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The 1984 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XXIII Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event held in Los Angeles, Californiamarker, United States in 1984. Los Angeles was selected as the host of the Games on May 18, 1978 on the 80th IOC session at Athensmarker, Greece, without a vote, because it was the only city that submitted a bid to host the 1984 Summer Olympics. The only other interested city on the international level, Tehranmarker, declined to bid. Many blamed this on the massive cost overruns of the 1976 Games, staged in Montrealmarker. The Iranian Revolution took place just one year after Los Angeles was selected, in 1979, making it unlikely that the Iranian capital would have been able to host the games had it been selected by the IOC.

In response to the American-led boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, 14 Eastern Bloc countries and allies including the Soviet Unionmarker, Cubamarker and East Germanymarker (but not Romaniamarker) 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 a rival event in July-August 1984, called the Friendship Games.

Despite the stigma that the Olympics required going into significant debt, Los Angeles successfully hosted the Olympics without any debt. In fact, its Olympic committee ended up with a profit that was in part used to establish and endow the Amateur Athletic Foundation to promote youth sports in Southern Californiamarker and maintain a Sports Library. 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 the state from 1967 to 1975. The official mascot of the Los Angeles Games was Sam the Olympic Eagle.

Torch Relay

The 1984 Olympic Torch Relay began in New York City and ended in Los Angeles, traversing 33 states and the District of Columbia. Unlike later torch relays, the torch was continuously carried by runners on foot. The route covered more than 9,320 mi (15,000 km) and involved 3,616 runners, including 200 from the sponsoring company AT&T. Noted athlete and actor O. J. Simpson was among the runners, carrying the torch up the California Incline in Santa Monicamarker.

Rafer Johnson, winner of the decathlon at the 1960 Summer Olympics, was the final runner. He used the torch to activate a specially built Olympic logo, whose flame circled the five Olympic rings. The cauldron above the logo was then activated by a switch operated from inside the press box of the Coliseum.


John Williams composed the theme for the Olympiad, "Olympic Fanfare and Theme." This piece won a Grammy for Williams and became one of the most well-known musical themes of the Olympic Games, along with Leo Arnaud's Bugler's Dream; the latter is sometimes attached to the beginning of Olympic Fanfare and Theme. An album, The Official Music of the XXIIIrd Olympiad—Los Angeles 1984, featured both of those tracks along with sports themes written for the occasion by popular musical artists including Foreigner, Toto, Loverboy, Herbie Hancock, Quincy Jones, Christopher Cross, Philip Glass and Giorgio Moroder.

The famous Brazilian composer Sergio Mendes also composed a special song for the 1984 Olympic Games, "Olympia," from his 1984 album Confetti. A choir of several hundred voices was assembled of singers in the region. All were volunteers from nearby churches, schools and universities.



  • The opening ceremony featured the arrival of Bill Suitor by means of the Bell Aerosystems rocket pack (also known as a Jet Pack).
  • As a result of an IOC agreement designating the Republic of Chinamarker (Taiwan) Chinese Taipei, the People's Republic of China appeared in the Olympics as China and won 15 gold medals. In weightlifting, athletes from the Chinese Taipei and China teams won medals at the same event.
  • Eleven athletes failed drug tests at the Los Angeles Games. It was reported that as many as 17 other "A samples" were found to be positive but, as the athletes' code numbers were missing, no "B samples" were tested .

Track and field

  • Carl Lewis made his first of four appearances in the Olympics, equalled the performance of Jesse Owens of 1936, and won four gold medals in the 100 m, 200 m, 4x100 m relay; and the Long jump.
  • Nawal El Moutawakel of Moroccomarker became the first female Olympic champion of a Muslim nation, and the first of her country in the 400 m hurdles.
  • Carlos 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.
  • A marathon for women is held for the first time at the Olympics (won by Joan Benoit). The event is considered notable because of Swissmarker runner Gabi Andersen-Schiess, who - suffering from heat exhaustion - stumbled through the last lap, providing dramatic images.
  • Daley 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.

Other sports

  • The 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.
  • Archer Neroli Fairhall from New Zealand was the first paraplegic Olympian at any Olympic Games, coming 35th in the Women's individual event.
  • Synchronized swimming and rhythmic gymnastics debuted in Los Angeles as Olympic events, as did wind surfing.
  • Li 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.
  • Steve Redgrave won his first title in rowing of the record five he would go on to win in five Olympic competitions.
  • Victor Davis set a new world record in winning the gold medal in the 200-metre breaststroke in swimming.
  • Mary Lou Retton became the first gymnast outside Eastern Europe to win the gymnastics all-around competition. Only 1 of the 11 women who won gold medals at the 1983 World Championships competed because of the boycott.
  • In men's gymnastics, the American team won the Gold Medal.
  • France 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 Bowlmarker. This interest eventually led to the US hosting the 1994 FIFA World Cup.
  • The 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.
  • Future Dream Team members Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, and Chris Mullin were on the team that won the gold medal in basketball.


