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US Olympians celebrate LA 2028 'now it's real'

© AFP | The torch is lit at the Los Angeles Coliseum on September 13, 2017 in Los Angeles, California, as the city was officially named as host of the 2028 Summer Olympics

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - 

US Olympians gathered at iconic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Wednesday to celebrate the confirmation that the city will host the Games for a third time in 2028.

From gymnast Nastia Liukin, who wasn't born when Los Angeles last hosted the Games in 1984, to swimmer John Naber, who carried the Olympic flag into the Coliseum for the '84 opening ceremonies, all were confident the Southern California metropolis would again deliver a successful sporting spectacle.

"There may not have been a lot of drama, but there sure was a lot of enthusiasm and excitement when it's actually real," said Naber, who won four swimming gold medals at the 1976 Olympics. "The bride said 'I do' and we're looking forward to it."

The International Olympic Committee, meeting in Lima, officially named Paris as host for 2024 and Los Angeles as host for 2028.

The vote was a mere formality, ever since the rival candidates had agreed in July to carve up 2024 and 2028 in what was dubbed a "win-win-win" deal for both cities and the IOC.

Liukin, whose five Olympic medals include gymnastics all-around gold in Beijing in 2008, was among the former Olympians gathered at the Coliseum in anticipation of the vote.

"I am excited, I wasn't born for 1984, but it's one of my huge inspirations," the 27-year-old said, noting that the lead time of 11 years to the 2028 Games would give LA, which first hosted the Games in 1932, even more time to prepare.

"To be part of that is so exciting ... when you look at Los Angeles today, the structures, the Olympic Village, the media village is ready ... with the extra time, it will be even better than it could have four years prior."

Added Naber: "I was here in '84 and I remember the long-term impact was the city came together. There will be problems but it doesn't matter because we're going to be so united.

"We have the facilities, the infrastructure, we have the hotels -- it belongs here! We're going to show the world they made the right choice."

- 'Good and right' -

Naber's multiple trips to the Olympics have given him an enduring passion for the Games.

"In 1976 when I was competing my coach said don't get all excited, think of it as just another swim meet," he recalled.

"I went into it thinking of it as a swim meet and then it hits you, BAM! Because it's much more than a sporting contest. It's a world's fair of all that's good and right in the world."

Former Olympic swimmer John Moffet said Wednesday's vote was "a milestone" but noted it was now time "to really start some hard work".

"To have 11 years to prepare for it, that's only an added bonus," he said.

As Parisians welcomed confirmation of 2024 on the rainy streets of the French capital, a classic Southern California sun beamed down on those gathered at the Coliseum -- one of 50 local landmarks lit with the Los Angeles bid's colors in celebration of the Games.

On Sunday, the Olympic flame will glow again at the Coliseum -- a key venue in both the 1932 and '84 Games -- when IOC President Thomas Bach kindles the cauldron in a post-Lima visit to the 2028 host city.

© 2017 AFP