Playing host to the Olympics twice before, Los Angeles has attempted to use the spectacle of the games as an attempt to rebrand itself as desirable and glamorous in times of economic crisis. Jonny Coleman and Molly Lambert from NOlympics join Mukta to discuss the history of the Olympics in Los Angeles and what bringing them back in 2028 could mean for the city.
On the Olympics’ reputation
Molly Lambert: We've talked about this a lot, there's never been a point when the Olympics had a good reputation. They were attached originally to World's Fairs, so it was a side thing and world's fairs are just the sort of traveling carnival that would get cities to bid on it and then come through and promise all this infrastructure and jobs. But really what they do is just spend all your money and then leave town. That's really what the Olympics are, but the Olympics have this reputation as being classy or something.
On the 1932 Olympics
Jonny Coleman: There were some wealthy people in LA before 1932 that had exotic animals and exotic flora and fauna that were popular for super wealthy people like movie stars, but for the most part we didn't really have palm trees and the landscapes as we imagine them now so iconographically linked with LA was different. I think it was about ten thousand [palm trees] that they imported in advance of the ‘32 games, because it was basically a move to repackage and resell LA as a single family home oasis where you could get cheap land in the middle of the Depression and then it's kind of like a tropical oasis, but it’s not tropical as you know.
Molly Lambert: So that's what they were spending money on - on getting all these palm trees for tourism, while people were living in the streets during the Great Depression. So that's kind of been the pattern of the Olympics.
On the 1984 Olympics
Molly Lambert: People who remember the 80s fondly in Los Angeles were either not there or were so rich that they were insulated from all the things that were happening. It was not a good time for the city. So again, it was this attempt to rebrand Los Angeles again. It's like ‘it's safe and cool,’ kind of like the I love New York campaign. ‘It's safe to come back to America's cities that everybody got blown out of in the ‘70s by infrastructure crumbling and people moving to the suburbs and now we want to resell it to you.’