We don’t support the LA 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games bid because an Olympics in LA—regardless of how “successfully” it’s executed—will be disastrous for Angelenos across the city. Despite any good intentions, the International Olympics Committee (IOC) is one of the least transparent and most corrupt institutions in the world. Their goal is to turn a profit at all cost. If LA hosts the Olympics, it will be a wide-reaching, destructive party for millionaires and billionaires. The Olympics puts the interests of the mega-rich and corporate brands above those of athletes, fans, and working people in the cities it commandeers. The LA Olympics would serve corporate interests and the ambitions of Mayor Garcetti. We’d see human rights violations and forfeit our city to the interests of contractors, developers, media corporations, and the special interests who designed the bid.
Preparing for and hosting the Olympics will place financial stress on the people of LA while disrupting the lives of the several million who live and work here. There’s a reason Rome, Boston, Hamburg, Budapest, Krakow, Oslo, Stockholm, and other “smart cities” have recently dropped out of the Olympic running; they listened to grassroots pressure—the actual voices in their cities—and did the right thing.
Even a “good” Olympics will be bad for LA, even if nothing goes over budget, and there are no major ecological disasters or other crises. You can learn more about the issues and get involved in the coalition at NOlympic Day, Sunday, June 25 from 12n-3p at Sycamore Grove Park, 4702 N. Figueroa St., LA 90031. Here are some of our key concerns:
Gentrification and Displacement
LA doesn’t need new facilities for the Olympics, but they need to make existing buildings Olympics-ready, which could involve extensive construction. We doubt those in charge of development (including those putting together the bid) take the needs of working Angelenos, including those at risk of displacement, into account. Instead, it will be a pretext to increase real estate values and commerce, to the detriment of current residents. The record shows that transit expansion occurs only to satisfy needs during the Games. Transit expansion should be based on residents ongoing needs, and shouldn’t jeopardize current residents’ right to housing.
The crisis in affordable housing and homelessness in LA will only be exacerbated by and beyond the Games themselves. Construction and tourism in recent games led to accelerated gentrification and displacement, particularly of low-income and immigrant residents. In London, for example, the Olympics Village was in Eastham, then the most racially and ethnically diverse borough of London where the average yearly household income was under $37k. After the Olympics, it was converted into a mixed-use site including affordable and market rate units. To qualify for more than half of these units, households needed to demonstrate a minimum of somewhere between $62-94k—2-3X that of the typical resident.
Commercialization and police crackdowns
The Olympics pressure the host city to appear “clean” and unthreatening—more commercially viable for corporate sponsors. Anyone who doesn’t fit the image of LA that the Olympics stakeholders want to sell—e.g., poor people, immigrants, gender non-conforming people, disabled people, mentally ill people, sex workers—will be at high risk of displacement and police violence. In 1984, the last time LA hosted the Olympics, Police Chief Gates threw thousands of Angelenos of color in jail for weeks during “Olympic Gang Sweeps,” denying them due process. This, in turn, led to the creation of lawless “special divisions” like Operation Hammer and C.R.A.S.H. (“Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums, responsible for the Rampart scandal). The LAPD is already one of the most militarized police forces in the United States and helped create the idea of police militarization in America, in no small part through its militarization in the ‘84 Games. And should LA win its bid, we would hand over control of policing to Federal law enforcement agencies like the Secret Service, FBI, and Department of Homeland Security for the course of the Games. The greatest loss of life associated with the Olympics wasn’t the result of terrorism or natural disaster, but law enforcement, when 300-2000 protesters were killed for the 1968 Mexico City games.
Exploitation and disenfranchisement
LA has seen a sharp decline in unionized construction projects, and the Olympics may make this anti-union trend worse. In Rio and Sochi, the games facilitated the exploitation of builders and other temporary workers. The bid committee’s own study admits that job creation will be temporary. This will lead to an influx of temporary workers, which puts local workers in a difficult negotiating position, weakens protections, and increases the likelihood of exploitation for all workers. And, the Olympic Games exploits athletes’ labor. US Olympic athletes make well below a living wage for their years of work as athletes.
There’s no transparency or democratic collective decision-making in the Olympic bid process itself. Just as the people of LA had no say in the decision to submit the bid, no say in how the Olympic bid is written, we’ll have no opportunity to vote on how the Olympics are executed here. Garcetti won’t be mayor in ‘24 or ‘28—who will be accountable for ensuring that it is carried out in our collective best interests, not just the interests of wealthy residents and corporations?
Case study: The 1984 LA Olympics
The 1984 LA Olympics are trotted out as a “best case scenario” —a profitable, efficiently run showcase for US values. We reject this. First, profitability and nationalism are not our goals. The ‘84 Games didn’t organize and protect workers, raise the minimum wage, or provide universal access to healthcare and education. They did not end the criminalization of poverty, rampant police violence, or homelessness crisis in our city. Second, the ‘84 Olympics were followed by one of the greatest periods of injustice and unrest in history, culminating in the 1992 Uprising. We believe that these events are not mutually exclusive, but rather linked. The 1984 Olympics marked the beginning of a period when complaints of police brutality rose at the same time that the LAPD stopped investigating or prosecuting complaints against officers, essentially creating an incentive for police to “crack down” use excessive force on certain populations. Simultaneously, the 70,000 jobs that the Olympics claimed to bring disappeared quickly, leaving communities that were already struggling in the wake of the recession with astronomical unemployment rates.
Additionally, taxpayers are on the hook when the Games go over budget; federal taxpayers will dish out $2B in security costs; the Games will displace our existing tourism economy, push out film and TV productions, lower sales tax revenue (Olympics transactions are tax exempt); and there’s a potentially high environmental cost in terms of waste, water use, traffic and other issues.