When the Rose Parade takes to the streets of Pasadena, Calif., on Monday, five-time Olympic medalist Janet Evans will serve as a grand marshal alongside two other Olympians who have made history in their sports, Allyson Felix and Greg Louganis.
With 14 Olympic gold medals among them, the three Southern California natives will represent Los Angeles’ bid for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Evans, the greatest female distance swimmer of her era, is now tasked with helping Los Angeles win the right to host its third Olympic Games.
“The parade choosing Olympians as grand marshals sends a strong message that sport has the power to unify and inspire,” Evans said Saturday in a phone interview to promote the 128th Rose Parade presented by Honda. “That’s why we’re working so hard to bring the Games back to Los Angeles.”
As vice chair and director of athlete relations for L.A. 2024, Evans has been working with athletes to ensure their needs are a priority. Over the past year, the bid committee has held eight town hall meetings across the country with Olympic and Paralympic athletes to get their feedback on the bid.
“There are things that happen on a daily basis in our office where we’re making plans, and I’m fortunate enough that I get to have insight into every one of those plans because everything has to be viewed through the eyes of the athlete,” Evans said. “For me, it’s making sure that athletes have comfortable beds in the village and blackout shades, stuff like that, and what their venues will look like and what will happen when they step off the plane at LAX and how their experience will be personalized to each of them.”
Los Angeles and Paris are front-runners with Budapest, Hungary, viewed as a distant third in the bidding process to host the Games. The IOC will vote on the host city in September.
Louganis and Felix emphasized the plan to use existing venues as a major strength of the L.A. bid. No permanent venues will be built under the plan. The bid plans to use some temporary venues, permanent venues that are already in existence or those that are being planned as venues built by private investors, such as the stadium that’s being built for the NFL's Rams.
“I think the most logical is Los Angeles because almost everything is here and built,” Louganis said. “The new transportation system is being completed and it will be tested. There are so many positive aspects that go into it – the key word being sustainability.”
In November Felix was part of the L.A. contingent that presented the 2024 bid to Olympic officials in Doha, Qatar. It was the first time she’s worked on that side of sport; “it was a different world,” she said. In Rio, Felix joined Merlene Ottey as the most decorated track and field female Olympians in history with nine medals.
Most of the questions in Doha centered on the venues, transportation and “everything that Los Angeles has to offer with entertainment, the climate and how many athletes already make Los Angeles a training base,” said Felix, who was born and raised in the city and went to Southern Cal.
“It’s definitely nice to be involved at a time when I’m so passionate about Los Angeles and in the Olympics, so it just makes sense,” she said. “It would mean a lot to be able to host the world.”
Louganis, a three-time Olympian, remembers what it was like in 1984, the last time L.A. hosted the Games.
“Coming into L.A., everyone was going on about the traffic and just all of these problems,” said Louganis, who won gold in the 3-meter springboard and 10-meter platform events in 1984 and repeated the Olympic double four years later.
“When the Olympics actually happened, there was none of that. It was such a magical time to be in Los Angeles. I feel like 2024 can recreate that magic and make it even better. I think it’s a natural choice.”