Neither Olympics Nor NFL Will Rescue Los Angeles


We all tend to have fond memories of our greatest moments, and for Los Angeles, the 1984 Olympics has served as a high point in the city’s ascendency. The fact that those Summer Games were brilliantly run, required relatively little city expenditure and turned a profit confirmed all those things we Angelenos loved about our city – its flexibility and pragmatism and the power of its civic culture.

After Boston turned down its chance to be the U.S. entrant in the sweepstakes to host the 2024 Olympics, it’s natural that Mayor Eric Garcetti and the city establishment, at least what’s left of it, desire a return engagement. But the Los Angeles of today barely resembles the vibrant, optimistic city of 30 years ago.

“The city where the future once came to happen,” a devastating report from the establishmentarian Los Angeles 2020 Commission recently intoned, “is living the past and leaving tomorrow to sort itself out.”

Last Best Chance?

So rather than a bold move toward establishing the city’s preeminence, the current move smacks more of a Hail Mary pass. It also seems to embody a kind of nostalgia, a sentiment reflected not only in the desire to relive Olympic glory but also in the efforts to bring pro football back to town, including, perhaps, a return of the long-departed Rams.

Yet ultimately, neither a third Olympics (the first was in 1932) nor the return of NFL football can alter a city’s fate. After all, the 2000 Athens Olympics did not lead to a new Greek renaissance, but may, instead, have contributed to that country’s fiscal morass. Summer Games in Montreal (1976) and Atlanta (1996) did not usher in a golden age for those cities, but periods of decline.

Read the entire piece at The Orange County Register.

Joel Kotkin is executive editor of and Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University, and a member of the editorial board of the Orange County Register. He is also executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book, The New Class Conflict is now available at Amazon and Telos Press. He is also author of The City: A Global History and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. He lives in Orange County, CA.

"Olympic Torch Tower of the Los Angeles Coliseum" by unknown, U.S. Air Force -; VIRIN: DD-SC-85-08929. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.