Liam Morgan

It is just after five o’clock in the morning when the hordes of Angelenos arrive at the iconic Memorial Coliseum, dressed in all sorts of weird and wonderful outfits.

They are here to take part in a workout session as part of a “daybreaker” event, a craze which is sweeping the United States and indeed the world, billed as a “morning dance party that will start your day with energy and intention”.

This latest gathering has a different feel, or vibe as they love to call it here, as it is being used as a celebratory event to coincide with Los Angeles 2024’s submission of their third and final Olympic and Paralympic Games candidature file.

Once the attendees have completed their arduous workout session, attention turns to the rave, which is greeted with a slightly larger crowd as those who have just come for the party begin to emerge from the near-darkness.

Local DJ Jason Bentley blares out the tunes to a crowd whose faces are adorned with spirit and smiles – smiles which have been absent from the faces of bid officials from Los Angeles, Paris and Budapest over the past week.

It is fair to say it has not been an easy seven-day period for any of the three candidate cities, not that Olympic bid races are ever simple.

President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration hung over Los Angeles 2024 menacingly throughout my stay here, with the global landscape speculating on the extent of the damage his decision to ban nationals from seven countries for a 90-day period would have on their efforts to bring the Summer Olympic Games back to the US for the first time since Atlanta 1996.

As my colleague Nick Butler pointed out in his piece, it had hardly been a good week for Paris either, as the prospect of National Front head Marine Le Pen triumphing in the French Presidential election appeared to gather pace.

Budapest 2024 have arguably suffered the most, with growing calls for a referendum forcing them to suspend their international promotion campaign. While Los Angeles and Paris staged dawn parties and slogan reveals, the Hungarian capital remained quiet. Their silence was deafening.

Los Angeles 2024 held a morning workout and party to celebrate the submission of their candidature file ©Los Angeles 2024
Los Angeles 2024 held a morning workout and party to celebrate the submission of their candidature file ©Los Angeles 2024

From a personal point of view, this past week or so has been spent seeing exactly what Los Angeles has to offer, both as a city and as a candidate for the 2024 Olympics and Paralympics.

For a start, you cannot help but be impressed by the current state of infrastructure out here on the west coast of the US. The iconic Memorial Coliseum, used at the 1932 and 1984 editions of the Games, the sparkling Staples Center and the StubHub Center make for a set of venues which must be the envy of numerous cities across the globe.

They will be complemented by the construction of a brand-new stadium in Inglewood, set to be one of the jewels in the Los Angeles crown should the city prevail in the three-way battle for the hosting rights for the 2024 Games.

“We believe we have the best sporting venues in the world, both the venues that exist and today and the venues which are under construction,” Los Angeles 2024 chief executive Gene Sykes told me.

“We can present the sports and experience the sports in a more exciting and effective way than anyone else can and have ever been experienced before.”

His last point is difficult to argue with. International Federations (IFs) must be dreaming for a show similar to the one put on by the Los Angeles Lakers during a rare win over the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday (January 31).

The city itself carries a relentless buzz of energy; grins are far more common than grievances, smirks replace sneers and prosperity largely trumps pain. You get the sense that Angelenos are genuinely happy to live here.

The vast array of different cuisines and cultures, coupled with stunning views, also cannot be discounted. It is often forgotten that some IOC members will be voting purely for where they would fancy spending a few summer weeks and they can certainly do worse than Los Angeles.

Los Angeles 2024's proposed velodrome needs substantial renovation to reach Olympic-worthy status ©ITG
Los Angeles 2024's proposed velodrome needs substantial renovation to reach Olympic-worthy status ©ITG

Of course, the Los Angeles bid is not perfect. The proposed velodrome, situated on the same site as the StubHub Center, is in desperate need of renovation work if it is to get anywhere near the standards you would expect for the Olympic Games.

The facility, due to host the Para-cycling Track World Championships next month, requires more than a touch of TLC. Its capacity, size and general aesthetics fall well below par as it stands and the venue does not reflect cycling’s top-tier Olympic status.

In fairness to the Bid Committee, upwards of roughly $4.8 million (£3.8 million/€4.5 million) will be spent on upgrading the velodrome. It is up to them to ensure the money is spent wisely.

