The Sports Examiner: LA 2028 might be the quietest organizing committee in history, but things are happening

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If you can’t remember hearing much about the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles – even if you live in Los Angeles – you’re not alone.

The International Olympic Committee’s 17 July Session-by-teleconference offered a rare opportunity to see a report by the LA 2028 folks and some commentary by the IOC’s Coordination Commission.

The LA28 report was short: a six-slide presentation that underlined that while its public profile is almost non-existent, it is continuing to work on its plans for the Games.

Beyond the technical planning, the current efforts are focused on sponsorship sales, creation of a solid “brand” identity and continuing support for the youth programs promised at the time of its selection:

● Hiring continues as a modest pace; the presentation noted there are 65 staff across three offices – to support the sales effort in conjunction with the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee in Colorado Springs and NBC television in the New York area – with almost everyone working from home at present.

● The first sponsorship agreement was announced with Delta Airlines on 2 March. The “ticketing and hospitality business model” is being determined in coordination with the IOC’s Hospitality Working Group.

Although only the Delta agreement has been announced, the first page of the presentation focuses on what appears to be an image of Olympic superstar Allyson Felix in the starting blocks, prominently clad in Nike shoes (a brand she is not presently associated with). A portent of the next deal to be revealed?

● The “LA28″ brand is set to be launched soon, although the timing is being impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and the postponement of the 2020 Games by a year. The slide notes: “LA28 views the brand launch as a shift from a low-profile and local approach to the start of a more active engagement strategy.”

● The youth program has begun with pilot programs with the Swim L.A. project in 2018 and 2019, and an agreement with the City of Los Angeles for funding through 2028 was concluded in March 2020 (more on this below). All of the programming is, of course, on hold for now due to the pandemic.

The IOC Coordination Commission report was also short, at four pages. Its key takeaway was:

“In order to achieve the financial target announced during the candidature phase (balanced budget of USD 6.9 billion), a significant portion of the OCOG staff is working in this specific area.”

More sponsorship announcements are expected by the end of the year and sponsor promotion of the Los Angeles Games can begin in 2021.

Other documentation has also become available from the LA28 organizers, notably its 18 March 2020 agreement with the City of Los Angeles concerning youth programs. The agreement states that:

● LA28 will contribute all $160 million of the promised donation to youth sports programs of the City’s Department of Recreation and Parks.

● Payments of $4.8 million will be made quarterly, beginning 1 July 2020, through 31 August 2028. That’s $19.2 million per year for nine years, plus an earlier payment of $6.4 million due by the end of June 2020.

● The agreement notes that the City Parks & Recreation requested $1.31 million from LA28 in 2018 for the Swim L.A. program, with registration expanding from 18,193 to 36,073, and an additional $1.46 million for 2019, with registration again rising to 40,000. Those early payments of $2.77 million were credited against the first payment of $6.4 million.

● The concept of the project is simply stated thus: “The Parties acknowledge and agree that the majority of any year’s Grant Funds shall be reserved for use by [Parks & Recreation] to offset Direct Costs of participation in Quality Youth Sport Leagues and Classes.”

Combined with the LA84 Foundation’s Play Equity Fund and the new “A11iance” of the 11 Los Angeles-area professional sports teams, this could be a powerful start to providing significantly-increased access to sports and facilities for all Los Angeles-area youth.

● There are, as would be expected for a government program, a slew of plans and reports required, and the agreement notes that “the City may use up to 4% of total Grant Funds, six million four hundred thousand dollars ($6,400,000) to recoup or otherwise cover expenses that are consistent with the Parties’ shared goal to increase the number of City youth participating in sport and fitness programs but do not quality as Direct Costs, including but not limited to community engagement and outreach, program Start-Up costs, Safe Sport, marketing, program branding, and reporting requirements.”

The success of the program will be judged against the baseline total of engagement in both classes and sports leagues in the City’s 123 parks and recreation centers, which had 103,948 total participants in fiscal 2018/19. Remember those numbers.

Important, too, is that the City’s Recreation and Parks division is operating this program, not LA28. The latter is just supplying money.

LA28 also filed its Form 990 tax return with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service for the year 2018 in November of 2019. This was the first return for LA28 as an organizing committee rather than a bid committee. Highlights:

● As expected, there wasn’t much revenue: $566,535, mostly reimbursements and some investment income. Costs were $16.65 million, consisting of salaries, an office lease and build-out, a $1.15 million donation to the City of Los Angeles for youth programs and other items.

AECOM Technical Services was paid $1.3 million for continued development of the Games master plan and The Boston Consulting Group was paid $938,500 for work on the Games budget plan.

● As of 31 December 2018, the organization had a negative net worth of $18.53 million, but $26.61 million in assets thanks to the IOC’s advance payments that will total $180 million through the end of 2022 (shown as “deferred revenue”).

● The staff count through the end of 2018 was low at 28 (now 65 in the middle of 2020). Including the two senior members of the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Properties group – the folks doing the sponsorship sales – there were 12 staff members earning $171,726 or more.

This is an interesting time for LA28 thanks to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. What might have seemed like a firm plan for the Games last year could be trimmed considerably in the future as Tokyo “simplifies” its Games and the Paris 2024 report insists that use of existing, qualified operators can reduce the staff head count and save money vs. hiring organizing committee employees.

Those are good opportunities for the Los Angeles organizers, for whom less requirements opens new possibilities of how to refresh the event, make it more impactful both locally and worldwide and spend less on items which quite recently were requirements, but may now just be options.

~ Rich Perelman

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