Several recent news reports are signaling that the International Olympic Committee will likely be awarding host city rights to both the 2024 and 2028 Summer Olympics. Initially, reporting indicated that it was a tossup as to which city, Paris or Los Angeles, would host first in 2024 with both cities insisting that they go first. Earlier this week, however, the Wall Street Journal indicated that the IOC was leaning towards Paris in 2024 and L.A. in 2028. And, just yesterday LA Mayor Eric Garcetti confirmed that the IOC had asked both Paris and LA what it would take to entice either city to consider delaying Olympic hosting to 2028. Mayor Garcetti’s response: Funding now from the IOC to develop youth sports in Los Angeles.
Why I prefer a 2028 L.A. Olympics
While I’m generally inclined to take a sooner than later approach to most things here’s why (from a parochial handball viewpoint) waiting 11 years to host an Olympics is greatly preferable:
- 7 years isn’t enough time to build competitive national teams. If you’ve read a few of my commentaries and analysis this should be painfully obvious. The current talent pool of available players in this country is ridiculously thin and our grass roots programs are too small to create a talent pool of world class athletes in 7 years.
- A 2024 Olympics will force spending towards the top of the pyramid. Because the U.S. can’t possibly build a competitive national team through its current talent pool and grass roots in time for the 2024 Olympics an inordinate amount of resources will be spent at the top of the pyramid. In other words an aggressive campaign will be launched to identify, recruit and train talented cross over athletes in the 22-25 age range. As, I’ve written ad nauseam this is an outdated, short sighted strategy that is currently working very poorly for USA Team Handball. A guaranteed Olympics, though, should improve recruiting and change “very poorly” to either “poorly” or “passable.” The U.S. won’t win any medals, but it’s possible that teams that won’t embarrass too greatly could be built.
- 11 years provides more time to work grass roots and potentially transform the sport in this country. Eleven years might be just enough time to implement a targeted plan to develop a talent pool, fan base and set the sport on a trajectory of further growth. Of course, more time will be needed for a soccer or lacrosse expansion across the U.S., but 11 years could set things in motion.
- The stars may be aligning to push USA Team Handball in the right direction. With near term Olympic qualification unlikely and 2028 qualification guaranteed it becomes even more logical to focus on grass roots efforts that will support efforts to build a quality 2028 team. Herculean efforts to qualify near term simply won’t make sense. Further, with the LA Mayor calling on the IOC to provide funding for youth sports in exchange for delaying to 2028 grass roots efforts just got further impetus.
The Outline of an 11 Year Plan
It’s early yet, but I can already see the outline of an 11 year plan to transform the sport in L.A. and eventually the rest of the country. Here are some elements that might make up such a plan. (And, if this looks familiar that’s because I’ve outlined similar possibilities before: The Iceland Strategy)
- USA Team Handball aggressively moves on Mayor Garcetti’s youth sports dream and a plan to develop youth handball in the Los Angeles area is adopted. It won’t be idle talk to talk up the possibility of LA’s youth eventually making an Olympic handball team for an LA Olympics.
- IOC support is used as leverage to secure additional funding from the USOC, Olympic sponsors, the IHF and other handball entities
- Youth leagues are re-established with the Boys & Girls Club of Southern California
- The LA Unified School District agrees to sanction team handball as an official sport
- Middle School and High School leagues are funded and established
- A Southern California college league is funded and established
- Partial scholarships are awarded to encourage high school athletes to continue playing handball
- Top players from around the U.S. move to the L.A. area to further their development as players
- A regional training facility is established in Southern California. Top players from each age group receive additional training to supplement their club/school practices.
- Top players are given assistance in the placement of clubs in Europe (The first batch of players arrive around 2022)
- The U.S. Men and Women close the gap with Argentina and Brazil such that they start qualifying for the WC, but fall sort of Olympic Qual for 2024
- A handful of top players advance toward the upper professional ranks
- The U.S. fields rosters at the 2028 Olympics with roughly half their athletes as full time professionals
And, I haven’t even included what might be done regarding beach handball…
Yes, this is an ambitious strawman plan for eleven years time. Yes, it can’t be done without substantial funding. But, I don’t think it’s a pipe dream because thanks to Mayor Garcetti’s dream it just might be doable.