As Barry Maister, an International Olympic Committee member from New Zealand, walked off a plane at the Los Angeles International Airport last year he was shocked to find Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti waiting for him and hand extended.
Dr. Robin E. Mitchell, an IOC member from Fiji, received a similar greeting from Garcetti when he traveled through LAX.
“They were blown away, they could not believe the Mayor of Los Angeles was there to shake hands and say welcome to my city,” said U.S. Olympic Committee chairman Larry Probst.
This week Garcetti welcomes the IOC host city evaluation commission to Los Angeles for four days of touring proposed venues and meetings with Los Angeles 2024 and city officials that could prove pivotal to the city’s bid to hold the 2024 Olympic Games.
Garcetti, IOC and USOC officials said, been a major asset to a once underdog bid that belatedly entered the 2024 race only after Boston withdrew in the summer of 2015 and now, having seen exits by Rome, Hamburg and Budapest. could be just months away from securing a third Olympic Games for Los Angeles at a most critical juncture for the IOC.
“LA has to be in the driver’s seat here,” said Holy Cross economics professor Victor Matheson, co-author of “Going for the Gold: The Economics of the Olympics.”
And behind the wheel is Garcetti, 46 and two months into his second term, the multi-lingual true believer in the Olympic movement, driving Los Angeles’ $60 million bid toward the IOC’s Sept. 13 vote with Paris in Lima, Peru. It’s an election that longtime IOC observers, economists and political scientists view as a potential game changer for the city, the Olympic movement and a rising political star believed to have aspirations beyond City Hall.
“He’s awesome,” said Probst, an IOC member and former chairman and chief executive officer at Electronic Arts. “He’s a charismatic mayor. I don’t think you could find a better sales person for a major city, or a mayor…