Olympics: Storm clouds gather around LA24 call to Follow the Sun

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 03, 2017 1:03 PM

By Steve Keating

(Reuters) - Los Angeles submitted its final bid book to host the 2024 Summer Games to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Friday as storm clouds gathered around the bid's call to 'Follow the Sun'.

Attempting to host the Summer Olympics for a third time, LA2024 will pitch a plan that bid chairman Casey Wasserman says offers financial and operational certainty and enjoys wide support with 90 percent of Angelenos in favor of bringing the Games back to the City of Angels.

But as the process enters the international phase of the competition there is also plenty of uncertainty swirling around the bid at a time when United States President Donald Trump's controversial policies on refugees and travel bans have alarmed athletes and sporting groups worldwide.

That uncertainty escalated on Friday when Iran said it had barred a U.S. wrestling team from participating in the Freestyle World Cup competition in retaliation for an executive order by Trump banning visas for Iranians.

"Our message is straight-forward which is our bid is not about politics it is about delivery and the power of sport and that overcomes politics," Wasserman told Reuters. "It is impossible for any organization to predict the particular environment over a period of seven years.

"The IOC has seen that first hand and so our job for our bid is very clear which is remain focused on our process, focused on the IOC's plan that they laid out for the bid cities, the rules of engagement, to be part of the community in every way we can and put that forth with great certainty and confidence so when it comes time for Lima they know who they are voting for and what they are voting on."

Los Angeles, which also hosted the Games in 1932 and 1984, and two other finalist cities Paris and Budapest will have nearly eight months to promote their bids around the globe before the IOC awards the Games at its congress in Lima, Peru in September.

For LA2024 part of that mission will now be easing concerns over Trump's policies and ensuring that all countries and athletes will be welcome if Los Angeles is chosen.

The U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) said on Monday they were told by the U.S. government that Trump's ban on visitors from some Muslim-majority countries should not impact athletes traveling to the U.S. for international events.

USOC leaders said the U.S. government told them it would work to ensure foreign athletes get expedited access to the U.S. for international competitions.

"We have been specifically asked about the impact that the executive order could have on athletes and officials coming to the United States to compete," said USOC Chairman Larry Probst and chief executive Scott Blackmun.

"The U.S. government has today advised us that it will work with us to ensure that athletes and officials from all countries will have expedited access to the United States in order to participate in international athletic competitions."

Wasserman said LA2024 will not shy away from questions about Trump's policies but added there was no place for politics in the bidding process and that they would keep the spotlight on their bid that tightly controls costs and will require no new construction of permanent venues.

"If someone wants to talk about it, we are not going to not talk about it but no bid is in a position to dictate politics in any country and frankly the IOC shouldn't want that," said Wasserman. "They should want their bids to operate independently because you don't want to be subject to the whims of politics.

"Politics evolve and people ought to be patient and ultimately what they are voting on is the leadership ... and the certainty of that to deliver on the values of the Olympic movement.

"Patience is key on all things in the world we live in today. To be overly reactive with speed at which things happen in society today creates more challenge than results."

(Editing by Andrew Both)