In the final days before April’s elections, the new U.S. Olympic Committee had an urgent task: Pick a host city for the 2024 Olympics, which officials were confident would fall into their lap.
It could not have been any easier. Baltimore and Philadelphia had been considered front-runners, with the USOC also betting on Boston, Washington and Los Angeles. Chicago’s bid was in ruins after coming up short in the city’s first bid for the Summer Games in 2016.
But as April drew to a close, only Los Angeles and San Francisco remained in the running, and the latter turned into a dead heat with a last-minute late surge for Seattle.
In the end, L.A. pulled ahead. The final choice in a race that at one point included 26 potential cities was L.A., which beat out Paris and Budapest to host the 2024 Games.
So what did we learn from all of this? For starters, we know there’s no such thing as a sure thing with Olympic bids. This was the third time since 1998 that the USOC chose a U.S. city. Like Cleveland and San Diego before it, San Francisco and Los Angeles had time to make a late push. Seattle and Chicago should have been there.
But L.A.’s resurgence caught officials in both cities off guard, and when you read the stories, you wonder how it happened. Indeed, Seattle’s bid had far better credentials, from historic parkland to being the one American city to host the Winter Games in 1981. But if history is any guide, L.A.’s aggressive effort paid off for a few days before fading away.
Paris and Budapest — which until now had been thought to be strong contenders — did so badly in recent weeks that they had nowhere left to go. Same goes for Boston and its squeaky-clean public perception. The relatively late entrance of Los Angeles may have set off a chain reaction of indecision by the other potential U.S. candidates, creating a familiar mind-set of just go with what’s expected, which apparently wasn’t great enough for Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York and Governor Jay Inslee of Washington.