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L.A. 2028 Olympic organizers set to get a ‘major reality check’

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How long until the start of the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles? Casey Wasserman responds immediately — “1,487 days” — no need to think it over.

“It’s on my phone,” he says. “And I look at it every morning.”

As chairman of the private group in charge of staging the Games, Wasserman also knows there is much to do before then. He muses: “We can’t buy more time.”

The clock is very much ticking for LA28, which will reach a critical juncture next month. Gone is the initial blush of being named host. Gone are the years of brainstorming over how to give the Olympics a distinctly Southern California feel.

If every local organizing committee has three lives — bidding, planning, delivery — now comes the third and most-difficult one. As soon as the 2024 Paris Olympics conclude in mid-August, L.A. will be next up, meaning organizers must get serious about meeting deadlines, sticking to budget and making tough choices.

“It’s a major reality check,” says Angela Schneider, a professor at the International Centre for Olympic Studies in Ontario, Canada. “They are really under the gun.”

The pressure of the moment is exacerbated by the fact that, as an organizing committee evolves, it must shift from one skill set to another.

Bidding requires people who can assemble a proposal and persuade International Olympic Committee members of its merit. Schnieder calls it: “Selling the dream.” If selected, the bid committee morphs into an organizing committee focused on planning and finance.

Architects design a detailed, often ambitious blueprint for the Games while marketers chase corporate money and government lobbyists help push for any infrastructure projects the host city might want or need.

LA28 Chairperson Casey Wasserman, center, speaks during a news conference in September 2022.

LA28 Chairperson Casey Wasserman, center, speaks during a news conference in September 2022.

(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

“There is no such thing as all of this working seamlessly,” says Adrien Bouchet, who studies the Olympics as a business professor at the University of Central Florida. “Mega-events always go through these phases.”

The third — or delivery — phase officially begins when Mayor Karen Bass accepts the Olympic flag at the closing ceremony in Paris. LA28 isn’t waiting until then.

Though Wasserman remains in charge, several key staff members, including former chief executive Kathy Carter, a marketing expert, have departed as the committee retools.

Carter has been replaced with Reynold Hoover, a retired lieutenant general who oversaw logistics for the U.S. military’s war in Afghanistan and served as deputy commander for the U.S. Northern Command at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo.

“It was an interesting hire,” says Michael Payne, a former IOC executive. “If you look at the profile of what you want, the massive complexity of big military is probably as close as you can get to Olympic delivery.”

Even if leadership changes are typical at this point, they aren’t necessarily easy. Morale at LA28 “is not horrible, but it’s not great,” says an employee who is not authorized to speak publicly about the organization. “The level of confidence is not what it once was.”

Wasserman responds: “I hope we don’t ever have confidence because I don’t want us to be complacent.”

His committee is facing a particularly crucial challenge during the next four years in terms of balancing its estimated $7-billion budget.

LA28 has vowed to follow in the footsteps of the 1984 Los Angeles Games by generating enough revenue — including an expected $2.5 billion in corporate sponsorships — to cover all costs.

After a flurry of deals with the likes of Nike and Delta Air Lines, organizers have hit a lull and recently parted ways with one their major partners, Salesforce. A new agreement with technology giant Cisco was announced last month — no terms were disclosed — and additional deals are said to be imminent.

All of this matters because LA28 is still $1 billion short of its sponsorship goal. If that 35% gap cannot be bridged, if the bills cannot be paid, city and state legislators will settle any debts with potentially hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars.

“We have to hit certain milestones,” Danny Koblin, LA28 chief operating officer, said recently. “That sense of urgency is always there.”

An artist's rendering depicts a crowded Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum lighted at night

An artist’s rendering of Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum during the 2028 Summer Olympic Games.


Venues should not be as big a concern because, unlike previous hosts, LA28 is not building any stadiums or arenas.

Relying on existing venues instead, organizers recently announced a revamped lineup that includes SoFi Stadium for swimming, the new Intuit Dome for basketball and Arena for gymnastics. The Coliseum, which hosted the Olympics in 1932 and 1984, will be temporarily remodeled for track and field.

The task now is to finalize contracts with those facilities and, just as importantly, the cities in which they are located.

LA28 has secured initial Games Agreements with L.A., Carson and Long Beach. Future talks will focus on assurances that cities get reimbursed for extra policing, trash collection and other services during the Games.

“Our negotiations with LA28, we’re taking one step at a time,” Long Beach Mayor Rex Richardson says. “Our goal is full-cost recovery.”

Santa Monica and Pasadena have yet to sign on, in part because of concerns that L.A. will be first in line to recoup expenses, with everyone else waiting behind. An official in one of those cities, who spoke on condition of anonymity, complains that talks have “gone back and forth over the past year” without much progress.

David Sunkin, an attorney representing Santa Monica and Pasadena, downplays any friction, calling it “the normal push-and-pull of negotiations.”

There is one more issue that could prove troublesome: In the four years before the Games, organizers often have to make compromises, jettisoning some plans for the sake of budget or deadlines.


A rendering of the diving venue in Exposition Park.


A rendering of the Sepulveda Basin Recreation Area, which is slated to host multiple Olympic events.


A rendering of the canoe slalom venue in Oklahoma City.


An artist’s rendering of the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics basketball competition at Intuit Dome in Inglewood.

1. A rendering of the diving venue in Exposition Park. 2. A rendering of the Sepulveda Basin Recreation Area, which is slated to host multiple Olympic events. 3. A rendering of the canoe slalom venue in Oklahoma City. 4. An artist’s rendering of the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics basketball competition at Intuit Dome in Inglewood. (LA28)

Paris officials, for example, hoped to stage an extravagant opening ceremony on the Seine River for 600,000 onlookers. Security concerns have prompted them to reduce that attendance figure by half.

LA28’s current plans include a similarly ambitious opening that incorporates both SoFi and the Coliseum. In the San Fernando Valley, the Sepulveda Basin would get a cluster of temporary sites for skateboarding, BMX and archery. The UCLA campus would be transformed into a living and training compound for thousands of athletes.

The success of this vision depends on the committee’s ability to shift gears for the final stretch. Again, people inside the organization believe leadership will be key.

“There are a lot of people talking about what we should do and not enough people doing the work,” a staff member says. With an effective CEO, the person adds, “we could pull out of this and sail forward.”




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