The slow crawl towards Santa Monica’s participation in the 2024 Olympic games continued last week with Council approving a pair of letters formalizing the City’s intent to participate as the venue for beach volleyball if Los Angeles is awarded the games.
Both letters contain minimum guarantees regarding the city’s involvement but the package approved last week also contained a third letter from the LA 2024 organization that allows Santa Monica to withdraw from its promises if final terms are not mutually agreed upon by December of 2018.
Los Angeles is one of four cities competing to host the Summer games in 2024. The selection committee has narrowed the field to Los Angeles, Paris, Rome and Budapest with the final announcement expected in September of 2017. Potential hosts must provide a wealth of document regarding the proposal including letters from potential venue sites that agree to basic terms such as exclusive use of the site during the games, rental fees, adherence to local construction laws and shared use of city facilities.
Council approved both letters on Sept. 13 after receiving assurances the City wouldn’t be locked into any agreement should the proposals change between the date of the letters and final contracts.
To ease concerns over making promises so far in advance, LA 2024 provided a letter explicitly stating negotiations would be ongoing and conducted in good faith.
“If, despite our mutual good faith efforts, we are unable to agree upon and execute a mutually acceptable Venue Use Agreement prior to December 31, 2018, we undertake to notify the IOC immediately that the Venue is withdrawn from our plan for the Games and we will seek an alternate location to hold any contemplated events that would have otherwise been held in the Venue,” is aid. “Upon such notification, the Guarantee Letter shall be deemed terminated, and neither the Venue Owner nor the Candidature Committee or OCOG shall have any further obligations thereunder.”
The Venue under discussion in Santa Monica is the beach parking lot at 1550 Pacific Coast Highway and an adjacent section of beach.
The Los Angels bid calls for a temporary beach volleyball stadium just north of the Santa Monica Pier. The five-story structure will hold about 12,000 people and include a single court, spectator seating, production facilities, bathrooms, warm-up courts and a 10-foot high security fence. The entire footprint would stretch from the Pier to the first pedestrian bridge at about the 1400 block of Ocean Front Walk.
The structure would be built in phases, eventually covering most of the parking lot adjacent to the pier, and volleyball spectators would access the structure via a custom-built temporary walkway connecting to the pier. The bike path would temporarily be rerouted closer to the ocean and access to the area would be heavily restricted by security.
The actual arena would have a wall of about 40 feet facing the ocean and a higher wall facing PCH. Organizers have said the design is similar to the volleyball stage used in Rio this year and will shield the court from ocean winds while providing spectators with ocean views during the event.
Council unanimously approved providing the letters but not before several members reiterated their desire to have a much more detailed proposal provided before any final contracts were signed.
Beach Administrator Judith Meister said a comprehensive study would be prepared if Los Angeles is awarded the games and staff would make sure the report included cost/benefit calculations. She said Santa Monica’s participation would not make or break the event if a contract were not signed.
“I don’t think we’re putting LA2024 in a position where they would not have other options,” she said. “Part of negotiations is making sure we do recover all of our costs. If we don’t’ have an agreement about that, we can part ways.”
Santa Monica native Sinjin Smith helped bring beach volleyball to the Olympics and was part of the 1996 team. He said he continues to help organize the volleyball program for the Olympics and that returning the games to the birthplace of the two-person variant would be great for the sport.
“I know that because of all the Olympic games that I’ve been too and all the venues that I’ve seen that this would be the ideal location north of the pier,” he said. “Anyone that comes to Los Angeles and the beach comes to Santa Monica.”
Jeff Millman, Chief Communications Officer for LA 2024 said it is important to come to a mutually beneficial agreement over the use of the venues.
“We’ re honored to come to Santa Monica and meet with various members of the community at five different meetings,” he said. “We really want to go to a place that wants us.”
The requested letters are due by October of this year and there would be many more steps along the road before any final agreements were signed including approval from the Coastal Commission and State Parks.
Councilwoman Gleam Davis said if the project comes to fruition, it would be a boon to the city.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” she said. “Not to just bring beach volleyball home to Santa Monica on a worldwide stage, but to really, of course, showcase what is so special and wonderful about Santa Monica.”
BY MATTHEW HALL