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sopas ej Aug 24, 2010 10:59 PM

Los Angeles 1984 Summer Olympics

Sam the Eagle, mascot for the 1984 Summer Olympics
City of Carson website

The 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles was a pivotal one for the Olympic movement. Many people say it actually saved the Olympic movement. The 1970s wasn't a good decade for the Olympics. The 1972 Munich Summer Games were marred with terrorism when a number of Israeli athletes and their coaches were kidnapped and killed by Palestinian terrorists; the 1976 Montreal Olympics, though a logistical success, was a financial disaster, having lost a billion dollars (in the 1970s, that was a lot of money); it took Montreal 30 years to pay off its Olympic debt. Denver, which won the bid to host the 1976 Winter Olympics, later told the IOC that they didn't want to host the Winter Games, citing environmental and cost concerns; Denver held a referendum asking its voters if they still wanted to host the Olympics, and the voters said no. So, the IOC asked Innsbruck, Austria to step in, being that they hosted the Winter Games only 12 years prior and many of their venues were still up to par. Even the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics were marred by a massive boycott led by the US over the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan. When time came to bid for the 1988 Summer Olympics, only 2 cities wanted them-- Nagoya, Japan and Seoul, South Korea. During the bid presentations to the IOC, Nagoya's delegation actually asked them to NOT consider their city for the Olympics, being that they started to have cost and environmental concerns like Denver did. So Seoul was reluctantly chosen by the IOC, Seoul being a politically sensitive place, as South Korea wasn't recognized diplomatically by any Communist nation at the time.

When it came time to bid for the 1984 Games, Los Angeles was the only city that wanted it. Let me rephrase that; Los Angeles was the only official candidate city for the 1984 Summer Olympics. Tehran also wanted to host, but didn't offer an official bid because of the political and social changes that were going on in Iran during the late 1970s. New York City also wanted to bid for the '84 Games, but it's been an IOC rule since the 1950s that only one city per country may bid for an Olympics; NYC and LA were the only 2 American cities wanting to host, and basically it was the USOC that decided which city would host the 1984 Games, by a vote of 55 to 39 (because LA was the only candidate city for 1984, the IOC didn't even hold a vote, they just announced LA as the host city); this was the closest that NYC had ever come to hosting an Olympic Games, even when they lost the IOC vote for 2012, when London was named the host city. The USOC felt that NYC's 1984 bid was too costly; plus, in the mid and late 1970s, NYC was seen by many in the US as a decaying, crime-ridden place. When LA was announced as the 1984 host city, it became only the third city ever to host a Summer Olympics twice, at this point only London and Paris were the other cities having twice hosted a Summer Olympics, but of course since then, Athens has become a two-time host, and now London in 2012 will be the first city to host 3 Summer Olympics.

The 1984 Summer Olympics in LA were the first privately-financed Olympics, with the money coming from corporate sponsors. Whereas Montreal lost money because of rising construction costs and their desire to build glittering new venues, LA decided to save money by using already existing facilities, some only a few years old, some well over 50 years old (like the Coliseum). Only 2 new venues were built specifically for the 1984 Olympics-- the Velodrome on the campus of California State University Dominguez Hills in Carson, and the Swim Stadium on the USC campus, and both were built by corporate sponsors (7-11 and McDonald's, respectively). After the financial disaster of Montreal, LA held a voter referendum, and LA's voters said that they did not want taxpayer money to go towards the Olympics, hence the then-revolutionary idea of courting corporate sponsors to finance the Games. The IOC initially had reservations about the plan, but basically gave the LA organizers carte blanche, being that it was going to be an LA Olympics, or nothing for 1984.

The IOC awarded the Olympics to LA in May of 1978, and in the years leading up to the Games, there were many doomsayers. Some said it would be a 2-week traffic-choked nightmare; others said it would be an embarrassing smogfest. In 1983, a Santa Barbara printing company even came up with this greeting card:

