| LOS ANGELES
LOS ANGELES The International Olympic Committee's Evaluation Commission got the full Los Angeles experience on Thursday, playing basketball at the Staples Center, hitting Santa Monica beach and negotiating the city's notorious traffic.
After spending Wednesday indoors hearing presentations from Los Angeles 2024 bid officials, the commission and a media caravan fanned out across the 'City of Angels' for a tour of proposed venues, many of which are already in place.
"On the logistics side there were a lot of 'WOW' moments," Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti told reporters. "The Olympics asked us not to buff the city up.
"This is Hollywood. We could have had the best show, the cutest kids lining the streets, we could have had the most amazing fireworks, but we didn't change a single thing.
"We didn't go out of our way to show a city that's any different than the city we know."
The commission, headed by Swiss Patrick Baumann, got an early start after a glitzy party on Wednesday evening hosted by LA2024 bid chief Casey Wasserman at his home.
Hollywood flexed its celebrity muscle at the party with an A-list lineup that included Sylvester Stallone, Kobe Bryant and billionaire Steve Ballmer, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers and former Microsoft CEO.
The day began with IOC members and bid officials playing a little basketball at the iconic Staples Center and finished under a glorious California sunset at Santa Monica, where the 2024 beach volleyball competition would be staged in the shadow of the iconic pier.
There were stops at UCLA, where student residences would be renovated and transformed into an Athletes Village, and the Memorial Coliseum which anchored both the 1932 and 1984 Summer Games and would be a centrepiece again should LA beat out Paris, the only other city in the running, for the 2024 Olympics.
"Today's visit underscored one particular point, which is the legacy value of hosting the Games," said Baumann. "We saw that the 1984 Games, whether it was venues or people, impacted their lives."
The commission, which was split into three groups, was also treated to a first-hand look at LA's infamous freeway system and traffic which is one of the major question marks hanging over what LA2024 officials are touting as a "no risk bid".
Garcetti has said a "transport revolution" was underway in a city as well-known for its gridlock as the sun and surf.
Los Angeles has an extensive metro system already in place and is adding 15 new lines after voters in November passed a measure dedicating $120 billion over the next 40 years to improve public transportation.
"We've also been able to get a sense of the distances between the various venues and that's been extremely useful for the commission to feel this, live it," said Baumann.
"I would say we did not have any particular traffic issues in any of the three groups."
The commission wraps up the visit on Friday before heading to Paris where that bid will be put under the Olympic microscope. A report will then be distributed to IOC members in July.
(Additional reporting Rory Carroll; Editing by Peter Rutherford)