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An Olympian Effort

By UCLA Chancellor Gene Block

Published Jul 1, 2016 8:00 AM

In just a month, the world’s attention will be focused on the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. At UCLA, we’re also thinking ahead to 2024, in the hope that LA 2024’s bid will bring the Games to campus.


UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, photo by Amanda Friedman.

Eight years from now, when people around the globe tune in to watch the Summer Games of the XXXIII Olympiad, there’s a good chance they’ll be looking at Los Angeles and, more specifically, at UCLA.

That’s because UCLA plays a central role in Los Angeles’ bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics. Dubbed “LA 2024,” Los Angeles’ bid committee has chosen UCLA as the site of the Olympic Village as well as competitions in water polo, volleyball and field hockey.

As many will remember, UCLA is no stranger to the Olympics, having housed athletes and served as a competition venue during the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles.

LA 2024 has chosen UCLA as the preferred site of the Olympic Village for several reasons. LA 2024 points to existing world-class facilities at UCLA and elsewhere in the Los Angeles region as a major advantage over competing bids from Paris, Rome and Budapest, who would have to build substantial new facilities if they were awarded the games.

Our residence halls boast 14,000 beds (with 2,000-2,500 more projected to be added in the future) in newly constructed or renovated halls.

UCLA’s award-winning dining program is nationally recognized for the high-quality cuisine, state-of-the-art facilities and innovative services offered by its eight residential restaurants.

In addition to our residence halls and dining facilities, the Olympic Village will include Drake Stadium and the Olympic-size swimming and diving pools at the Sunset Canyon Recreation Center. Athletes will utilize UCLA’s tennis courts, basketball facilities, beach volleyball courts, walking trails and other recreation and training facilities across campus. The Village will feature an Olympic-caliber gymnasium with the latest weight-training, cardiovascular and other equipment.

As I mentioned earlier, UCLA will also host three Olympic competitions. Field hockey will be played at the North Athletic Field. Our beautifully renovated Pauley Pavilion will host volleyball. And in an interesting twist, a temporary pool will be constructed within UCLA’s Los Angeles Tennis Center for water polo.

LA 2024’s chairman, UCLA alumnus Casey Wasserman, has said Los Angeles’ bid is about selecting the best choices from among our region’s many world-class venues instead of building new ones. UCLA’s tremendous facilities put it at the top of the list in several categories.

The athletes are, of course, the center of every Olympics. And LA 2024 notes that UCLA’s central location and accessibility to other proposed venues such as downtown, the beach, the San Fernando Valley and the South Bay will allow athletes to concentrate more fully on their training and remain fresh for their events.

UCLA’s Ronald Reagan Medical Center, ranked No. 3 in the nation and No. 1 in the West, will provide excellent medical services to athletes and staff.

UCLA’s vision aligns with LA 2024’s in presenting a bid that not only is fiscally responsible, but that would also — because of Los Angeles’ maturing public transit options — assure one of the most environmentally sustainable games in modern history.

Working together with the International Olympic Committee and the U.S. Olympic Committee, LA 2024 has pledged to reconnect young people around the world with the Olympics. It is an impressive bid, and I am proud of UCLA’s important role.

We are in preliminary planning with LA 2024, but if Los Angeles wins the bid for the Olympics (to be announced in Sept. 2017), we will continue to work closely and in partnership with the bid committee to ensure that revenues from tuition and state support will not be impacted.

Indeed, I can report at this early date that the costs associated with housing and dining for athletes will be borne by LA 2024.

No discussion of UCLA and the Olympics would be complete, of course, without celebrating our university’s impressive showing in the games themselves. Bruins have won 251 medals (126 gold, 65 silver, 60 bronze) in 650 Olympic appearances. Given this illustrious history, we can assume that some of the athletes in the 2024 Summer Games will be extremely familiar with the Olympic Village, having lived in the residence halls as students.

Finally, UCLA and the Olympic Movement share the same ideals of athletic excellence and competition, as well as the conviction that international events such as these highlight our common humanity and build bridges of understanding and friendship between disparate nations and peoples.

Let’s all get behind the LA 2024 bid and bring the 2024 Summer Olympics to Los Angeles and UCLA!