By Rory Carroll and Ingrid Melander
LOS ANGELES/ PARIS (Reuters) – Paris moved within a hair’s breadth on Monday of formally being chosen to host the 2024 Summer Olympics after rival candidate city Los Angeles agreed to accept the consolation prize of the 2028 Games in a rare two-way contest between the cities.
Both cities were competing for the 2024 Summer Games after several other contenders withdrew, and the stage was set for Paris to win its bid when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) confirmed that Los Angeles had officially embraced the later date of 2028.
“The IOC welcomes this decision of the Los Angeles Olympic and Paralympic Candidature Committee,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in a statement.
The decision, subject to formal ratification by the IOC at a meeting in Peru in September, paves the way for Los Angeles and Paris to join London as the only cities ever to host the Games – summer or winter – three times since the modern Olympics began more than a century ago.
The United States last hosted the Olympics for the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta. Its first was the Summer Olympiad III, staged in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1904, coinciding with the World’s Fair held there that summer.
“I am proud to announce that the Olympic Games are coming back to the United States of America,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told a news conference at the StubHub Center sports complex in suburban Carson.
U.S. President Donald Trump, beleaguered by recent staff shakeups and setbacks on Capitol Hill, hailed the news in a statement of congratulations from the White House.
“I am confident that the Summer Games in Los Angeles will exemplify both the Olympic ideal and the American spirit, and we look forward to hosting them,” he said.
The United States has hosted the Olympics 9 times – 5 Summer Games and 4 Winter Games. France has hosted 6 times, three each in summer and winter.
The IOC’s unprecedented move of essentially awarding two Games in tandem turned the spotlight on security challenges facing the French capital while giving Los Angeles, which last hosted the Olympics 33 years ago, ample time to upgrade its public transportation system.
Residents of Los Angeles, which ranks as America’s second-largest city by population, expressed a mix of enthusiasm for the Games and anxiety about placing additional strains on the city’s notoriously heavy traffic.
“It was a great thing the last time we had it here in L.A., and I think it will be a boon for business and kind of bring unity back to L.A.,” Los Angeles resident Domenic Ferrante, 53, told Reuters.
‘CHARIOTS OF FIRE’
The hosting agreement for Los Angeles commits the IOC to furnishing the city financial contributions totaling $2 billion, some $500,000 more than Rio de Janeiro received for last year’s Summer Games.
The rest of the projected $5.3 billion budget for the Los Angeles games would come from local sponsorships and ticket sales, Garcetti said. The federal government had agreed to pick up the tab for “national security costs,” he said.
An official designation of Paris for the 2024 Olympics has yet to be announced. Assuming it clinches the Summer Games for that year, it would mark the centenary of the 1924 Paris Olympics, depicted in the 1981 Oscar-winning motion picture “Chariots of Fire.” Paris also hosted the second edition of the modern Summer Olympics, in 1900.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo welcomed the Los Angeles decision but stopped short of saying the 2024 Olympics were assured for her city. Talks with the IOC would continue through August to “reach a tripartite deal,” she said.
A representative for Hidalgo’s office, speaking on condition of anonymity, said definitive word was expected to come when the IOC meets on Sept. 13 in Lima, Peru, after several more steps in the procedure had been finalized.
The co-chair for Paris’ Olympics bid, Tony Estanguet, said its organizing team had convinced the IOC “of the merits of awarding” the 2024 Games to Paris. His committee welcomed the Los Angeles announcement as “a key step in the process of awarding the Olympics.”
Garcetti said he anticipates unanimous IOC support for his city’s 2028 host designation in Lima.
Canadian senior IOC member Dick Pound said: “It is a win-win for the two cities.”
“It’s good for the IOC because we’ve got two great cities lined up for the next two big shows,” he told Reuters by phone.
The next Olympic Summer Games, in 2020, is already scheduled to be held in Tokyo. Los Angeles previously hosted the Summer Games in 1932 and 1984.
The Los Angeles 2028 hosting agreement is still subject to formal City Council approval, which is expected next Tuesday or Wednesday, city officials said.
The Southern California city had argued that it could host a low-cost Olympics given that it already has all the necessary infrastructure in place, while Paris would need to build several expensive new facilities.
But Paris was seen as the front-runner for the 2024 Games because it had been passed over in a series of earlier Olympic bids and because the French capital will have marked 100 years since the last time it hosted the Games.
Paris also has a world-class public transportation system.
Los Angeles’ reputation for heavy traffic and the impact of Trump’s ban on travel to the United States from six Muslim-majority nations had been seen as factors weighing against the latest bid by the U.S. West Coast city.
(Additional reporting by Omar Younis in Los Angeles, Joseph Ax in New York, Miranda Alexander-Webber in Paris and Steve Keating in Toronto; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Jonathan Oatis, Cynthia Osterman and Paul Tait)