over 20 miles ranging in venues from the Sepulveda Basin to Downtown LA and Long Beach. Dodger Stadium and Angel Stadium may be needed if baseball and softball return to the Olympic program depending on results in Tokyo 2021, or if organizers propose it to the International Olympic Committee.

In the meantime, locals will await the Olympic Games in Tokyo 2021 and in Paris 2024.


Feature image by Grace Johnson.

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