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Olympic Village at UCLA
Images Courtesy LA 2024

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The 2028 Olympics Could Massively Reshape LA’s Restaurant Scene

The Summer Olympics meet at the intersection of culture, travel, and food

Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

As has been widely predicted for months now, Los Angeles seems locked in on hosting the 2028 Summer Olympic Games. Several news outlets, including the LA Times, reported yesterday that sources close to the final International Olympic Committee selection board have agreed in principle to award the 2024 Olympic Games to Paris, paving the way for LA to receive the bid just four years later. For its part, Los Angeles has reportedly agreed to the official deal as well.

Like any Olympics bid, various city factions have emerged both in favor of and in opposition to the Games. Opponents cite the frequent cost overruns and waste that have marred prior Games, while proponents say that the immediate access to IOC funding will boost plans for more transit, more housing, and more tourism — to say nothing of the actual event itself, which draws hundreds of thousands of people from around the globe.

The arrival of the 2028 Olympic Games to Los Angeles will have a profound effect on the city in a multitude of ways, but what will it mean for the city’s dining scene?

Proposed beach volleyball at Santa Monica Beach
Images Courtesy LA 2024

Add in international attention from chefs/restaurateurs/nominating committees/everyone else thanks to the Games, and it’s a fair bet that Los Angeles will get some more high-minded fine dining restaurants over the next decade — and that could be a very big part of helping to further the case for LA’s international culinary relevance. Maybe even big enough for the Michelin guide to come back, just in time to be useful. Just know a lot will change between now and then.

“It’s an exciting prospect, but it’s a long way off,” says chef Josiah Citrin of Melisse, one of LA’s most prominent fine dining restaurants. “Who knows what the industry will look like at that point.”

LA’s Dining Scene Will Concentrate Around Transit Projects

Proponents of the IOC announcement are also applauding the arrival of Olympic money to help spearhead a variety of public transit proposals. With up-front cash on hand, developers and city government officials will hopefully have ample time and money to push light rail into new parts of the city, adding infrastructure to much-needed areas and maybe even solving the problem of the no-train-to-LAX debacle that Los Angeles has been dealing with for years. The below image from the Metro team shows where most of the core Games initiatives would be held:

Long Beach, the Valley, West LA, and Downtown are all represented, with more than a few nods to the Eastside and South LA as well. It’s undeniable that restaurants in those areas — everyone from Three Weavers Brewing in Inglewood to Broken Spanish near Staples Center in Downtown — will feel the effects of hundreds of thousands of tourists and locals flocking to their individual neighborhoods. Everyone eats, especially travelers keen to try something new outside the stadium.

Beyond even the venues themselves, the increased funding for transit should do much to reimagine everyday Los Angeles life before and after the Games. Subway and above-ground rail extensions are already remaking entire chunks of the city (the Platform project in Culver City is but one example); with increased public transit comes increased foot traffic and food/beverage spending near stops. Here’s what the public transit system will look like by 2028:

Stadium Dining Could Improve Too

Even diners trapped in stadiums day after day could offer a lasting legacy for food in LA. Outside of a few key places (LudoBird at the Staples Center, say), concession foods across Los Angeles County are generally considered to be rather subpar. The food at Dodger Stadium is definitely below the curve by current baseball stadium standards, and contracts are still firming up for the Rams/Chargers Inglewood stadium side. Add in Steve Ballmer’s standalone Clippers stadium deal and all the new restaurants that would offer licensing deals inside, and there’s every reason to believe LA’s stadium dining options could drastically improve before and after the games.

Restaurant groups are already angling to get into these stadiums and offer a higher-priced quality dining experience to guests, so imagine what will happen when the promise of a weeks-long Olympics (and all the fans and tourists) gets thrown into the mix? Even Long Beach is keen to solve its shoreline concessions woes, now just in time for some big, big waterfront Olympics plans.

Existing/to-be-built structures for the Games

Culinary Enclaves Will Have the Chance to Shine

And there is the existing fantastic dining scene in Los Angeles, particularly in neighborhoods like Koreatown and the San Gabriel Valley. The dramatic arrival of tens of thousands of international tourists will push millions of dollars into the local economy in the year 2028, but in the decade before every already-dense international culinary enclave will have time to continue to get access to public transit and be ready for the influx.

It’s not just the upscale restaurants, the farm-to-table hip-kid spaces, or the fine dining stalwarts: Travelers will be seeking out flavors both familiar and foreign when they arrive, and LA’s unrivaled culinary diversity leaves the city poised to take full advantage.

There Are Still Drawbacks From Hosting the Games

Of course, that’s not to say Los Angeles is ready now, or even ever will be, to host the Olympic Games. For one, the LA 2024 bid team has been working almost exclusively on the notion of bringing the Games to the city four years earlier. With that gone, the city will have to rethink and reengineer stadium deals, development projects, and other initiatives.

LA is also already a densely-packed urban environment that suffers from poor air quality and worse traffic. Adding plans for hundreds of thousands of people to drop in for a few weeks can’t be good for either, and locals will likely bear the brunt before and after the Games are gone. Plus, cost overruns are certainly familiar to anyone who has watched the transformation of cities like Sochi, Russia, or Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and a starker picture of potential mismanagement comes into focus.

Gymnastics at The Forum
Courtesy LA 2024

Still, the 2028 Los Angeles Olympic Games are undeniably a chance for one of America’s true gems to shine on the global stage. That’s good news for restaurants, bars, hotel owners, and every produce vendor, server, street food chef, and bus driver along the way. All that’s left now is to wait some 4,000 days for the Games to begin.

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