LA84 Offers Sneak Peek at New Exhibit, Los Angeles: The Olympic City

The LA84 Foundation offered a sneak peek on Thursday night at its new exhibit, Los Angeles: The Olympic City. Located inside the LA84 Foundation Sports Library in the historic West Adams district of Los Angeles, the exhibit features medals, trophies, photographs and other artifacts highlighting the rich Olympic history and importance of the 1932 and 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. The display also features torches and memorabilia from other Summer and Winter Games, displaying the foundation’s wide-ranging Olympic archives.

The main exhibit is divided into four sections: the 1932 Olympic Games, the 1984 Olympic Games, Leaders of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, and the Olympic Movement in Southern California Post-1984. LA84 will announce soon when the exhibition will be open to the public.

1932 Olympic Games

Financed by city and state bonds, the 1932 Games took place during the Great Depression. Although initial ticket sales were slow, public interest grew as the Games approached. A crowd of 105,000 filled the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the Opening Ceremony.

The 1932 Olympic Games ultimately attracted 1,250,000 spectators, and resulted in a surplus of over $1 million, which was distributed to the City of Los Angeles and the State of California. The 1932 Games also fueled the imagination of Angelenos, who formed the Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games, dedicated to bringing the Olympics to Los Angeles a second time.

Jersey, discus and bronzed shoes from 1932 gold medalist Lillian Copeland.
Jersey, discus and bronzed shoes from 1932 gold medalist Lillian Copeland

1984 Olympic Games

The 1984 Olympic Games capped decades of work by the Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games to return the Olympics to Los Angeles.

Due to skepticism about the financial viability of the Olympic Games, the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee, under the leadership of Chairman Paul Ziffren and President Peter Ueberroth, organized the Games with almost no public funding other than federal spending on security. The committee relied on corporate sponsors, television broadcast rights, ticket sales and Olympic coin sales for revenue. It contained costs by using refurbished existing venues whenever possible rather than building new ones, recruiting 30,000 volunteers and maintaining a lean staff.

The Games included many Olympic firsts…

  • A privately financed Olympic Games operating budget
  • The women’s Marathon
  • The women’s Cycling race
  • The first summer Olympic appearance by China since 1952
  • The wheelchair race, an event now contested in the Paralympic Games

The LAOOC’s sound financial management produced an operating surplus of $232.5 million. Sixty percent went to the United States Olympic Committee for elite athlete support. The remaining 40 percent established a new youth sports organization, the LA84 Foundation.

Leaders of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games

After a bid led by local attorney John Argue, the International Olympic Committee in May 1978 “provisionally” awarded the 1984 Olympic Games to Los Angeles.

The LAOOC named Paul Ziffren as chairman and Peter Ueberroth as president in March 1979. Harry Usher joined the committee in March 1980 as the executive vice president/general manager. Another key member of the leadership team was Olympian and attorney Anita L. DeFrantz, who ran the Olympic Village at the University of Southern California.

Working together, Mayor Tom Bradley, Ziffren, Ueberroth, Usher and DeFrantz produced an Olympic Games that was an artistic, sporting and financial success. The IOC awarded each leader the Olympic Order.

A torch from the 1984 Olympic Games
A torch from the 1984 Olympic Games

Olympic Movement in Southern California Post-1984

The Games of the XXIIIrd Olympian captivated the residents of Southern California, created an unprecedented surplus, launched the visionary LA84 Foundation and inspired Angelenos to seek to bring the Olympic Games to Los Angeles for a third time.

Through its grantmaking, coaching education, research, conferences and thought leadership, the LA84 Foundation has improved the lives of over 3 million young people and their families throughout Southern California, from Santa Barbara to San Diego.

As an Olympic-legacy organization, the LA84 Foundation has a responsibility to preserve the Olympic spirit and its impact on Southern California. The foundation is a partner of the LA 2024 Olympic Candidature Committee, which is competing against multiple European cities to host the 2024 Olympic Games. The IOC will select the 2024 Olympic host city at its 130th Session, in September 2017, in Lima, Peru.