Olympics: LA 2024 bid team tries to soothe nerves over Trump

Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti at a LA2024 bid press conference during the Rio Olympics.
Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti at a LA2024 bid press conference during the Rio Olympics. PHOTO: JERRY LAI/USA TODAY SPORTS

DOHA (AFP) - Six-time Olympic champion Allyson Felix led the Los Angeles 2024 bid delegation in seeking to calm the fears of the "Olympic family" following the election of Donald Trump as president.

The American city, alongside rivals Paris and Budapest, unveiled for the first time details of their bids to host the Summer Olympics in eight years' time to the Association of National Olympic Committees' General Assembly being held in Qatar.

And although Felix nor LA mayor Eric Garcetti mentioned the president-elect by name, they addressed concerns delegates might have about a US Olympics bid following comments made by Trump during the presidential election.

Felix told delegates that America needed the Olympics "now more than ever".

"We have just finished our presidential election and some of you may question America's commitment to its founding principals," said Felix. "I have one message to you - please don't doubt us."

In a stirring address Felix, who was born in Los Angeles, also emphasised America's "diversity" and also mentioned that her ancestors were transported to America against their will.

There has been speculation that Trump's election victory could harm Los Angeles' chances. His remarks on policy issues during the campaign, especially regarding a potential ban on Muslims going to America and calling illegal Mexican immigrants rapists, are seen by some as being potentially harmful to LA's bid outside the US.

Felix, who won two relay sprint golds in Rio this year, was followed on stage by Garcetti. "My vision of America is a country that is informed by the Olympic vision," he said. "An America that remains actively engaged in the world. "An America that is outward looking, ready to play its role alongside the competing nations to address our world's most pressing challenges."

Each city gave a 30-minute presentation on their 2024 bid to some 1,000 delegates gathered in Doha. LA went first and was followed by outsider Budapest, which claimed it only needed to build three more arenas to be ready for the games.

The chairman of Budapest's bid, Balazs Furjes, played on the relative small size of the Hungarian capital, claiming a "mid-size global city" should be awarded the Olympics.

"We offer something totally different, it's the right city at the right time," he said. "A real alternative."

Deputy-mayor Alexandra Szalay-Bobrovniczky emphasised the cultural strengths of Budapest's bid but afterwards refused to be drawn on the issue of Trump, saying that the Hungarians remained confident after their presentation.

Last up was Paris, which included contributions from Tony Estanguet, a three-time Olympic canoe slalom champion and Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo. She emphasised the cultural aspects of the French bid and said: "At Paris 2024, we will swim in the River Seine, we will travel in driver-less vehicles.

"We will open our doors and hearts to the world, to share our love of life and love of others. I know, each of you has a unique history with Paris." Bernard Lapasset said a Paris 2024 Olympics would "see sport as a driver of positive change".

Los Angeles and Paris are seen as the favourites to host the 2024 games. Los Angeles has the games twice before, in 1932 and 1984. Paris hosted the Olympics 100 years before, in 1924. Budapest has never previously hosted.

The International Olympic Committee will make its final decision next September.