Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban will scupper Los Angeles’ chance of hosting the 2024 summer Olympics, two US gold medallists have warned.
The President wants to bring the Games back to the Californian city for a record-equalling third time, but his election has made that less likely in the eyes of members of the American athletics team.
The other candidate cities are Paris and Budapest, but there have been riots on the streets of the French capital in recent days. Meanwhile in Hungary, officials are considering a referendum on abandoning Budapest’s bid in favour of investing in new hospitals.
No other city wants to touch the Olympic Games. And yet, it is feared the US may still conspire to lose out on the hosting rights for the third time in a row.
“I had thought it would be Los Angeles but Jesus, it might not be now,” Aries Merritt, the fastest high hurdler in history, said.
He has held the 110-metre hurdles world record since 2012, winning gold at the London Olympics in the same year, and as one of the most respected and popular figures in the sport, his words carry weight.
Merritt will likely retire after the 2020 games. Chicago, the city of his birth, wanted that showcase, but there was no disgrace in missing out to Tokyo.
It would feel different were the States to be outvoted again, yet that is what Merritt expects will happen when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) convenes in Peru in September.
Mr Trump indicated in a recent press conference and confirmed at a rally last weekend that he would invoke a new form of his travel ban – restricted entry for citizens from certain fragile states – within days.
Merritt, speaking to The Independent, said: “There are a lot of people who are not happy with what’s going on in the country right now.
“The Supreme Court judge rightfully overthrew [the executive order] because it was unconstitutional to have a travel ban of that magnitude.”
Within a few hours of our conversation at the World Indoor Athletics in Birmingham, Mr Trump confirmed he would revisit the policy with new wording.
It is difficult to see how Mr Trump’s approach can be reconciled with the IOC President Thomas Bach’s stated support for refugees.
Last summer the German condemned a “world of selfishness where certain people claim to be superior to others”.
Mr Bach’s stance is more aligned with the “made for sharing” ethos that accompanied the launch of the Paris bid this month.
The French Prime Minister claimed then that France would build “bridges not walls… France has this idea of building relationships through the values of respect, fraternity and solidarity”.
The US bid promises greater television revenue, but the values of their challengers are plainly more utopian, more Olympian, than those held by its country’s President.
Rio 2016 Gold medallist Jeff Henderson expects still to be competing for the US come the 2024 games.
He told The Independent he shared the views of his teammate. “A travel ban would make it very difficult for the IOC to vote for the US,” he said. “We all know Trump as he is. I didn’t vote for him and it confuses me that people did.”
The long jumper also pointed out the practical impact. “Whether the US was hosting a Diamond League meet, a World Championships or the Olympics, a lot of athletes would be affected by a travel ban. A lot of athletes would be left unable to compete.”
Britain’s Sir Mo Farah thought he would be unable to train in America, where he lives, after the first travel ban was introduced.
The Somali-born middle distance runner repeated his criticism of the policy, calling it “crazy and racist”, last Friday.
We will soon learn what Mr Trump’s replacement travel ban will look like. At his Florida rally Trump promised people would “be impressed”.
The IOC evaluation commission are then set to visit Los Angeles at the end of April. They will visit California the same week that the first round of voting will take place in the French presidential elections.
If Marine Le Pen remains in the running for the Elysee Palace following the initial ballot, so might Los Angeles for the Games. Then what price Budapest?
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