Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Back when the Olympics were fun

In contrast to this year’s Olympic Spreader Event, 1984 was a magical year.  The games were held in my hometown of Los Angeles. 

For months it had been predicted that the tidal wave of tourists would turn our beloved freeways into parking lots.  But as a result of that fear, locals were so afraid to get in their cars that traffic was a light as it’s ever been. 

From start to finish it was a celebration — a three-week party.  The athletes were housed in the UCLA dorms (Olympic Village).  Living close to UCLA I would walk to the area around the student store and there were these athletes just hanging out.  I met kids from Korea and Chile and places I’ve only heard of because of JEOPARDY.  Very informal.  Everyone was having fun.  Vendors were selling food and drink and commemorative pins.  Those pins were a big collector’s item during the games. 

The Soviet Union boycotted that year, but that’s like Republicans not participating in the Congressional Investigation of January 6.  Who needs ‘em? 

I went to a day of track and field events at the Memorial Coliseum.  Unlike this year where only 50 spectators are allowed to each venue, 100,000 people filled the Coliseum to watch Carl Lewis and Edwin Moses  perform their heroics.  Buses provided transportation so the party libations came out before 10 am.  Our seats weren’t great, but who cares?  We were there.  It was a once-in-a-lifetime event and I didn’t have to park my car in a bad neighborhood. 

We also got tickets to see the women’s gymnastics at Pauley Pavilion on the UCLA campus.  No traffic problems there either.  We walked to the venue. 

Four or five events were going on at once and there was no real scoreboard.  I had purchased a portable TV that looked like a big walkie-talkie.  Through that I was able to follow the scores.  But it didn’t take any assistance to see that Mary Lou Retton was crushing it.  I was there the night she won all her various medals.  It was truly thrilling. 

As the competition continued, a few of the winning athletes would show up at the student store with their medals around their necks.  If my Emmy wasn’t so bulky I would have done the same thing. 

This year the Olympic Village is in somewhat of a bubble, although that’s a joke since athletes themselves are spreading the virus.  The athletes can’t go out and sight-see, which is always one of the perks.  They can’t mingle with adoring fans.  They play in empty stadiums.  And if they are on TV, NBC might have farmed out their event to cable channels no one’s ever heard of.   In many cases the announcers are not on-site, they’re in Secaucus, New Jersey calling the events off a monitor.   If only the athletes could be in Secaucus. 

The LA Olympics were a blast.  That’s the way they’re supposed to be.  And hopefully will be again.  

28 comments :

Sean said...

This is where I'd leave the Dana Carvey "I'm a grumpy old man!" meme if I could.

Mike Barer said...

The torch passed through many cities on it's way to LA. I got to see it when it went down Eastlake in Seattle.

Covarr said...

"NBC might have farmed out their event to cable channels no one’s ever heard of."

Now, now, let's not forget NBC is also peacocking up things on the streaming end. Navigation in the Peacock app is atrocious, making it hard to actually FIND anything. Before the games started, they'd said "everything but men's basketball" would be available for free without a subscription, only to give users some poorly-edited minute-long highlights reels and a 24-hour talk show with almost no event footage at all.

Their premium offering seems like it might be better, featuring some actual replays, but after their disingenuous marketing push I kinda don't want to give them subscription money at all.

Roy DeRousse said...

Covarr - check out the NBC Sports Network app for Roku (or whatever) streaming device. It is free and fantastic. Not only do they televise live events, but they have an archive of past events. Disclaimer: I'm only watching the tennis; I don't know what the other sports are like, but it seems like they're presented the same way.

Jeff Boice said...

It was also fun that Peter Ueberroth & Co. figured out how to use corporate sponsorships to ensure that a good chunk of the profits stayed in L.A. instead of ending up in a Swiss bank account.

I attended some events of the "minor sports" at the Atlanta Games. Now the U.S. being what it is, most of the foreign competitors had their cheering sections (thinking in particular of the South Korean athletes). I remember how the athletes would feed off the energy of the crowd- a shame that can't be the case this year.



Liggie said...

