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Since 1985, the endowment created by the success of the 1984 Olympics has allocated more than $200 million to benefit approximately 1,100 organizations that provide opportunities for young athletes.
That profit helped the Los Angeles Games become a model for future international sporting events, and it’s allowed LA84, the organization created to manage the endowment, turn $93 million into what is now a $140 million foundation today. It’s especially impressive considering that the 1976 Summer Games in Montreal produced a billion-dollar deficit that the city paid off in 2006.
“We’ve been very fortunate,” said Patrick Escobar, LA84’s vice president of grants and programs. “It has been invested well.”
The 1984 Olympics produced a $223 million profit, 60 percent of which went to the U.S. Olympic Foundation for grants to promote Olympic-related sports in the U.S. Since 1985, it has awarded more than $262.2 million in grants and has a foundation of $168.8 million.
The rest stayed local, with young athletes from eight Southern California counties — Santa Barbara, Imperial, Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange, San Bernardino, Ventura and San Diego — enjoying the benefits, Escobar said. He said each county had a training or event venue that was used during the Games.
LA84 provides grants to youth sports organizations, such as track and field clubs, Pop Warner football leagues, basketball leagues, YMCA branches and Boys and Girls clubs. It also runs its own youth sports and coaching education programs, as well as the Paul Ziffren Sport Resource Center, which is one of the largest sports research libraries in the U.S. The organization can only spend 5 percent of the endowment on any given year, and its investments produce an 8 percent average return, Escobar said.
“We’re a very unique situation,” he said. “We’re very proud of the fact that we continue this legacy that was created.”
Escobar said the benefits, in some cases, have crossed generations. With almost 30 years of service, the organization has served children whose parents benefitted in the late 1980s. He said that kind of impact far outweighs the brick-and-mortar legacies left in other countries.
“This is really a multi-generational legacy that cannot be found in any other city that has hosted the Games,” Escobar added.
He credited the continued success to the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee (LAOOC) — specifically, LAOOC general manager Harry Usher and LAOOC president Peter Ueberroth.
“It was the vision of the Olympic organizing committee that there would be surplus,” Escobar said.
He retains hope that the Olympic Games will again return to Los Angeles, and he believes that the legacy of the 1984 Summer Games is a valid argument in returning the Olympics to Southern California.
“Most other [cities] have not been able to have that surplus,” Escobar added.
According to LA84’s biennial report, 1,127 organizations have received grants for more than 50 sports. The top five sports to benefit are basketball, $23.1 million; swimming, $15.6 million; athletics, $15.1 million; baseball, $7.1 million; and soccer, $6.7 million.
“We have been very beneficial to the communities we serve — in particular the youth in the communities we serve,” Escobar said.
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