Los Angeles venues

Southern California venues

Other venues

Medals awarded

See the medal winners, ordered by sport:

Demonstration sports

Medal table

These are the top medal-collecting nations for the 1984 Games. (Host country is highlighted).
1 83 61 30 174
2 20 16 17 53
3 17 19 23 59
4 15 8 9 32
5 14 6 12 32
6 10 18 16 44
7 10 8 14 32
8 8 1 2 11
9 7 4 7 18
10 6 6 7 19

Participating nations

Participating nations
Athletes from 140 nations competed at the Los Angeles Games. The following countries made their first Olympic appearance in 1984: Bahrainmarker, Bangladeshmarker, Bhutanmarker, British Virgin Islandsmarker, Djiboutimarker, Equatorial Guineamarker, Gambiamarker, Grenadamarker, Mauritaniamarker, Mauritiusmarker, North Yemenmarker, Omanmarker, Qatarmarker, Rwandamarker, Samoamarker, Soloman Islandsmarker, Tongamarker, and the United Arab Emiratesmarker. The People's Republic of Chinamarker made their first appearance in a Summer Olympics since 1952.

Though a Warsaw Pact country, Romaniamarker (then ruled by Nicolae Ceauşescu) did not boycott the Games. Given the Warsaw Pact nations that boycotted the 1984 Olympic Games did so under heavy pressure from the Soviet Union, the fact that Romania 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 an exuberant 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.

The number of athletes representing that nation is shown in parentheses:

Boycotting countries

Boycotting countries shown in red

Fourteen countries took part in the Soviet-led boycott of the 1984 Olympic Games

 and   also boycotted the games, citing political reasons, but were not a part of the Soviet led boycott.

Los Angeles as host city

Newspaper vending machine bringing news of the 1984 Summer Olympics.
Following the news of the massive financial losses of the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Quebec, Canadamarker, only Los Angelesmarker and New York Citymarker expressed serious interest in hosting the 1984 games. Given only one city per country is allowed to bid for any Games, the USOC vote for an American bid city was essentially the deciding vote for the 1984 Olympics host city. In this case, Los Angeles's bid won by a vote of 55 to 39. New York City's 1984 bid fell just 9 votes shy of winning the Games and is the closest the city has ever come to becoming a host city for the Olympics, even NYC2012.

The low level of interest among cities was seen as a major threat to the future of the Olympic Games. However, with the financially successful Los Angeles Games, cities began to line up to be hosts again. The Los Angeles and Montreal Games are seen as examples of what to do and what not to do when organizing the Olympics, and serve as object lessons to prospective host cities. While Montreal organizers ran up a substantial debt eight years earlier by constructing many new, overly ambitiously designed venues, the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee relied heavily on the use of area venues that were already in existence. The Olympic Velodrome and the Olympic Swim Stadium, funded largely by the 7-Eleven and McDonald's corporations respectively, were the only two new venues constructed specifically for the L.A. Games. The resulting low construction costs, coupled with a heavy reliance on private corporate funding, allowed the Games to generate a profit of more than $200 million, making them by far the most financially successful in history.

In addition to corporate support, the Olympic committee also made use of the burgeoning prices being paid for exclusive television rights. Starting with the Los Angeles Games, these contracts would be a significant source of revenue. Adjusted for inflation, the Los Angeles Games received twice the amount received by the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics and four times that of the 1976 Montreal Summer Olympics. Because these contracts were signed well in advance of the Games, Los Angeles found itself in an easier planning position as most of its revenue was already assured before the Games.

The absence of the Soviet Bloc, and the domination by the American team, was also instrumental in making these Olympics a financial success.

In popular culture

McDonald's ran a promotion entitled "When the U.S. Wins, You Win" where customers scratched off a ticket and if the U.S. won that event then they would be given a free menu item: a Big Mac for a gold medal, an order of french fries for a silver medal, and a Coca-Cola for a bronze medal. The promotion became a near financial disaster due to the Soviet boycott which led to the U.S. winning far more Olympic medals than expected.

This promotion was parodied in the The Simpsons episode "Lisa's First Word," where Krusty Burger runs a similar offer. The promotion was intended to be rigged so that prizes would only be offered in events dominated by the Eastern Bloc, but the Soviet-led boycott causes Krusty to personally lose 44 million dollars. He vehemently promises "to spit in every fiftieth burger," to which Homer retorts "I like those odds!" Chief Wiggum also exclaims that he could kiss Carl Lewis, who won four gold medals at the Games.


  1. Burns, John F. Protests are Issue: Russians Charge 'Gross Flouting' of the Ideals of the Competition. New York Times, 9 May 1984
  2. Reuters - Li Ning, "Prince of Gymnasts" and businessman - 8 Aug 2008
  3. [1]
  4. > Andrew H. Levin. April 27, 2007. page 27. Accessed 2009-07-24. Archived 2009-07-26.
  5. Shoval, Noam. "A New Phase in the Competition For The Olympic Gold: The London and New York Bids For The 2012 Games." Journal of Urban Affairs 24.5 (2002): 583-99.
  6. > Andrew H. Levin. April 27, 2007. page 13. Accessed 2009-07-24. Archived 2009-07-26.
  7. ADVERTISING; BIG MAC'S OLYMPIC GIVEAWAY - Free Preview - The New York Times

See also

Olympics with significant boycotts

External links

  • Whitakers Olympic Almanack 2004 ISBN 0-7136-6724-9.
  • Bill Henry,An Approved History of the Olympic Games,ISBN 0-88284-243-9.
  • Greg Andranovich, Matthew J. Burbank, Charles H. Heying, "Olympic cities: lessons learned from Mega-Event Politics," Journal of Urban Affairs, Vol. 23-2, 2001.

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