Los Angeles: Whether US President Donald Trump will travel to Peru in September to promote Los Angeles’ 2024 Olympics bid is an open question but many believe the controversial leader would do more harm than good as the city vies with Paris for the Games.
Trump’s executive order to temporarily ban travel from six Muslim-majority countries, which is currently being reviewed in the courts, could prove problematic with the diverse membership of the International Olympic Committee when they vote later this year.
Los Angeles’ fiercely liberal Mayor Eric Garcetti said the Trump White House had been supportive of the bid and despite their many differences, it was one area where they agreed.
“The president is willing to play whatever role that we ask and that is needed,” Garcetti told reporters on Friday when asked whether Trump would travel to Peru to make a final push.
“This is something that has transcended politics.” Garcetti said Trump voiced his support for the bid during a phone call in December. At the time, Trump said he would travel to Lima if needed or host IOC President Thomas Bach at the White House.
The thorny issue of Trump’s impact is even more pronounced since the IOC delegation reviewing the bids is expected to be greeted by France’s President-elect Emmanuel Macron when they tour Paris next week.
In the election held earlier this month, Macron defeated nationalist Marine Le Pen, whose anti-immigration policies are seen as more in line with Trump’s world view.
When Garcetti was asked by a reporter from Africa how Trump’s restrictive stance on visas would impact athletes and journalists travelling from the continent, he said he had assurances from the administration and Congress that there would be no issues.
“We had the deputy secretary of Homeland Security here. She was asked a question along those lines and said, ‘We can guarantee you that everybody will be able to come in,’” Garcetti said.
“I really felt that was the turning of a different page. I think the IOC was very happy to hear that,” he said.
People close to the Los Angeles bid said a potential visit to Lima was not simply a question of Trump’s politics, but also the security apparatus that accompanies a travelling US president.
When former President Barack Obama travelled to Copenhagen in October 2009 to speak in favour of Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Games, IOC members were miffed by the high level of security they had to pass to attend the meeting, which included bomb-sniffing dogs, Olympic sources said this week.
During his presidential campaign, Trump last year criticised Obama for the trip and for failing to deliver the Games.
The IOC delegation, however, lavished praise on Los Angeles’s bid for the 2024 Games, stating that there would be “no major risk” if the city was awarded the sporting extravaganza.
Patrick Baumann, chairman of the IOC’s Evaluation Commission, said at the end of a three-day visit that delegates had been impressed by what they had found in an “incredible Olympic city.”
“Los Angeles is already a great Olympic city but after these three days, we realise that was a great understatement,” Baumann said. “The Olympic spirit is incredibly strong in this city.”
Los Angeles, which is competing against Paris for the right to host the Games, has based its bid on an array of iconic venues which already exist or are being built.
Baumann said the readiness of so many venues — as well as plans to use the campus of UCLA as the athletes’ village — left a good impression on the IOC team.
“This visit has confirmed our opinion that Los Angeles has developed an excellent proposal and probably, given the facilities that are already here, that seven years of lead time is a luxury,” Baumann said.