TALL ORDER: Kathy Carter says the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics are a model for 2028.
LA28 CEO Kathy Carter Delivers VNC Keynote
Hosting two of the world’s largest events over two months is a gargantuan task for any state, let alone a municipality, but according to longtime sports executive Kathy Carter, Los Angeles is already ahead of the game for the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Carter, chief executive officer of LA28, the organizing committee for both major sporting events in the Southland spearheaded by Casey Wasserman, took some time from her busy schedule and visited the VenuesNow Conference at Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort and Spa on Wednesday to talk about her role and the organization’s efforts leading up the opening ceremonies on July 14, 2028.
“It’s essentially the equivalent to hosting about seven Super Bowls a day, simultaneously throughout the course of the day and we’ll have over 12 million tickets that we will sell over those 17 days,” Carter said during a keynote Q&A moderated by Kim Stone, president of UBS Arena and executive vice president of Oak View Group East Coast. “We’ll have more heads of state that will be in Los Angeles than at a United Nations week. So, we got to get it right out of the gate.”
It may take more than a village to accomplish such a herculean feat, but Carter believes she and the committee have a slight advantage thanks to L.A.’s infrastructure with three large-capacity stadiums, two convention centers in the area, two soccer stadiums and four major arenas. LA28 is having “deep” conversations with venue operators to determine the best approach when it comes to accommodating competitors from all over the world.
“We have an embarrassment of riches in L.A. in terms of facilities,” Carter said. “The key thing about these games from a sports standpoint is that most athletes know where they’ll be competing, so we don’t have to build anything.”
While no new facility will be constructed solely for the purpose of the Games, the organization is using much of its $6.8 billion budget — all of it privately funded — to improve access and public transportation throughout the area to minimize the impact of quality of life and reduce the number of vehicles on the road. LA28 is “making sure we have the infrastructure and ecosystem to generate the required revenues to be able to host the games,” Carter said.
The organizers also plan to make it the first Olympics event to go all digital with ticketing, and they also hope to incorporate public transportation passes into each ticket purchased.
Not all of the committee’s goals and conversations involve finances. Carter, a former goalkeeper at College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, considers herself a byproduct of the 1994 FIFA World Cup hosted by the U.S. She was part of the organizing committee for the event and that set her on the path to becoming a founding member of Major League Soccer. Carter hopes more human legacies spawn from the 2028 Olympics.
“If we could be as lucky as what they were able to accomplish in 1984, then I think we will have done what we set out to do,” Carter said, referencing the efforts from Peter Ueberroth and the organizing committee from four decades ago. Serena and Venus Williams started playing tennis courts that were built as a result of the 1984 Games. [Los Angeles Clippers guard] Russell Westbrook started playing basketball on courts that were built as a result of the 1984 Games.”
The organizing committee also wants to highlight Los Angeles as “one of the cultural beacons of the world,” Carter said, and show what not only the city is capable of but also the country.
“There really is no one way to describe Los Angeles because it truly is where everyone from the world comes to really fulfill their dreams, and that is not obviously just athletics,” Carter said. “So our journey is about how we truly co-create these Games and do them through a lens of diversity, to showcase all of what is great about L.A. and quite frankly our country at a time where perhaps we have taken a couple of hits.”
Carter’s story is just as impressive. She has a 30-year career in the sports industry and was essential to marketing MLS. Carter is only the third woman to ever lead an Olympic and Paralympic organizing committee.
“I was a Title IX baby; I was never told I couldn’t play,” Carter said. “I’m sort of the first phase of women, the first phase of executives that actually grew up in an industry where sports was actually part of our DNA. We’re just seeing the great benefit of that in terms of visibility, access and representation. I’m glad to have been able to continue to hopefully do my part to showcase why it’s important to have a different look at who sits around the table today in terms of making decisions.”
Being one of the few women in executive roles didn’t faze the former goalkeeper. Carter relished the pressure of having all eyes on her.
“To be the only woman in the room, it used to be that people were listening to see if you made a mistake,” Carter said. “I quickly realized that was a blessing and not a curse because I was more than willing to prepare and over prepare to be in that room and what it meant is that people were paying attention. If somebody is paying attention to what you’re saying, then you got much more of a chance of having an impact and getting something done.”
Carter stayed heavily involved in the sports industry and it continues to guide her as she prepares for the opening ceremonies, which is more than 1,700 days away.
“We don’t get to do it again, so you have to get it right the first time through,” Carter said. “Now there’ll be glitches, but we have to make sure we adhere to the adage of the duck theory: as long as it appears smooth as glass, nobody needs to know how hard you’re paddling underneath.”