The inside said "Gasping for the Gold." Some people were even citing terrorism fears. At the least, some said it would be a financial disaster. Those doomsayers were proven wrong. The smog wasn't a problem. Because of excellent planning and coordination, these Olympics ran very smoothly. Staggered work schedules, employers encouraging their workers to take vacations during the Olympics, the banning of big-rig trucks during the day time... this all contributed to basically a traffic-free two weeks on LA's freeways. Every day during the Olympics was like a Sunday-morning drive. Three streets in downtown Los Angeles (Olive, Figueroa, Flower) were temporarily turned into one-way streets; this worked so well that they were permanently kept as one-way streets after the Games. The organizers also spread the venues out, their theory being that if you spread the venues out far enough, there would be no heavy traffic crunches. So, there were venues as far north as Lake Casitas in Ventura County for rowing, as far south as Rancho Santa Fe in San Diego County for some of the Equestrian Events, and as far east as Chino in the Inland Empire for Shooting (spreading the venues out among the various cities and communities of southern California also mentally united the area for the Olympics, and was a source of pride for people to say that their city or community hosted an Olympic event). And at the end of the Games, the organizers actually made a profit of 225 million dollars (in 1984 dollars), the first time since the 1932 LA Summer Games that the Olympics made a profit, and by far the most profitable Olympics to date. Though 14 nations (mostly the Warsaw Pact countries) boycotted these Olympics, which were led by the Soviet Union as a "revenge boycott" after the US and many other nations boycotted the 1980 Moscow Games, it was still attended by a then-record 140 nations. After seeing the great success of the 1984 LA Summer Olympics, many cities again wanted to host them. When time came to bid for the 1992 Summer Olympics, there were six candidate cities: Amsterdam, Netherlands; Barcelona, Spain; Belgrade, Yugoslavia; Birmingham, UK; Brisbane, Australia; Paris, France. We all know that Barcelona won the bid.

Here's downtown LA in 1984 with the Olympic logo on what was then called First Interstate Tower (now Aon Center), which was then the tallest building on the west coast. I see that the One California Plaza building was still under construction back then. LA had certainly changed a lot since it last hosted the Olympics 52 years prior.
From photobucket; photographer unknown

The Los Angeles architects of the Jon Jerde partnership were hired to dress up the venues and the public areas around the venues. They used lots of temporary scaffolding and banners in post-modern shapes and a very (1980s) colorful pastel palette to give all of the venues a cohesive look, and also to be eye-catching on TV coverage. They even designed the street decorations and signs, and even freeway signs for directions to the venues. Jon Jerde's designs proved very successful and his firm went on to design other projects in LA and southern California, including Horton Plaza in San Diego, the Westside Pavilion shopping mall in LA and the Universal CityWalk (his firm has also designed many international projects). The term "the look of the Games" was established with these Olympics. Jon Jerde referred to his Olympic designs as "festive federalism."

Archery venue, El Dorado Park, Long Beach
Both images courtesy

Various "Olympic Towers"

Entrance to swimming venue, USC

Entrance to weightlifting venue, Albert Gersten Pavilion, Loyola Marymount University

Exposition Park

Coliseum entrance

There were three Olympic Athletes' Villages for these Olympics. Being that virtually nothing new was constructed for these Games, the organizers used the dormitories at USC and UCLA as Olympic Villages; the dorms at UC Santa Barbara were used as an Olympic Village specifically for the rowing and canoeing athletes, being that it was relatively close to the rowing venue at Lake Casitas. After their competitions ended, they were given the option to move back with their other fellow athletes staying at the USC and UCLA villages.

3 photos of the UCLA Olympic Village

Opening Ceremonies

Sam the Eagle

The Rocketman

The French delegation in the Parade of Nations.

The American delegation walks around the Coliseum. Even though other cities have been 2-time Olympic host cities, LA's Coliseum is the only stadium that has been the main centerpiece stadium of a summer Olympics twice. In 1984 it was dressed up with the color palette of the Jon Jerde architects.

Rafer Johnson lights the Olympic Cauldron.

Rowing venue, Lake Casitas, Ventura County

West Germany's Steffi Graf and Italy's Raffaella Reggi at the UCLA Tennis Center

Spain vs. Australia, water polo at Raleigh Runnels Memorial Pool, Pepperdine University, Malibu

200m men's swimming, Swim Stadium at USC campus

100m men's butterfly medals ceremony at the USC Swim Stadium. Michael Gross of West Germany won gold, Pablo Morales of the USA won silver and Glenn Buchanan of Australia won bronze. Let's all listen to "Deutschland Über Alles"!
Both images from

Volleyball at the Long Beach Arena

Stephan van den Berg of the Netherlands windsurfing at Long Beach Marina. Windsurfing as well as rhythmic gymnastics and synchronized swimming made their debuts as Olympic sports at these Games.

Greg Louganis of the USA making one of his flawless dives at the USC Swim Stadium.

