While Los Angeles is all but assured of hosting an upcoming Olympics, the city’s bid to stage a Summer Games has an outspoken — if controversial — booster willing to lobby on its behalf.
President Trump met with Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, on Thursday at the White House. The meeting was closed to the press and details of their visit were not immediately available.
“President Trump confirmed his support for the L.A. candidature,” Mark Adams, an IOC spokesman, said at the conclusion of the visit.
While Trump has signaled his willingness to support Los Angeles’s efforts, Thursday’s meeting marked the most significant discussion he has had to date with Olympic officials.
With some of his campaign rhetoric and his push to restrict travel from a handful of Muslim-majority nations, Trump has been viewed as a wild card in the city’s bid to host an Olympics. While the IOC executive board has recommended both Paris and Los Angeles to host the next two Summer Games, the organization’s full membership — a diverse 95-person group representing 67 countries — must still vote on the measure at a meeting next month in Lausanne, Switzerland.
If the IOC approves the recommendation, the two cities would then start negotiating and lobbying over which hosts the 2024 Olympics and which city will wait four years.
Trump extended the White House invitation when he spoke with Bach on the telephone in the weeks that followed his election last year. At a press briefing before Thursday’s meeting, deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said of the president, “I know he’s certainly supportive of the committee.”
In the past, presidents have both hurt and helped bids. Many Olympic observers believed Chicago’s efforts to host the 2016 Games were hindered by Obama’s presence at the IOC’s October 2009 vote in Copenhagen, which required additional security and complicated logistics. When Rio de Janeiro was instead awarded the Summer Games, Obama faced criticism from several corners.
“We were laughed at all over the world,” Trump said during his presidential campaign, “as we have been many, many times.”
Any Olympic bid is dependent on support at all levels of government. Federal agencies particularly play a vital role in security preparations. When the LA 2024 group hosted the IOC’s evaluation committee last month, Deputy Secretary for Homeland Security Elaine C. Duke was in Los Angeles to field questions and address concerns.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said the IOC inquired about whether efforts to enact a travel ban would impact Olympic-related travel, Duke told the group, “We can guarantee you that everybody will be able to come,” Garcetti said.
“The IOC was very happy to hear that,” he said.
Garcetti, a Democrat who supported Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy, has been in many ways the face of the LA 2024 bid and has sharp political differences with Trump. But the two spoke shortly after the election about the Olympic efforts, and Garcetti has said “this is something that has transcended politics.”
“The president is willing to play whatever role that we ask and that is needed,” Garcetti said last month, following the IOC evaluation committee’s visit.
The LA 2024 committee have been hesitant to speculate as to whether Trump would travel abroad and attend an IOC meeting in-person, though many view such a move as doubtful after the Chicago bid failed.
The IOC contingent traveled from Los Angeles to Paris for a similar tour and while there, the group met with France’s newly-elected President Emmanuel Macron.
John Wagner contributed to this report.