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When Los Angeles was selected to host the 1984 Summer Olympics by the International Olympic Committee, cities had become leery of the fact that hosting the Games did not always amount to a financial gold medal.
However, the city and its organizing committee reversed the trend and pulled in $223 million in profits, prompting a rejuvenated interest from applicants. It also reassured city officials that Los Angeles is a great fit for the Summer Games, and the effort to bring it back to Southern California continues.
“I think we’ve got a good chance,” said David Simon, president of the Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games. “But it’s a very long road.”
The city made bids in 2012 and 2016 to host the international sporting event. In 2002, the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) selected New York City as its representative in the International Olympic Games (IOC) bidding process for the 2012 Games. In 2007, Los Angeles lost to Chicago for the USOC bid for 2016. The IOC eventually selected Rio de Janeiro for 2016.
A dispute between the USOC and IOC over television and sponsorship revenue will keep the U.S. from submitting bids for 2020, Simon said. He said the dispute is unrelated to the bidding process, though U.S. officials felt that it was becoming a distraction. The two entities have settled, Simon said, though the next opportunity for Los Angeles will be in 2024.
“The expectation is there will be a bid some time in … the next year or two,” Simon added.
While the Southern California committee felt that its bids were competitive for 2012 and 2016, it is not obligated to use the same plan for future bids — nor is it required to use the same protocols put forth by the IOC in the earlier bidding processes. With four years between events, much can change between bids, Simon said.
“We can start with a clean slate,” he said. “The program’s always changing, so the bid we make next time may or may not look similar to the bid we made five years ago.”
Simon said that one advantage to having the Games in Los Angeles is that the city has an array of sporting venues, some of which were built after the 1984 Summer Olympics. The existing facilities helped make the 1984 Games profitable, but in recent years, host cities have been willing to construct new facilities specifically for the events, which may or may not work against the efforts in Los Angeles.
“It depends on who the competition is, which is something we won’t know until a couple years down the road,” Simon said. “There are a lot of factors. …We are one of only four cities in the world that has had the Games twice. There certainly is a precedent for it [to return]. On the other hand, we had to bid twelve times to get the Games twice. Will it happen in my lifetime? I hope so, but I can’t promise.”
Officials have good reason to hope that the Olympic Flame travels down Wilshire Boulevard once again. While it was financially successful, the 1984 Summer Games also produced many memorable and historical moments for U.S. spectators and athletes.
President Ronald Reagan gave the official opening address of the Games on July 28, 1984, and Rafer Johnson, UCLA graduate and decathlon gold medalist, was given the honor of lighting the Olympic Flame.
Carl Lewis matched Jesse Owens in winning four gold medals in the 100-meter, 200-meter, long jump and 4×100-meter relay. Gymnast Mary-Lou Retton won a gold medal in the individual all-round women’s competition, diver Greg Louganis earned two gold medals and Edwin Moses won gold in the 400-meter hurdles. In all, Americans earned 174 medals, including 83 golds.
The event also yielded some firsts for the Olympic Games. Although the Soviet Union boycotted the event due to the U.S. boycotting the 1980 Games in Moscow, a record 140 national Olympic committees participated. New events were introduced, such as the women’s marathon (won by American Joan Benoit), rhythmic gymnastics, synchronized swimming and the women’s cycling road race. New Zealand archer Neroli Fairhall became the first paraplegic to compete.
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