Sunday, May 14, 2017

Games-Minded Media Explored Potential Olympic Venues While IOC Evaluation Commission Quizzed LA2024 Leadership on Wednesday

The official first day of the 2024 IOC Evaluation Commission on Wednesday included more than a half-day of Q&A for LA2024 bid executives and simultaneous venue tours for media during the closed selection process.

May 10 began early with International Olympic Committee officials greeting LA2024's bid team to their 35 hot seats facing two rows of about 20 Evaluation Commission desks in a large downtown conference room. 

Media enjoyed access to opening remarks by IOC Member and Commission Chair Patrick Baumann before the Los Angeles team leaders -- including the city's Mayor Eric Garcetti and LA2024 Chairman Casey Wasserman flanked by the IOC's three delegates to the United States Anita DeFrantz, Angela Ruggiero and Larry Probst -- took turns sharing personal stories of their past Los Angeles Olympic experiences. 

Citing her review of 74 Olympic bid campaigns and her work on eight previous USA bids, DeFrantz put into context the task at hand for her fellow IOC members across the table.

"One of the biggest responsibilities of IOC membership is selecting host cities," DeFrantz said, adding her colleagues at LA2024 are the "finest [she had] ever seen."

Wasserman and Garcetti earned the nickname "boys of the Olympics" of 1984 as both were kids when Los Angeles last hosted the summer Games. DeFrantz spoke of the many legacies of LA84 while Probst and Ruggiero spoke of their passion for a future legacy should the IOC's decision favor California when the Commission votes in September.

Paris, which also hosted two summer Olympiads and presented bids for 1992 and 2012 is LA's lone candidate, with the IOC and media embarking to France this Friday.

I snapped a few photos from the media platform and spotted many faces of LA2024 staff who appeared relaxed and eager to share their part of the city's bid presentation. Calm, cool and collected are each apt descriptors for everyone with the bid team, and though many must have felt a degree of relief after Wednesday's most intense of the three-day Commission visit, guarded confidence seems to reign with this group. 

After the opening session, media boarded buses to the day's first tour stop, Pasadena's iconic Rose Bowl. Olympic medalist and world champion Brandi Chastain spoke with reporters outside the stadium before joining the entourage of reporters and cameras on the field that made her a world icon of female strength. 

In her prepared remarks, Chastain mentioned her first Olympic experience came as a teenage volunteer during LA84. During some 1x1 Q&A on the way into the stadium, I asked her to expand on that story of the first experience, and Chastain explained she vividly recalled "waiting hours and hours for her uniform and credential" and how that experience became "... just a preview, and I didn't know it, of what it would be like to be part of the Olympic Family." 

After on-the-field photos and a few more questions, media trekked south an oceanside rooftop experience atop the Long Beach Hyatt Place Hotel overlooking the harbor, Queen Mary cruise ship, shipping cranes and the sands that would welcome spectators for water polo, triathon. sailing, BMX cycling, open water swimming and handball. 

Southern California-based Olympians Tony Azevedo and Haley Anderson spoke briefly and answered questions on their roles with LA2024's Athlete's Advisory Team. 

The high rise media stop also afforded me a few minutes to speak with Olympic gymnastics champion Nastia Liukin, who joined the media tours most of the day to photograph and post several social media items in real time. We chatted about the bid team experience and a few mutual connections to Olympic gymnastics in Oklahoma.

Then the group was off again to Stubhub Center at which media enjoyed lunch and more venue peeks before LA2024's press conference announcing a detailed Sustainability Plan. Slightly exhausted and sunburned in spite of an overcast sky, media returned downtown in time for a pair of end-of-Day-One press conferences hosted by the IOC and LA2024, respectively, at Staples Center. 

During his IOC press conference remarks, Baumann briefly described LA2024's "excellent proposal" while citing the bid's innovative "two-ceremonies" plan which would double the seating capacity for the opening and closing of 2024's Games by filling Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and the new LA Rams' stadium set to open in 2019.

At the LA2024 press conference held courtside (with the mayor and Wasserman standing on the LA Lakers' free throw line) "the boys" described many aspects of the day's Q&A and anticipation of Thursday's venue visits for the IOC. Several reporters asked questions that were on my brain (see here and here for a few responses) while I asked about how the bid might serve as a reboot for the Cultural Olympiad (the mayor responded on point, describing involvement of Getty Trust leadership rallying the arts community for programs spanning several Southern California museums and arts organizations. 

LA2024 capped the evening with a media night in the BMW box at LA Dodgers Stadium (great fun). In the suite, fellow-Atlantan Stan Kasten -- a former client of sorts (in his leadership role for the Atlanta Braves, Hawks and Thrashers, we worked on a few photo opps with him to open Philips Arena in 1999) -- showed up to say hello.

Photos by Nicholas Wolaver

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