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Venues on show as Olympic officials inspect LA bid

© AFP / by Rob Woollard | International Olympic Committee officials, and LA 2024 officials, including LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, leave on golf carts following a tour at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum as the IOC Evaluation Commission continues with its visit to Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - 

Iconic venues from across Los Angeles's sporting skyline took center stage on Thursday as a team of International Olympic Committee officials scrutinized the city's bid for the 2024 Olympics.

Members of the IOC Evaluation Commission, visiting Los Angeles before heading to fellow host city candidate Paris next week, spent the day inspecting proposed venues on the second day of a three-day mission.

A tour began at the famous Staples Center arena, the downtown home of the Los Angeles Lakers NBA team.

IOC delegates and LA 2024 bid officials shot hoops on the court famously graced by the likes of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal during the Lakers' most recent golden era.

Later stops included the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the historic centerpiece of the 1932 and 1984 Olympics also held in the city.

The Coliseum would once again host athletics, the premier event of the games, and US track and field star Allyson Felix was on hand to greet delegates for Thursday's site visit.

"One thing LA has a lot to offer from an athlete's point of view is the climate," Felix told AFP.

"It's a great place to have an awesome performance. The Coliseum is amazing. There's so much legacy there. Even though I wasn't born at the time of the '84 games, I grew up hearing stories from my parents, coaches, other athletes just how incredible it was.

- 'History is here' -

"That history is here and we want to repeat that and have it again," added Felix, who is the only female track and field athlete in Olympic history to win six gold medals.

The Coliseum, which is the temporary home of the Los Angeles Rams NFL team, was recently approved for a $270 million privately-funded facelift, which is due to be completed in 2019.

It is one of an array of existing venues that form the LA 2024 bid, which will require zero construction of facilities, according to officials.

The Coliseum would also feature prominently in an innovative opening ceremony.

Organizers have planned for the torch relay to proceed through the Coliseum before fans, then winding its way across the city to the new 80,000-seat NFL stadium where the traditional parade of nations will be staged.

Olympic delegates meanwhile were dazzled by an array of Hollywood stars and billionaire business titans at a private dinner hosted by LA 2024 bid chief Casey Wasserman, officials confirmed on Thursday.

Movie star Sylvester Stallone, basketball legend Bryant and opera singer Placido Domingo attended along with former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer and Disney chief Bob Iger.

Others in attendance included Snapchat chief executive Evan Spiegel and 21st Century Fox boss James Murdoch.

After completing its visit, the IOC team will head to Paris next week before issuing its reports on the two cities in July.

The IOC will choose the hosts for the 2024 Olympics at a meeting in Lima in September.

The bidding race has been dominated by recent intrigue over the possibility that the IOC may award both the 2024 and 2028 Games at the same time at September's vote in order to lock in two solid bids.

Both Los Angeles and Paris officials have acknowledged the debate but each insist they are the best candidate to go first in 2024.

"This week is our opportunity to focus on the core question," Wasserman said on Wednesday. "Why is LA -- in 2024 -- the right city?"

by Rob Woollard

© 2017 AFP