The closest Olympics Seattle was Vancouver 2010 winter, which I was unable to attend. I was able to absorb some sense of the Olympics in the 1990 "Goodwill Games", a Ted Turner event designed to bring the USA and USSR, plus the next six best nations in each sport, in competition with each other after consecutive Olympic boycotts. I attended a couple of team handball games -- that is a fun sport! -- and the ice hockey medal games, where the USA almost repeated the Miracle on Ice against the USSR. It was an enjoyable experience.

@Covarr and @Roy DeRousse: I have Peacock Premium as a free part of my Xfinity cable, and the sports and Olympic offerings are thorough. You'll get the world feed of the complete event coverage, and you'll be able to fast-forward through the between-action dead times like halftime (with occasional one-minute commercials). There are also classic NBC shows like "Cheers" and "Columbo", plus original scripted shows and even some non-NBC reruns like "Everybody Loves Raymond" and the original "Charmed".

VP81955 said...

I had friends on the U.S. women's basketball team and was delighted to see it win its first gold medal.

maxdebryn said...

I recall that the Montreal Olympics of '76 nearly bankrupt the city, and it took close to thirty years to pay the nearly one and a half billion dollar debt.

OrangeTom said...

Main memories of the 1984 LA Olympics. First job out of college, based in Charleston, West Virginia, and a traveling salesmen for Russell Stove Candies. Had only been there for two months at most and got the worst case of flu of my life (TMI warning): All I did for a week and a half was sleep and poop. At one point in my illness, I woke up on my balcony in a deck chair in the middle of the night, mumbling "how are we going to win, how are we going to win". I had apparently dreamed I was coach of a team made up of Russell Stover products competing in the games.

Got better just in time for the closing ceremony. Was really psyched about the mystery act that was going to perform. Instead, Lionel Ritchie comes out and performs "All Night Long". One of the first time I realized as an adult that life could be really lame

D. McEwan said...

Simone Biles said she withdrew from the women's team final because she wasn't in a good place mentally to compete after facing so much pressure to win.

Awwwww. Too much pressure to win --- AT THE OLYMPICS!!! Gee, why can't we have a laid back and mellow Olympics?

"The Greatest Gymnast in History." FEH!

Mike Bloodworth said...

I have mixed memories of the 1984 Olympics. I had much more civic pride back then. So I was very excited about the Olympics being here in L.A. Watching Rafer Johnson light the torch was inspiring.

The only event we could get tickets for was WEIGHT LIFTING at Loyola Marymount University. If you are unfamiliar with L.A. it's down near the airport. A lot of driving for such a little payoff. But at least I can say I saw an Olympic event.

Wow, Ken! You got to see WOMENS GYMNASTICS in person?! To heck with the portable TV. I'm surprised you didn't bring a telescope or your high powered binoculars.

I bought a really nice Olympic sweatshirt that was either lost or stolen. I did some "pin trading." I got cheated.

However, looking at the big picture no athletes were killed by terrorists. Nothing blew up. And no major diseases spread through the Olympic village. (Except maybe the "social" kind 😉) In that sense the games were a success.

If you speak Spanish and/or if you don't care what the announcers are saying, Telemundo is also carrying the Olympics. They are also owned by NBC's parent company. They were showing Soccer at Four o'clock this morning.

The next Summer Olympics will be in China. For those of you who believe that it's O.K. for the government to force people to do things, e.g. get vaccinated, then you should feel right at home there.

M.B.

Darwin's Ghost said...

but that’s like Republicans not participating in the Congressional Investigation of January 6. Who needs ‘em?

Who needs them? Racists, anti-Semites, Holocaust deniers, white supremacists, creationists, the NRA, anti vaxxers, and Covid deniers.

On the plus side, statistics show that all the current deaths from Covid are of rabid Republicans in the South who didn't get vaccinated. Natural selection in action.

jcs said...

From afar the 1984 Olympics often felt like a garden party that was organised by the host just to show off the shiny new top-of-the-line grill. Granted, the US athletes were the dominant force. There are good reasons why almost 40 years later people can still remember Carl Lewis, Mary Lou Retton and many more who had their moment in the spotlight. The patriotism on display, however, was sometimes a tad too much. Bringing stellar and occasionally not-so-stellar athletes together from all over the world sometimes felt like an afterthought. During the games US networks would rather show Retton's winning performance for the eleventh time on the same day than show once a similar successful foreigner winning gold.

