1984 Los Angeles, USA

The 1984 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XXIII Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event held in Los Angeles, California, United States in 1984. WhenTehran, the only other interested city on the international level, declined to bid due to the concurrent Iranian political and social changes the IOC awarded Los Angeles the Games by default.

In response to the American-led boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, 14 Eastern Bloc countries including the Soviet Union, Cuba and East Germany (but not Romania) boycotted the Games. For differing reasons, Iran and Libya also boycotted. The USSR announced its intention not to participate on May 8, 1984, citing security concerns and “chauvinistic sentiments and an anti-Soviet hysteria being whipped up in the United States.”

The Los Angeles boycott influenced a large number of events that were normally dominated by the absent countries. Boycotting countries organized another large event in June–September 1984, called the Friendship Games; however, not even a single competition was held between July 28 and August 12. Representatives of the organizing countries, in particular the USSR, underlined it was “not held to replace the Olympics”. Elite athletes from the U.S. and USSR would only compete against each other at the 1986 Goodwill Games in Moscow, organized in response to the boycotts.

Where ambitious construction for the 1976 games in Montreal and 1980 games in Moscow had saddled organizers with expenses greatly in excess of revenues, Los Angeles strictly controlled expenses by using existing facilities except a swim stadium and a velodrome that were paid for by corporate sponsors. The Olympic Committee led by Peter Ueberroth used some of the profits to endow the LA84 Foundation to promote youth sports in Southern California, educate coaches and maintain a sports library.

The LA84 Foundation, formerly called the Amateur Athletic Foundation until changing its name in 2007, led an initiative in 2010 to raise funds to support high school sports in Los Angeles, in response to massive budget cuts in the school district. The 1984 Summer Olympics are often considered the most financially successful modern Olympics.

The host state of California was the home state of U.S. President Ronald Reagan, who officially opened the Games. He had served as Governor of California from 1967 to 1975. The official mascot of the Los Angeles Games was Sam the Olympic Eagle. The logo of the games featured five blue, white and red stars arranged horizontally and struck through with alternating streaks; it was named “Stars in Motion.”

On July 18, 2009, a 25th anniversary celebration was held in the main stadium. This celebration included a speech by president of Los Angeles 1984, Peter Ueberroth, and a re-creation of the lighting of the cauldron.

Highlights of the Los Angeles Olympics

ñCarl Lewis, making his first of four appearances at the Olympics, equaled the 1936 performance of Jesse Owens by winning four gold medals, in the 100 m, 200 m, 4×100 m relay and long jump.

ñEdwin Moses won the gold medal in the 400m hurdles 8 years after winning in 1976.

ñNawal El Moutawakel of Morocco became the first female Olympic champion of a Muslim nation, and the first of her country in the 400 m hurdles.

ñCarlos Lopes, from Portugal, won the Marathon (2:09:21 – Olympic record that stood for 24 years). It was the first Gold Medal ever for Portugal.

ñA marathon for women was held for the first time at the Olympics (won by Joan Benoit). The event was considered notable because of Swiss runner Gabi Andersen-Schiess, who – suffering from heat exhaustion – stumbled through the last lap, providing dramatic images.

ñDaley Thompson apparently missed a new world record in winning his second consecutive gold medal in the decathlon; the next year his score was retroactively raised to 8847, giving him the record.

ñSebastian Coe became the first man to win consecutive gold medals in the 1500m.

ñThe first gold medal to be awarded at the Los Angeles Olympics was also the first-ever medal to be won by an athlete from China when Xu Haifeng won the 50 m Pistol event.

ñArcher Neroli Fairhall from New Zealand was the first paraplegic Olympian at any Olympic Games, coming 35th in the Women’s individual event.

ñSynchronized swimming and rhythmic gymnastics debuted in Los Angeles as Olympic events, as did wind surfing.

ñLi Ning from the People’s Republic of China won 6 medals in gymnastics, 3 gold, 2 silver, and 1 bronze, earning him the nickname “Prince of Gymnasts” in China. Li would later light the Olympic Cauldron at the 2008 Olympics.

ñSteve Redgrave won his first title in rowing of the record five he would go on to win in five Olympic competitions.

ñVictor Davis set a new world record in winning the gold medal in the 200-metre breaststroke in swimming.

ñMary Lou Retton became the first gymnast outside Eastern Europe to win the gymnastics all-around competition.

ñIn men’s gymnastics, the American team won the Gold Medal.

ñFrance won the Olympic soccer tournament, defeating Brazil 2–0 in the final. Olympic soccer was unexpectedly played before massive crowds throughout America, with several sell-outs at the 100,000+ seat Rose Bowl. This interest eventually led to the US hosting the 1994 FIFA World Cup.

ñThe Soviet-led boycott affected weightlifting more than any other sport: 94 of the world’s top 100 ranked lifters were absent, as were 29 of the 30 medalists from the recent world championships. All 10 of the defending world champions in the 10 weight categories were absent.

ñFuture Dream Team members Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, and Chris Mullin were on the team that won the gold medal in basketball.

ñConnie Carpenter-Phinney became the first woman to win an Olympic cycling event when she won the women’s individual road race.

Athletes from 140 nations competed at the Los Angeles Games. The following countries made their first Olympic appearance in 1984: Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bhutan, British Virgin Islands, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, Grenada, Mauritania, Mauritius, North Yemen, Oman, Qatar, Rwanda, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and the United Arab Emirates. The People’s Republic of China made their first appearance in a Summer Olympics since 1952, while for the first time the Republic of China team participated as Chinese Taipei.

The Soviet Union led the Warsaw Pact and other Communist and Socialist countries on a boycott of the 1984 Summer Olympics, in retaliation for the U.S.-led boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow over the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Three Socialist countries disregarded the boycott and attended anyway: Yugoslavia (which hosted the 1984 Winter Olympics), the People’s Republic of China, and Romania.

The fact that Romania, a Warsaw Pact country, opted to compete despite Soviet demands led to a warm reception of the Romanian team by the United States. When the Romanian athletes entered during the opening ceremonies, they received a standing ovation from the spectators, which comprised mostly U.S. citizens. Romania won 53 medals, including 20 golds, more than the nation has in any other Olympics.