PARK CITY, Utah – Just a couple of weeks after Los Angeles was awarded the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games, four-time Olympic gold medalist swimmer Janet Evans still can’t wipe the smile off her face.
“This is one of my greatest victories in the Olympic world,” she said Tuesday at the Team USA Media Summit. “It hasn’t sunk in yet. It’s like winning a medal. I had spent two years working on it. I spent every night thinking about it going to sleep and when I woke up, it was the first thing I thought about.”
Evans will have 11 more years to think about what’s to come after the International Olympic Committee awarded Paris the 2024 Games and the 2028 Games to Los Angeles in a unanimous vote at a meeting earlier this month, marking the third time the City of Angels will host the Olympics following the 1932 and 1984 Games and the first time it will host the Paralympics.
Evans, the vice chair and director of athlete relations for LA 2028, worked in tandem with LA mayor Eric Garcetti and the chairman of the Games’ bid, Casey Wasserman.
It is the ’84 Summer Games in LA that Wasserman believes heavily impacted the fervent support of Los Angeles residents behind this year’s successful bid, with some 15,000 locals already signing up to volunteer for the Games and activities leading up to it.
“People in LA don’t just love the Olympics, they embrace the idea of having the Olympics in their city,” Wasserman said. “That’s a really special feeling. It’s a recent enough local history that someone was there (in ’84), someone’s parents or grandparents were there, someone worked there or volunteered there... It touches everywhere in Los Angeles.”
Los Angeles will be touched, in essence, with a $160 million grant from the IOC for local youth sports programs, which is one of the LA 2028 team’s first action points having now secured the Games and needing to get to work on what’s to come.
That work, however, will not include any new structures: The LA 2028 Games include plans for no new structures, with the city’s iconic institutions – including UCLA, USC, the STAPLES Center and the LA Coliseum – all serving as pieces of the (literal) Olympic puzzle.
What organizers will admittedly have to be flexible on is an ever-changing world with the Games over a decade away, Wasserman noting that 11 years ago from today – 2006 – the iPhone hadn’t even been invented yet.
“I had lunch with Elon Musk in this bidding process … and he said, ‘Wow. I can’t even imagine what the world is going to be like in 2028,’” Wasserman shared, smiling. “That struck me since he is the one who is meant to be imagining what the world is going to be like then. If he can’t imagine it I don’t know how I’m supposed to!” (Laughs.)
Wasserman continued: “The answer is, there are certain things where we are going to go slow (in planning). To try and imagine what the technology overlay is going to be for a Games in 2028 is ludicrous. Frankly, the longer we can wait, the better the Games will be in many respects.”
Evans’ focus has been and will continue to be on the athlete experience, and she and Wasserman were joined on Tuesday by Maia and Alex Shibutani, the Olympic ice dancers who have spent much of the last three years training and working in LA. The Shibutanis are two members of the Games’ robust athlete advisory commission.
“There’s something special about Los Angeles,” Alex said. “As we’ve spent more time there, we’ve discovered this magic that has helped us reach new heights in our career. … In the time that we’ve spent there, we’ve become certain that LA is going to host an amazing Olympic and Paralympic Games. I’m sure better than 1984. We weren’t around for that one (laughs), but we have heard Casey talk about it a lot!”
LA 2028 will be the first Games on U.S. soil since Salt Lake City hosted the 2002 Winter Games and the first summer Olympics since Atlanta 1996.
On Monday the United States Olympic Committee revealed that it was open to discussing with cities around the country potentially bidding for the 2026 or 2030 Winter Games, something which Wasserman said is “complicated” for LA 2028, but also that they’ll take “an open mind” into should the process move forward.
And while the 11 years is the longest amount of prep time that any host city has had in the modern Olympic era, Wasserman said that come January (and after a deserved period of rest), time is of the essence for him and his team.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and a big obligation,” he said. “It requires us to get it right. We have to get focused on getting to work. We have a job to do. We have lots of time, but that’s the one thing you can’t get more of. I’m certain as we get close to July of 2028 we’ll be looking back and thinking we can’t believe how fast the time has gone. Every day is an opportunity is for us to work towards planning the best Olympic Games in history.”
And that planning begins now.