Olympic Velodrome, California State University Dominguez Hills, Carson

Left to right, Mark Berry of Great Britain, Katsuo Nakatake of Japan falling, Fu-Hsiang Lee of Chinese Taipei

David Mercer of Great Britain, weightlifting, Albert Gersten Pavilion, Loyola Marymount University

USA vs. Australia, men's field hockey, Weingart Stadium, East Los Angeles College, Monterey Park
corbis images

Women's field hockey, USA vs. Australia
corbis images

Men's marathon

Soccer, USA vs. Italy, Rose Bowl, Pasadena. Soccer surprisingly proved to be a very popular sport during these Olympics, with the Rose Bowl selling out many times, despite having a seating capacity of over 100,000 and Americans' usual lack of enthusiasm for the sport. This success led to the US' desire to host the World Cup in 1994, which it of course did. The Rose Bowl was also the stadium for the final game deciding the 1st place winner of the 1994 World Cup.

Equestrian sports, Santa Anita Racetrack, Arcadia

The USA's Carl Lewis.

800m men's final at the Coliseum.

Sebastian Coe of Great Britain.

Preparing for a medals ceremony at the Coliseum.

The USA's Edwin Moses jumping the hurdles.

USA women's relay team.

Peter Hadfield of Australia doing the pole vault.

Nawal El Moutawakel of Morocco wins the first gold medal ever for Morocco.

USA gymnast Mary Lou Retton doing floor exercises at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion.

USA's Tim Daggett at the pommel horse.

Romanian gymnast Ecaterina Szabo doing a vault. Romania was the only Warsaw Pact nation that did not boycott the '84 Olympics, and when the Romanian delegation entered the Coliseum at the opening ceremonies in the Parade of Nations, they received a loud roar of applause and a standing ovation.

Men's cycling road race course, Mission Viejo, Orange County

Men's cycling road race finish line, Mission Viejo, Orange County

USA's Bob Berland wins silver for judo, Eagle's Nest Arena, California State University Los Angeles

Greg Gibson of the USA vs. Yoshihiro Fujita of Japan, Greco-Roman wrestling at the Anaheim Convention Center, Orange County.

Closing ceremony. See you in 1988 in Seoul!

Coldrsx Aug 31, 2010 10:31 PM

unreal.... thanks for the blast from the past.

chris Aug 31, 2010 11:37 PM

love it. bring the games back to L.A.

BrandonJXN Oct 5, 2010 7:51 PM

Why am I just now seeing this? This is awesome.

photoLith Oct 5, 2010 11:58 PM

Awesome thread, Im loving the coloration at the stadium, it just screams

Gresto Oct 6, 2010 3:59 AM


Originally Posted by photolitherland (Post 5005690)
Awesome thread, Im loving the coloration at the stadium, it just screams 1980s.

Along with the Wagonmaster 3000 in one of the pics.

Martin Pal Jan 7, 2014 5:13 PM

I just learned about this today. There's an exhibition showcasing Janet Sussman, one of the designers of the designs/look for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

Now Sussman, still working at age 82 at Sussman/Prejza, the firm she founded in 1980 with her husband, Paul Prejza, is getting a solo spotlight in "Deborah Sussman Loves Los Angeles," an exhibition running through Jan. 19 at Woodbury University's WUHO Gallery in Hollywood.

[The exhibition] concludes with the Olympics, a triumph not only for the bottom line but also for its interest in celebrating rather than trying to disguise the ephemeral, even beautifully fragile quality of the built environment in Los Angeles.

With their ad hoc, efficient and brightly colored flair, the cardboard pylons, scaffolding, signage and temporary structures that Sussman/Prejza and Jerde created for the 1984 Summer Games were arguably the ultimate triumph of the core Eamesian philosophy, even as they also marked the shift from modern design to postmodernism. They created an entire world from a shotgun marriage of ingenuity and joie de vivre.
Sussman's Olympic work also brought a new and bold kind of graphic design, now known as "supergraphics," to the attention of a worldwide audience. Because the budget for the 1984 Games was tight, Sussman/Prejza and Jerde relied on a hybrid of architecture and graphic design, using temporary structures that were bigger and more substantial than mere signs but also lighter and cheaper than actual buildings.

jg6544 Jan 7, 2014 6:04 PM

Good set! One of the delights of attending a USC game at the Coliseum is when they light the Olympic torch to begin the fourth quarter.

jd3189 Jan 7, 2014 11:15 PM


Originally Posted by chris (Post 4966474)
love it. bring the games back to L.A.

Hell yeah! :cheers:

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