Olympic voters weigh Trump effect on Los Angeles 2024 bid
LAUSANNE, Switzerland — Donald Trump’s election as U.S. president has the potential to influence Los Angeles’ chances of hosting the 2024 Olympics. For better or worse.
Some International Olympic Committee members — who will choose among Los Angeles, Paris and Budapest, Hungary, in a vote next September — cited possible pros and cons on Wednesday of Trump’s role in the American bid.
As a polarizing presidential candidate, Trump’s words on Muslims, Mexicans and other issues could have offended some of the 98 IOC members from around the world who will select the host city.
“It may have,” the IOC’s longest-serving member, Dick Pound of Canada, told The Associated Press.
At the same time, Pound did not rule out the possibility that Trump could help win votes if he travels to Lima, Peru, in September to pitch the Los Angeles bid in person to the IOC ahead of the secret ballot.
“If he is there, and evidently he is someone who feeds off his audience, there is no reason to think he can’t work this audience as well,” Pound said.
South African IOC member Sam Ramsamy, whose country has been described by Trump as a “very dangerous mess,” dismissed any lingering effect with 10 months left before the 2024 Olympic vote.
“He has been rude to everybody,” Ramsamy told the AP. “I don’t believe it will affect bidding in any way.”
In a statement Wednesday congratulating Trump, the Los Angeles 2024 bid committee said the Olympics can “transcend politics and can help unify our diverse communities and our world.”
Citing 88 percent support for its bid, the committee pointed to strong bipartisan support at all levels of government.
“We look forward to working closely with President-elect Trump and his administration across the federal government” to deliver a successful Olympics, the statement said.
IOC President Thomas Bach offered a brief statement to the AP on Trump’s election.
“Let me congratulate President-elect Trump on his victory and wish him all the best for his term in office for all the people of the United States and of the world,” he said.
Swiss IOC member Rene Fasel suggested that if Trump spoke offensively during the presidential race, it was a tactic to woo voters that worked.
“You saw his speech today and it’s already a different man,” Fasel said, citing Trump’s first public address as president-elect which sought to be more inclusive.
While Trump has little track record with the Olympic movement, his opponent, Hillary Clinton, was a supporter of New York’s failed bid for the 2012 Games and has attended several Olympics. She was First Lady when the U.S. last hosted the Summer Games — in Atlanta in 1996.
President Barack Obama went to the IOC vote in Copenhagen in 2009 to support Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Olympics. Chicago was still eliminated in the first round, with the games awarded to Rio de Janeiro.
Clinton’s presidential campaign has some close ties to Los Angeles bid leaders. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is a Democrat who spoke at the Democratic Party convention in July which formally nominated Clinton. Bid chairman Casey Wasserman was also a prominent Clinton backer.
Garcetti acknowledged in an AP interview in August during the Rio de Janeiro Olympics that some IOC members could be turned off by a Trump victory.
“I think for some of the IOC members they would say, ‘Wait a second, can we go to a country like that, where we’ve heard things that we take offense to?” Garcetti said then.
Garcetti remains more important to the bid than Trump, according to American IOC executive board member Anita DeFrantz.
“It’s the city that hosts the games, and it’s the mayor that signs the documents. It is not the president,” DeFrantz told The AP in Lausanne on Wednesday.
Pound believes Los Angeles leaders will urgently want to meet with Trump to see if he is “an enthusiastic supporter of this venture or not.”
“Your most important campaign is at home,” Pound said, suggesting that IOC voters and Olympic sports leaders can be swayed closer to election day. “The roadshow only happens in the last few months.”
Before that final stretch of campaigning, the city’s biggest rival — Paris — could have its own domestic politics to explain.
In May, France elects a president in a contest many predict will include far-right candidate Marine Le Pen among the two candidates in a second round of voting.