LOS ANGELES - As it begins preparations to stage the 2028 Olympic Games, the U.S. city of Los Angeles hopes to avoid the high costs that have hurt other host cities in recent years.

In some cases, financial worries prompted other cities to drop their bids to host the Games. Organizers in Los Angeles, though, are applying lessons in efficiency and frugality from two earlier times the city staged the Olympics. The games in 1932 and 1984 produced significant surpluses, and some of the unused money from '84 is still helping youth in Los Angeles.

Ten-year-old Alexa Castro dreams of competing in the 2028 Olympics as a track cyclist in her hometown. She knows what that will take.

“A lot of practice. A lot of speed. A lot of long practice and stuff,” Castro said.

Castro lives in Los Angeles, and she is a part of the legacy of another Olympic Games. The program that is giving her and other youths track cycling lessons, called the Connie Cycling Foundation, is the recipient of a grant from the LA84 Foundation.

Created from the surplus from the 1984 Olympics in the city, the LA84 Foundation aims to help the youths in underserved communities to be life-ready through sport, and it has been giving grants to youth sports programs for more than 30 years.

Past financial success

“The 1984 [Olympic Games] surplus was unlike anything that had existed before then and has probably happened since then,” said Wayne Wilson, LA84 Foundation’s Vice President for Education Services. "In 1984, the primary reason that there was such a large surplus was that the organizing committee built very few new venues. They built almost no new sport facilities.”

A similar model will be used for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.

“The plan for the Olympic games was designed to fit the city. We didn’t try to redesign the city to fit the Olympic and Paralympic games,” said Gene Sykes, CEO of the Los Angeles 2028 Bid Committee.

Artist rendering of Downtown Sports Park for the 2
Artist rendering of Downtown Sports Park for the 2024 Los Angeles Olympic Games. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

That means using existing buildings for the 2028 games. One such building is the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the home field for the University of Southern California football team. It will be going through a multimillion-dollar upgrade paid for by its operator, the University of Southern California. It also will be the main stadium for the L.A. Olympics.

“Cities have in their bids tried to impress the committee by promising all sorts of new facilities, but I also think it’s the case that in recent years, the IOC has come to realize that creates a problem. I think everybody is aware of the problem of white elephant stadiums that are left unused after the games, and so it is working hard to persuade potential bid cities that that’s not necessary,” Wilson said.

Benefits of 2028 Olympic Games

Los Angeles will get many financial incentives from the International Olympic Committee for hosting the games four years after Paris. One benefit, the IOC will provide an advance payment of $160 million over the next 10 years for youth sports programs. 

Renata Simril, who leads the LA84 Foundation, said sports can teach young people critical life skills.

“It’s about fun of sport, coming together and testing your skills, and learning what it means to be a team, learning perseverance, respect, learning to win with grace and to lose with dignity but to come back much stronger in terms of working on your weaknesses,” said Simril, the president and CEO of LA84 Foundation.

“We start the foundation of showing up on time, being ready to go, having all your stuff organized, listening to the coaches, having the respect for other people in your class. Those are all things that translate across your life,” said track cycling Coach Tela Crane.

For Castro, cycling has become a good motivator for being a good student. 

“Doing my homework right away and then getting ready to come here,” she said.

“She’s excited that they’ll [Olympic Games] be here. She’s excited in the idea and possibility that she may be able to participate in it, and so am I. I’m excited to see them come back. I was about her age when they were here in ’84,” said Castro’s father, Ricardo Castro.

Castro is cycling three times a week for a chance at the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.