LA Olympics 2028: Unbearably hot, partially underwater

August 25, 2017 Originally published on SFGate

Happy thoughts first: Donald Trump will, almost surely, be long dead, or long imprisoned, and long shamed into historical oblivion. The GOP as we know it today – thick with corruption, scabbed over with abject cruelty, full of open revulsion for most things you hold dear – will have disintegrated into bitter pile of ash.

Everyone will be driving a Tesla Model Z with electromagnetic wheels and a 70” video screen where the windshield used to be. The iPhone 14 will be renamed the iPhone Retina and it will be injected directly into your eyeballs at the Apple Store for two grand, and you will blink twice to order pizza.

What else? Can you in any way imagine the year 2028, AKA the year Los Angeles will, once again, host the Summer Olympics, California surges past 40 million residents and the world lurches past eight billion, and everyone will complain about the lousy WiFi due to the solar storms and the boiling oceans and the Rapture?

Will there even be a Los Angeles? A functional California? Of course there will. But will we have enough water? How will everyone get around? Will next-gen Olympic athletes be constructed solely of steroidal opioids and 3D-printed bones and lasers for eyes? Why not?

Here’s the thing: We seem, as a nation and a world population, to be at a crossroads of imagination, stuck in a surreal Gordian knot of moral and environmental unpredictability, unprecedented in the modern era.

We have little idea what’s going to happen. It is no longer remotely possible to comfortably predict what lies ahead, or to imagine the tech, the politics, the intense environmental conditions, the essential issues that will shape our future, even just one short decade away. Not anymore.

The natural order has thrown up its hands in despair. Predictive scientific models are proving far too conservative. All previously understood trends have largely derailed, patterns shattered, charts remade, maps of the world melted and erased. And not, in most cases, for the better.

As America whipsawed from one of the finest presidents in our history to one of the dumbest and most loathsome, our fundamental understanding of the natural evolution of sociopolitical life and has been hurled off track, to a point where suddenly everything dire appears to be accelerating (water shortages, deadly weather, infrastructure collapse, lethal conservative bigotry and dangerous ignorance), and everything progressive and hopeful has been punched in the throat (health care, climate science, improved race relations, respectful cultural intelligence), largely at the hands of snarling gaggle of viciously amoral, conservative white males.

Which brings us, naturally, to the 2028 LA Olympics. What can we imagine? The climate, we can certainly guess, will be all flavors of extreme and impossible to forecast, much less contain. Rising ocean levels could begin to drown Venice and Malibu. Summer heatwaves could melt LA pavement, blow out the electricity grid and annihilate 10,000 downtown ice cream shops and hipster microbreweries. And of course, odds are ever-increasing that the Big One will remodel the state like a slab of Jell-O bounding on the devil’s trampoline.

And what of the rest of us, watching the Olympics via immersive 3D goggles or custom eyeball TV implants, cheering the impossible athletes from the handful of nations that still put up with us? What of America overall? Will we be but a smoking husk, a trembling, maimed soldier still bleeding from multiple wounds, struggling to recover from the most destructive, racist, incompetent political era we’ve ever known?

Some say it will take at least a decade to recover from the deep structural damage Trump is inflicting, every day. Some say far longer. Some say never.

Or, maybe not. Maybe we’ll surprise ourselves, and heal our country from the Trump era like expunging a barbed tapeworm, to reveal more resilience and ingenuity, tenacity and humane unity than anyone could have predicted.

It’s nice to imagine, no? That we could somehow slingshot from this brutal, seemingly inexorable moment in history toward something altogether healthy and revolutionary, cheering all kinds of ridiculously beautiful Olympic athletes from all over the world as they race around a gleamingly intact, thriving Los Angeles, as President Kamala applauds from the stands?

This much we can be sure of: Right now, somewhere in America, a bright, stupendously lithe 12-year-old is running circles around her teammates on her junior-high track field, and she will perhaps lead the 2028 U.S. Track and Field team to a gold medal in the 400-meter relay.

Somewhere a scrawny, water-obsessed kid is swimming laps in his school pool so fast it will make Michael Phelps jealous. Somewhere a child is practicing her cannonballs, which will become a perfect pike, which will become a reverse somersault triple spin with a ridiculous degree of difficulty from the 10m high dive. What will their Olympics experience be like? Their world?

As for me, I’ll soon be welcoming a brand new daughter into the world, just a few months from now, which means she’ll be hitting double digits right around the time LA is preparing to light the Olympic torch, and prove to the world that we have, in fact, survived that long. Probably.

My daughter will not have a dire SnapChat problem. She will not know anything about getting gas for the car. She will not be staring at a pile of random emojis, trying to decipher if her friends like her or not. Verily, as tech evolves and communication tools mutate an warp, her set of issues and challenges will be entirely different, less dangerous and also much more, but somehow exactly the same. Poor kid.

But one thing’s for sure, as we slather up the SPF 1000 and watch the Olympic divers and the pole vaulters and the archers with the lasers for eyes: we will both be so very glad, so beaming with joy, that Trump is long gone and his poisonous era is blessedly over, and yet the torch, somehow, still burns.

Mark Morford

About Mark Morford