Los Angeles Hosts World Games; Will 2024 Olympics Follow?

Editor's note: On Monday, the U.S. Olympic Committee and Boston jointly ended efforts to have Boston play host to the 2024 Summer Olympics.

While the U.S. Olympic Committee, politicians, businesses and citizens debate whether or not Boston should represent the U.S. when the International Olympic Committee selects in 2017 the city that would host the 2024 Summer Games, Los Angeles is hosting an event that organizers are calling the "single biggest event in the city since the 1984 Olympic Games."

In terms of being a showcase for Los Angeles — which was among the USOC's Final Four cities along with San Francisco and Washington, D.C., before Boston was given the nod — to carry the U.S. torch to host the 2024 Summer Games, the stage is equally challenging and rewarding.

The Special Olympics World Games began this past weekend, and through Aug. 2 will involve an estimated 6,500 athletes and 2,000 coaches representing 165 countries; 30,000 volunteers, thousands of media members and an expected 500,000 family members and spectators.

The World Games are being staged in the U.S. for the first time since 1999 (Raleigh, N.C). The competition traces its origin to the inaugural Special Olympics World Games, held in Chicago in 1968, the brainchild of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, sister of former President John Kennedy. 

As with the Olympic Games, venues for World Games competitions are spread across the region, including the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles Convention Center, UCLA, USC and Alamitos Beach in Long Beach. 

The 2015 Opening Ceremony on July 25 saw broadcast partner ESPN air a live three-hour, primetime telecast from the Memorial Coliseum.

Owing to the magnitude of what was described as "the largest sports and humanitarian event in the world in 2015," ESPN said it would offer across its networks (including ABC, ESPN2 and WatchESPN) the "first complete, live coverage” of the Special Olympics World Games, complete with nightly in-studio programs and daily recaps.

Giving it a Summer Olympics aura, major marketers and supporters from business, sports and entertainment are heavily involved.

Founding champions and national sponsors include Coca-Cola, Mattel, Deloitte, Toyota, Bank of America, Kaiser Permanente, Microsoft, Toys 'R' Us, Google, UPS, Herbalife Nutrition, Uniqlo, WWE, David Geffen, Kate Capshaw and Steven Spielberg and The Walt Disney Co. All in addition to a plethora of Los Angeles-based support from companies, foundations, media and people.

Included among marketing, Coke has launched a multi-media ad campaign under an umbrella “Reach Up” mantra, retail promotions and social media encouraging consumers to support Special Olympics by volunteering or donating.

The brand anticipates supplying athletes, families, officials and volunteers more than 1.5 million servings of Coca-Cola products.

According to Muhtar Kent, chairman and CEO for Coca-Cola, which has been a Special Olympics partner for almost a half-century, “With the World Summer Games returning to American soil for the first time in 16 years, it was important for us to support the event in a major way."

Official automotive partner Toyota has national and local activations, including events at Toyota dealers and support from Team Toyota Nascar driver Clint Bowyer.

"This is an incredible opportunity to support a truly global event," Jim Lentz, CEO for Toyota North America, said in a statement.

Kaiser Permanente has created “Be Brave,” an integrated campaign featuring seven Special Olympians from Southern California, ads with actress Allison Janney, billboards, Internet, mobile and social media.

WWE said it would employ "all its platforms," including WWE Network, TV and PPV broadcasts, live events, digital, social media and its athletes as spokespersons "to generate awareness and support of the World Games.”

Davis Elen Advertising, Los Angeles, is the agency of record for the 2015 World Games.

Regarding the 2024 Olympics, a survey conducted this month in the Boston area by Boston-based MassINC Polling Group showed that 40% supported hosting the Games — slightly up from previous polls — but that 53% were opposed to it. 

The USOC is on record as looking for “a majority” of local support to move ahead with the Boston bid process, but also is on record as wanting Boston to remain as its lead bid city. The deadline for the IOC to receive bids is Sept. 15 of this year.

Los Angeles, which also hosted the 1932 Summer Olympics, has not wavered from its goal to return the Games to the area. According to the Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games, "SCCOG has renewed its efforts to bring sports championships of all kinds to Southern California, to support the Olympic Movement in all ways and to stand ready for Los Angeles to host the Olympic Games at the earliest opportunity."

Given the dress rehearsal being provided by the Special Olympics World Games, that may be as soon as 2024.

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