LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com/AP) — Organizers behind Los Angeles’ bid for the 2024 Olympic Games moved Monday to erase a major uncertainty: where to house thousands of athletes, and how to pay for it.
A proposal released last year when Los Angeles stepped in as a contender for the Games envisioned a $1 billion athletes’ village rising on the site of a rail yard near downtown, bankrolled by mostly private dollars from an unknown source.
That concept was officially scrapped, and officials announced Monday that athletes would live about 15 miles west, on the UCLA campus. The change represents an overhaul of a core element of the Olympic proposal — finding a place for athletes to make their temporary home.
LA is competing for the 2024 Games against Rome, Paris and Budapest, Hungary. The International Olympic Committee will select a site next year.
Speaking at UCLA, Mayor Eric Garcetti called the plan the “most cost-conscious” of alternatives to the rail yard but added that its strongest asset was its advantages for athletes, who would live in campus housing and be able to train at the university’s athletic fields, gyms and pools.
“We want to build the facilities where the athletes could train and feel at home right next to where they were living during that time,” he said. “That’s what we have right here.”
UCLA will receive rent for use of the campus, at a cost not yet known. Meanwhile, the Olympic committee is not facing the prospect of finding a developer to build a village for 17,000 athletes.
“I’ve been living on this campus for 3 years and I actually lived in the dorms my freshman year,” said Jordyn Wieber, an Olympic gold medalist and UCLA student. “So, I have an inside look at what it would be like to have the Olympic village here and I can’t think of a better place.”
Los Angeles City Council members have been wary of the potential for creeping costs for an event that historically runs over budget. A so-called host city contract, which essentially sticks the city and state with the burden of any cost overruns, became an obstacle in Boston, which was initially selected as a candidate for 2024 but later dropped out.
The blueprint for the rail yard was in doubt from the start, and committee officials disclosed last year they were shopping for alternatives.
City analysts warned that costs to acquire the land and build the structures could significantly exceed the projected cost. The railroad had told the city that it has no plans to close or relocate the yard, but it would be open to the possibility of a sale or exchange agreement involving a “suitable replacement facility with all the necessary permits and approvals.”
There were questions about possible pollution at the yard, and the cost of a cleanup.
Garcetti also announced Monday that the University of Southern California campus would be the site of the media village. Garcetti said that once a planned subway extension is finished, it will take about 21 minutes to get from Westwood to the USC area.
The city’s 2024 plan calls for staging events from volleyball on Santa Monica Beach to mountain biking in Griffith Park, one of the nation’s largest urban green spaces.
Los Angeles hosted the Olympics in 1932 and 1984.
The International Olympic Committee will select the 2024 host city next year.
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