LA84 and LA 2024 hosted over 500 young Angelenos and more than 30 Olympians and Paralympians at Will Rogers State Beach for Olympic Day 2017. NBC4’s Lolita Lopez captured the action from a thrilling day of new sports and new friends.
LA 2024, the LA84 Foundation, the United States Olympic Committee & The Foundation for Global Sports Development today celebrated a record-breaking Olympic Day 2017 and hosted sports clinics for 500 young Angelenos at LA’s iconic Will Rogers State Beach. Reflecting a commitment to achieving the IOC Olympic Agenda 2020 goal of spreading Olympic values in society, a record-setting 2400 scheduled events in 1503 communities around the country engaged more than 600,000 Americans in celebration of the Olympic and Paralympic Movements.
Joined by more than 30 Team USA Olympians and Paralympians, the young athletes at LA’s Olympic Day event participated in eight Olympic and Paralympic sport clinics including fencing, gymnastics, Paralympic sitting volleyball, rugby, table tennis, team handball, track and field and volleyball. In addition to LA 2024 Vice Chairs five-time Olympic medalist Janet Evans and 12-time Paralympic medalist Candace Cable, athletes attending the Olympic Day celebration included gymnasts Samantha Peszek and Raj Bhavsar and figure skaters Alex and Maia Shibutani.
LA 2024 Chairman Casey Wasserman said: “LA 2024 believes in the power of the Olympic values to unite our communities and to encourage youth around the world to play sports and pursue active lives. It makes me very proud to know that hundreds of thousands of people around the nation followed LA’s lead today in celebrating the power of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Days like today boost our belief that LA 2024 is the perfect partner to help the IOC strengthen and spread Olympic values in the US and worldwide.”
LA84 Foundation President and CEO Renata Simril said: “We were proud to provide young Angelenos the chance to learn, take part in, and be inspired by Olympic Day and the values it supports. Every day is Olympic Day for the LA84 Foundation, and this opportunity will positively change the lives of the youth that we serve. Along with LA 2024, we remain committed to channeling the Olympic and Paralympic Movements into a life-changing impact on generations to come.”
Olympic Day is held annually on June 23 to commemorate the birth of the modern Olympic Games in 1894 and is celebrated by millions of people in more than 160 countries. Its mission is to cultivate fitness, well-being, culture and education while promoting the Olympic values of excellence, friendship and respect as well as the three pillars of Olympic Day: move, learn and discover.
USOC Chief Executive Officer Scott Blackmun said: “Olympic Day marks an exciting milestone on the sporting calendar each year, as it’s an opportunity to spread the values of Olympism to the next generation of Team USA athletes and fans. Olympic Day also brings together hundreds of inspiring Team USA athletes, National Governing Bodies and Multi-Sport Organizations, who join up to bring sport and the Olympic values to so many communities throughout the country.”
The sporting federations and organizations taking part in the LA Olympic Day festivities included USA Track & Field, USA Gymnastics, USA Volleyball, USA Table Tennis, USA Team Handball, Play Rugby USA and Avant Garde Fencers Club. The Foundation for Global Sports Development sponsored the event, while every participating youth also received a UNICEF Kid Power Band, a first of its kind activity tracker that encourages youth in the United States to adopt active lifestyles, with the incentive of unlocking lifesaving packets for kids in need worldwide by way of the number of steps they take per day.
The Foundation for Global Sports Development President David Ulich said: “We are honored to have supported such an inspiring event to promote the Olympic values in Los Angeles.”
Additionally, the event was made possible with the help of LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and her office staff. Also part of the day’s activities were remarks by a member of the LA84 SAMbassadors, a group of young athletes that serve as an advisory board to the LA84 Foundation, while volunteers from multiple Target locations also took part in and supported the celebration.
During the day, 43 local middle schools and over 3,000 students also hosted their own Olympic Day celebrations as part of the LA84-funded LAUSD Beyond The Bell program, a free-of-charge afterschool sports program in every LAUSD middle school.