The Tennis Centre, adjacent to the StubHub Stadium, is also inadequate in its current state and even more so compared with Roland Garros, Paris 2024’s proposed venue for the sport, but Los Angeles 2024 are confident the improvements they plan to make will be more than enough.

Although the hallowed Olympic Games lanes – a treasured commodity within the IOC membership - would be in operation if Los Angeles is chosen ahead of Paris and Budapest, the traffic across the vast breadth of the city will not go unnoticed when the Evaluation Commission visits in April.

Yes, public transport has been renovated in some areas and is due to undergo work in others but the volume of cars makes travelling to a destination a more arduous task than it perhaps should be. A minor issue, some might say, but an issue nonetheless.

However, the main challenge facing Los Angeles 2024 is the fact that the Bid Committee “don’t know all of the IOC members well enough”, according to Sykes. The chief executive told me he was keen to address this issue before the IOC electorate heads to the polls in Lima on September 13.

“They are all individual voters, they all have their own histories, expectations and hopes for the Olympics and we need to know them better,” Sykes said.

“We fear honestly that Parisians and maybe even the Hungarians are better-known – they have longer term relationships because they are closer to the centre of the Movement.

“So our challenge is to get to know them well enough so they trust us, they like us and they believe they know us well enough to make the decision to give us this responsibility.”

Los Angeles 2024 chief executive Gene Sykes admitted the Bid Committee do not know all of the IOC members well enough ©Los Angeles 2024
Los Angeles 2024 chief executive Gene Sykes admitted the Bid Committee do not know all of the IOC members well enough ©Los Angeles 2024

At Los Angeles 2024’s headquarters, where my brief chat with Sykes took place, a clock counts down to the Session in Lima, but they have wasted little time in honing in on the weaknesses of their main rivals, Paris, with the international promotion phase barely a day old.

In pretty much every press release from the Bid Committee, chairman Casey Wasserman seeks to highlight how Paris needs to construct an Olympic Village, seen as one of the most expensive building projects, from scratch, whereas the American city possesses a ready-made facility at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The claim in the bid book, which states how Los Angeles 2024 will “restore the credibility of the Games hosting process via its sustainable plan”, is also a nod to how they feel Paris would be purely a continuation of the trouble the Olympic Movement, and the bid process, following the colossal cost of Sochi and the well-documented issues in Rio.

There exists the view that Los Angeles would move away from past models, where overspending was a common theme, which is why we receive the “low-risk” option slogan on an almost daily basis.

It is also perhaps a stereotypically-American attitude, whereby the US considers itself to be the saviour of the Olympic Movement and how they are teaching the world how to act – a mantra they must distance themselves from if they are to emerge triumphant.

At their own launch event, Paris 2024 responded as Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve stressed how the French capital would “build bridges not walls” – a clear dig at Trump’s plan to build a wall on the Mexican border.

Few can argue that the clearly-scripted riposte is a headline-making quote which will reverberate around the world but turning the race into a political tussle may not benefit the Paris bid, with a key Presidential election looming in May.

The comments came on a day where the major concern about the French capital - the fear of terrorism - was unfortunately highlighted once again after a soldier shot a man who, according to French police, was carrying a machete and shouting "Allahu Akbar" at The Louvre.

In response to the incident, Cazeneuve said: "Terrorism exists throughout the world, and the US has also been hit, like France.

"We are forever adapting safety disposal in order to ensure the safety of major events. 

"There is a high level of vigilance now in France. 

"Today was a demonstration of this efficiency."

Paris 2024 used their launch event to implicitly criticise Donald Trump's plan to build a wall on the Mexican border ©Getty Images
Paris 2024 used their launch event to implicitly criticise Donald Trump's plan to build a wall on the Mexican border ©Getty Images

The early bickering represents a microcosm of what we should be expecting over the next eight months, with confidence emanating from both the French and American camps.

“We are different from the European cities,” Sykes said when asked what differentiates Los Angeles from their rivals.

“They’re great, they’re our heritage, we respect them and we love them.

“The romantic appeal of Paris is so self-evident we could never protest that – we think it is true and everyone would agree with it.

“But it is not LA.

“The best way I can characterise the distinction between Los Angeles and Paris or Budapest is to go to an IOC member and say ok, why don’t you ask your grandson or granddaughter where they want to spend the summer.

“Just ask them.

“That will give you the answer to where the Olympic Games should be going in the future.”

Let battle commence.