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What should theme parks do when the Olympics come to town?

August 3, 2017, 3:01 PM · Here's a fun trivia nugget for theme park fans who follow sports: With this week's announcement that Paris will host the Summer Olympics in 2024 with Los Angeles following in 2028, that means the next three Summer Olympics will take place in metropolitan areas that also house Disney theme parks. (Tokyo is hosting the 2020 Summer Games.)

The last time this combination happened — when Los Angeles hosted the games in 1984 — locals stayed home or fled the area and tourists stuck with the games, so Disneyland ended up with its lightest crowds in years.

So should theme parks just throw in the towel and give up when the Olympics come to town? That's the question I ask in my Orange County Register column this week: Should local theme parks like Disneyland add more attractions for the 2028 Olympics?

The Tokyo Disney Resort has made its choice for 2020, and it is not backing down from the challenge. Tokyo Disneyland is building several new attractions for 2020, including Beauty and the Beast and Big Hero 6 rides, while Tokyo DisneySea is installing Soarin' for 2019. Rival Universal Studios Japan, located three-some hours away by train in Osaka, is building its new Super Nintendo World land for 2020 debut, too. Clearly, theme park and sports fans living in and visiting Japan will not lack for new options in 2020.

So what happens at Disneyland Paris in 2024 and at Disneyland in 2028? Paris could use Star Wars and Marvel lands, and the timing could be right for an Olympic-year debut. The next Los Angeles Olympics are more than a decade away, but perhaps Disney will have learned enough from what happens in Tokyo and Paris to guide its response in Southern California.

If you're wondering about Universal in 2028, the LA Olympic bid calls for USH to house the International Media Center for the Games, as International Olympic Committee broadcast partner NBC is part of Universal. So that probably complicates what Universal will be able to do for theme park fans that summer. But Universal might get another opportunity for some Olympic synergy, as Universal Studios Beijing is supposed to open in 2020... just in time for the Chinese capital to host the Winter Olympics in 2022.

Read Robert's Column:

Replies (12)

August 3, 2017 at 3:27 PM · They need a Tomorrowland makeover. That eyesore is festering for years. Will they solve their parking problem?

The 1984 Olympics was extremely boring for locals. Nothing exciting. 2 weeks of no news. They succeeded in asking people to not drive. The freeways were clear.

I was a happy Olympics volunteer. I saw the Soccer Finals at the Rose Bowl, but I was facing the stands. I saw the Closing Ceremonies at the Memorial Coliseum on the outside. There was a lot of fireworks. I won't volunteer again. Not worth the hassle.

August 3, 2017 at 4:37 PM · In British Commonwealth Countries, we have the Commonwealth Games as a sort of alternative Summer Olympics (except the US and Russia aren't invited) during Winter Olympics years. I was very thankful to get as far away as I could from Glasgow when we hosted em as the traffic redirections were horrendus just in the lead up.

Get out and stay out Theme Park Fans. Just wait until its over, the Theme Park isn't going anywhere.

August 3, 2017 at 5:35 PM · Rather than overhaul the city for the Olympics, let's just shutdown the Olympics although. Honestly, it's really just a HUGE waste of money.
August 3, 2017 at 6:43 PM · We attended the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, and to be honest we probably wouldn't have had time to visit something like a theme park (if they had one there and it was open, even a Disney park). We went to see the Games, and we got our tickets in a package bundle deal so we had tickets to events every day we were there. I understand that the Summer and Winter Games are quite different, but I also remember hearing reports from LA in 1984 that many merchants had stocked up on product but people weren't buying anything- they walked on by the shops on their way to the sporting venues. If they asked me (which they won't) I'd recommend that the parks don't do anything special for the Games that they wouldn't do anyway. The Games last 2 weeks, and most visitors are 1) not there for the entire 2 weeks, and 2) there to see the Games, perhaps just a single event. They aren't going there to visit Disneyland.
August 4, 2017 at 12:06 AM · Honestly they really shouldn't try to do anything special since it's only a 2 week event. But if they are going to be doing something anyway I guess it couldn't hurt to find some kind of tie in with the games.
August 4, 2017 at 1:05 AM · It's like the lack of success for DLP, if there is something there that is amazing or that is amazing and is there for a limited time, it's not expected a theme park would do great business. Sure hotel rooms will be booked but beyond that I wouldn't compete with it.
August 4, 2017 at 6:15 AM · Well, to be honest, Disneyland Paris isn't in, well, Paris.

Still, I think the even larger question is how would the cities function. Tokyo, LA, and Paris are some pretty highly populated places. Everything is going to be clogged.

Yes, for the record, I am still salty that Chicago didn't get 2016.

August 4, 2017 at 10:34 AM · As an Illinois Chicago suburban resident, thank goodness Chicago did NOT get the 2016. The traffic and overall congestion would have been AWFUL, and Illinois is still struggling to stay financially afloat, which the Olympics would have made worse.

BTW, Chicago is still corrupt and does NOT deserve any type of Olympic hosting honor.

August 5, 2017 at 1:49 AM · Simple. Offer discounted admission.
August 6, 2017 at 6:04 PM · The parks must stay open and continue business as usual...especially since tge Olympics have been revealed to be essentially dope-fixed if you're a Russian athelete, incredibly overhyped professionals playing as amateurs if you're a US athelete, and largely inconsequential if you're from any other nation.
August 7, 2017 at 6:46 AM · I think the Olympics are just a blip on the overall theme park radar. The Games come and go in the blink of an eye, and theme parks would be foolish to sink hundreds of millions of dollars to capture a few extra bucks during the 3-week event. Certainly adding one new major attraction timed to open just before the Games would be wise to allow for timely advertising during the Olympics, but anything beyond that would be wasted investment.

I went to the Atlanta Games as a paid volunteer, and can confirm that the Games are not all they're cracked up to be. Organizers have grand plans, but in reality it's just a circus that's better viewed at home on your couch. Those who travel to the Olympics are typically connected to athletes or those that have a specific interest in the games (media, volunteers, and sponsors). Very few people take pilgrimages to the Olympics like they would to the Super Bowl, World Series, UEFA Champions League Final, World Cup, etc... The rest of the people attending events are locals who either can't leave the host city or choose to stay and attend some events because their employers shutter businesses for the 3-week spectacle. However, even with that, thousands of tickets go unsold or are given away at the last minute so that the host committee doesn't look bad on TV.

@Robert - I had read that as part of the bid, NBCUniversal was going to help construct the media center along with financing from the other major studios, but did not see anywhere that they were going to do so on Universal Studios property. I had actually read a proposal that they were actually going to build the media center on the USC campus as the USC Film School is already planning upgrades that would be beefed up to handle the needs of an Olympic Media Center. USH is a bit far from any point of interest on the Olympic map, so I'm not sure why they would build it there unless they were looking to save some money by converting old sound stages. With the USC plan already in place I don't see why they would suddenly change course and decide to instead build a media center from scratch on a movie studio. I wouldn't be surprised to see NBC use USH as a backdrop for some of their coverage, but it doesn't seem like a great spot for a media center (far from the athlete's village at UCLA, most of the competition venues, and lacking infrastructure for boarding media memebers).

August 8, 2017 at 12:20 PM · remember going to Disneyland and Knott's during the '84 Games and it was great. I did go to the Games, the Equestrian events at Santa Anita, but getting around LA was sooo eeaassyy.
If you are a local theme park fan it may be a great time to visit the Parks in LA.
If they do anything at the parks it should be to promote the local traffic through the parks, this includes SFMM/HH, Disney, Knott's, Sea World and Legoland.

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