This year’s event marks the second consecutive year LA84 and LA 2024 partnered to bring hundreds of aspiring athletes together to celebrate Olympic Day. Last year’s event was hosted at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, host site of the Opening Ceremonies for the 1932 and 1984 Olympic Games and proposed site for the LA 2024 athletics competition and innovative dual ceremonies concept.
Endowed with the surplus of the 1984 Games and guided by the Olympic spirit and values, LA84 continues to work in underserved communities to ensure equal access to sport and structured play for all youth. In addition to Olympic Day, LA84’s Summer Splash and Run4Fun programs are among the many LA84 initiatives designed to keep youth active, healthy, and empowered through sport and play.
“I never thought a brass plaque could upstage a gold medal, but this day has.”
On June 21, the LA84 Foundation unveiled plaques in the LA Coliseum Memorial Court of Honor for Joan Benoit Samuelson and Anita DeFrantz. Both prominent in the sports world for their contributions to the history of the LA Coliseum, each spoke to CBS LA’s Jim Hill about the honor and the legacy they hope to leave on the millions of young female athletes they paved a path for.
The LA84 Foundation honored Joan Benoit Samuelson and Anita DeFrantz with plaques in the LA Coliseum Court of Honor for their achievements and impact in the sporting world. Lolita Lopez of NBC4 Los Angeles was on the scene.
Olympians Joan Benoit Samuelson, winner of the 1st ever Women’s Olympic Marathon, and Anita L. DeFrantz, Olympic medalist, IOC member, and LA84 Foundation President Emeritus, were honored today with plaques in the LA Memorial Coliseum’s Court of Honor. They were celebrated for their impact on the history, growth and glory of the Coliseum, with ceremonies led by Renata Simril, President and CEO of the LA84 Foundation and Mark Ridley-Thomas, Los Angeles County Supervisor and moderated by NBC4 Southern California’s Lolita Lopez.
The two pioneers are the first female athletes commemorated in the Court of Honor since Babe Didrikson in 1961, the first woman to gain inclusion. LA84’s tireless efforts to level the playing field in women’s sport are reflected here, more than 50 years later, as the new plaques honoring two game-changers in women’s sport join the nearly 60 already etched in Coliseum lore. The LA84 Foundation serves as a thought leader as well and has established and funded programs to increase the number and engagement of girls in youth sports.
Both honorees are directly connected to the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. Benoit Samuelson won the inaugural Women’s Olympic Marathon, finishing inside the Coliseum. DeFrantz was a vice president of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee and ran the Olympic Village at the University of Southern California, near the Coliseum. She later served as president of the LA84 Foundation, the legacy of those Games.
The event was co-sponsored by the Office of County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. Benoit Samuelson was introduced to the stage by Yvette Carbajal, a young athlete in the LA84-funded Students Run LA program that trains high schoolers to run the LA8 Marathon. DeFrantz was introduced by Michelle Castanaza Gudiel, a young rower in the LA84-funded RowLA program that continues to carry to teach young girls to row. “If you have the passion and the support, then anything is possible,” Benoit Samuelson said alongside DeFrantz in an onstage interview conducted by Lopez.
“We at LA84 are proud to honor not one, but two pioneering women athletes whose contributions on and off the field are nothing short of transcendent. Joan Benoit Samuelson and Anita DeFrantz showed girls across the world how a sporting dream can spring into reality, and inspire our work every day to keep closing the gender gap in sports,” said Renata Simril, President and CEO of the LA84 Foundation.
“The Coliseum Court of Honor welcomes two extraordinary athletes who exemplify the Olympic spirit and paved the way for women to excel in sports at the highest level,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor and Board Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas. “We celebrate Joan Benoit Samuelson and Anita DeFrantz for their achievements as Olympians and as role models.”
Joan Benoit Samuelson has a name synonymous with women’s running. In 1984, she became the first woman to win the inaugural Women’s Olympic Marathon at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. In 2009, she was inducted into the Olympic Hall of Fame. Currently, she serves as a consultant to Nike and as a clinician. She is also an experienced motivational speaker and has authored two books, Running Tide and Joan Samuelson’s Running for Women.
