LOS ANGELES AND
THE 1984 SUMMER GAMES
The 1976 summer games represented a low point in the history of the modern Olympic games. Montreal was awarded the games in 1970, beating out rivals Los Angeles and Moscow to show that a smaller city could put on an Olympic event that was completely selffinanced and outside of superpower politics. Yet the clouds of an international recession, global inflation, and domestic economic problems in Canada hung over the games. The political conflict between China and Taiwan over representation in the opening ceremonies and a dispute involving the ties between New Zealand and South Africa led one commentator to conclude that the 1976 summer games were nearly canceled sixteen days before the opening ceremony (Shaiken 1988, 38). Even worse, the debt incurred by Montreal, estimated at the time to be $460 million but later calculated at closer to one billion dollars, threatened the economic viability of the games. Montreal's misfortune, however, provided a future host city with the unparalleled opportunity to negotiate with the IOC, if any city even desired to host the summer games. Los Angeles did and, in so doing, created a new paradigm for hosting mega-events.
The story of LA's 1984 summer games is really three related tales. The first, not recounted here, is the story of the international athletic competition. Although the Soviet Union and most of its Eastern bloc allies boycotted the 1984 games, the competition was keen. The second story is the struggle to win host-city designation under what can only be described as interesting circumstances. This story unfolds in the following pages, beginning with the city's bid history, continuing through the organization of the entrepreneurial