Arts + Culture

The Olympics Effect

by Bob Payne

Los Angeles, Summer 1984:
The Cheap Olympics

Going for gold: No Olympics has left less of a mark on a city than the 1984 Summer Games. Yet oddly enough, they were the first since 1932 to make a profit, of $225 million. Or perhaps it is not so odd when you consider the financially disastrous 1976 Games in Montreal, which it took the Canadians 40 years to pay for, and the politically disastrous 1980 Games in Moscow, which the United States boycotted. No city other than L.A. had any interest in hosting the Games in 1984 (with the weird exception, and only very briefly, of Tehran). But rather than spend public money, most events were held in venues that already existed (something possible only in a very big city), and we showed those Commies by raising needed funds in the American way, through commercial sponsorship.

Tourism legacy: Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX (pictured) did happen to open in 1984, but when the Olympics left town, about the only vestiges of the Games were the 7-Eleven Olympic Velodrome and the McDonald's Olympic Swim Stadium.

Results: Bronze. Democracy prevailed, and the television show The Simpsons, which spoofed the McDonald's connection, got a good episode out of it.

NEXT: Canadian Debt >

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