“Crossing the finish line in the LA Coliseum in the first women’s Olympic Marathon was an opportunity that I had only dreamed of as a young girl. Today, we celebrate the many women pioneers who made that moment possible while celebrating the accomplishments of women who live their dreams through access to sport,” said Benoit Samuelson.
Anita DeFrantz is a 1976 Olympic rowing bronze medalist and 1980 U.S. Olympic Team member. From 1981-1984, DeFrantz became vice president of the Olympic Village for the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee. Following the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, she joined the staff of the LA84 Foundation, which was established to manage the surplus from those Olympic Games. She then served as LA84 Foundation’s president from 1987-2015 and remains President Emeritus. In 1986, she was elected a member of the International Olympic Committee and has remained one ever since.
Today, DeFrantz is the Senior Advisor for Legacy at LA 2024, LA’s bid to bring the Games back to the US for the first time in 28 years, where she uses her experience with the LA84 Foundation to inform the 2024 Games’ potential legacy. She is also a member of four IOC commissions – Finances, Legal Affairs, Olympic Channel and the Coordination for the Tokyo 2020 Games. DeFrantz also serves on the board of directors for the Los Angeles Sports Council.
“We all know that women’s sport historically has been underreported. I’m thrilled that women’s accomplishments will be celebrated at the Coliseum with these plaques,” said DeFrantz.
On June 21, sporting legends Joan Benoit Samuelson and Anita DeFrantz joined the LA Coliseum Memorial Court of Honor. Before they became the first women to enter the court since 1961, five-time Olympic swimming medalist, LA 2024 Vice Chair, and LA native Janet Evans shared the importance of Benoit Samuelson and DeFrantz, who changed the sporting world forever.
Following the International Olympic Committee Executive Board’s Friday press conference and the following reaction, LA84’s Renata Simril spoke to ABC7 News’ Marc Cota-Robles about the next step in LA 2024’s bid process and a potential Olympic return to Los Angeles.
As Los Angeles takes another step toward hosting its third Olympic Games, the LA84 Foundation would be excited to welcome the world, whether in 2024 or 2028, and use this opportunity to continue building our legacy for the next generation. Just as we’ve done over the past 32 years, the foundation will provide opportunity for youth to experience the transformative power of sport and engage in the Olympic Movement in a thoughtful and meaningful way.
On July 21, LA84 will convene over 300 local youth to begin planning the lasting impact for what would be the United States’ first Summer Games in over a quarter century. Just as the 1984 Summer Games lit the torch for Los Angeles’ unprecedented Olympic legacy, we will continue to engage and positively impact millions of youth in the decades to come.
About the LA84 Foundation
The LA84 Foundation is a nationally recognized leader in support of youth sport programs and public education about the role of sports in positive youth development. The foundation, with 30 years of on-the-ground experience, has supported thousands of Southern California youth sports organizations through grant making, while also training coaches, commissioning research, convening conferences and acting as a national thought leader on important youth sports issues. LA84 levels the playing field so that sport is accessible to all children, while elevating the field of youth sports as an integral part of American life.
“Talent is universal, but opportunity is not.”
On Wednesday, LA84 Foundation President and CEO Renata Simril delivered the keynote address at the Social Innovation Summit 2017 in Chicago. Titled ‘Play (In)Equity: P.E. is a Social Justice Issue,’ Simril illustrated how access to sport and physical fitness is often based on income, geography and other factors. The speech also enlightened a sizable crowd of civic and business influencers about the work LA84 does to level the playing field so all youth can have access to sports. Simril also highlighted success stories from LA84-funded programs and partners, including youth football player-turned Rhodes Scholar Caylin Moore, the Beyond The Bell Afterschool Sports Program and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities Program.
View Simril’s full speech below.
ALSO READ – Stay In School: Youth Sports On Campus