The 2028 Summer Olympics Looms Over Los Angeles

Amid public misgivings, long-needed improvements—from public land revitalization to rail transit milestones and water quality improvements—stand to finally get off the ground in the interest of presenting the city on a world stage.

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum; credit: Discover Los Angeles.

The 2028 Summer Olympic Games are a touchy subject for Angelenos: a recent survey revealed a mere 57 percent of residents believe the event will leave a positive impact on the city. The trepidation is understandable: the Olympics have developed a reputation as a massive receptacle of taxpayer funds given the level of investment and infrastructural improvements required from host cities. Critics also cite the environmental impact of developing gargantuan, starchitect-designed competition facilities—so many of which are summarily abandoned that an entire genre of photography has sprung up, dedicated to cataloging the ruins of Olympics in cities like Rio de Janeiro, Athens, and Berlin.

Similar misgivings about the 2028 Summer Olympics abound, from worries of a ballooning budget to traffic and infrastructure concerns. Yet the Games present an opportunity for long-needed improvements in Los Angeles, from public land revitalization to rail transit milestones and water quality.

What the City of Angels has on its hands isn’t a problem of design, but of communication. Following in the footsteps of the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, L.A. is using the occasion to secure state and federal funding for projects with long-term benefits. The Inglewood Transit System, for example, was recently awarded $407 million to build two new stations and connect the neighborhood’s K Line transit station to SoFi Stadium, the Kia Forum, Hollywood Park, and the forthcoming Intuit Dome. All are popular destinations for concerts and sporting events, and are expected to host opening and closing ceremonies, soccer matches, archery, and gymnastics in 2028.

SoFi Stadium by HKS architects; photography by Nic Lehoux.

A bit farther south, Long Beach will host water sports including sailing, open-water swimming, and the triathlon. Officials there have presented the Olympics as an incentive for the state and congress to earmark more than $1 billion for the revitalization of bridges, parks, and the revamped Belmont Shore pier, which is expected to become the official viewing platform for sailing events.

Officials are looking as far as Paris—host of the 2024 Summer Olympics—for a blueprint through the literal muck of urban planning, sending representatives to study the Seine’s billion-dollar cleanup. If successful, the plan will allow next year’s Olympians to swim in the river—a first since 1923, when it was outlawed due to pollution. Sweeping promises made under the rosy glow of securing an Olympic host city bid are nothing new, whether they involve fast-tracking water-quality improvements or solving the dire homelessness crisis, as recently elected mayor Karen Bass has pledged to tackle by 2028.

“We have a 20-year plan, and at the end of the 20 years, we have another 20-year plan,” says urban-river specialist and engineering professor Richard Thayer of lofty projects like the Seine cleanup.“Whether it is ever going to happen, I don’t know…Nothing in Paris’ [cleanup] plan is unique. But to do it is unique.”

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