To host the Olympics, LA had to make a deal with the devil. Then IOC president, Juan Antonio Samaranch, was a certified fascist. Samaranch fought for dictator Franco during the Spanish civil war and later served in the dictator's administration. Spanish fascists killed tens of thousands during their reign that would last until 1975. Juan Antonio Samaranch never apologised, never showed any remorse.

Marian said...

Hey Ken,

don't care much about the Olympics, sorry, but did you see the new HBO Show "The White Lotus" about a five star resort on Hawaii and its guests and staff? Would love to hear your take on it, since you're almost a honorary islander and I heard you know a thing or two about writing as well.

Cheers
Marian

SummitCityScribe said...

The 1984 Olympics were loads of fun (although the Soviet Union and McDonald's might disagree). I only wish Marvin Gaye's stirring rendition of the National Anthem—from the 33rd NBA All-Game at the Forum the year before—could have been played during some of the medal ceremonies. Still the most soulful rendition of that tune I've ever heard.

ByKenLevineFan said...

D. McEwan said...
Simone Biles said she withdrew from the women's team final because she wasn't in a good place mentally to compete after facing so much pressure to win.

Awwwww. Too much pressure to win --- AT THE OLYMPICS!!! Gee, why can't we have a laid back and mellow Olympics?

"The Greatest Gymnast in History." FEH!

@D. McEwan:

That's a rather blasé take on mental health. If she competed while in a bad mental state, she could seriously injure herself. And even if she didn't, maintaining a healthy mind is more important than winning a medal anyway. She has nothing to prove. Her participation in these Olympics was for the fans, and let's face it, the sponsors. I applaud her courage for realizing her mental health is more important the pleasing the aforementioned.

And no offense, but I highly doubt that if you were tagged the Greatest of All Time in whatever pursuits you follow, that you would be able to deal with the pressure.

LaBarge said...

Liggie,

You only get the free Peacock Premium if you have Comcast/Xfinity cable service AND their internet service. It really bugs me that they don't advertise this properly. Every month I get my bill for Comcast cable TV and they say it includes Peacock as a freebie, but I can't get it because I don't have Xfinity wifi.

D. McEwan said...

"ByKenLevineFan said...
@D. McEwan:

And no offense, but I highly doubt that if you were tagged the Greatest of All Time in whatever pursuits you follow, that you would be able to deal with the pressure."

Since, whomever-you-are (Too cowardly to use your real name?), you don't know me, your opinions on how well or how poorly I deal with pressure are uninformed and therefore valueless.

"And no offense"? The insult you pulled from your ass was clearly intended to be offensive, as is this.

The Olympians we admire are the ones who overcome, not quitters.

Barry Traylor said...

Thanks Ken for a trip back in time to when the Olympics were fun.

Roger Owen Green said...

The '84 Olympics of course followed the '80 Olympics in Moscow, which the US and other countries boycotted. So '84 was great for the US, but the USSR and those in its sphere had boycotted it, so it didn't feel as legit as, say '76.

tavm said...

1984 was a memorable year for the following-the '84 Olympics, "SNL" was big in the movies with Ghostbusters and Beverly Hills Cop, "The Cosby Show" became the biggest thing in television (but, unfortunately, may now be tainted because of the off-screen scandal of its title star), and Ronald Reagan, perhaps because of his "Morning in America" ads, was triumphantly reelected POTUS (though it's possible his eventual malady may have affected his judgement the last couple of years). This was as far from George Orwell's 1984 as it ever got...

Mike Bloodworth said...

R.O G., I agree completely.

M.B.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

D.McEwan: Gymnasts' skill makes what they do look easy but the fact is it's incredibly dangerous if you go even just a little bit wrong. If Biles were a tennis player, then fine - she can play with a mindset that isn't exactly right and the worst that happens is she loses. In gymnastics if your mental state is slightly wrong you can break your neck and be paralyzed. I don't think that would be much fun to watch as a public spectacle. She did the right thing. Gymnasts have been posting to Twitter to explain what's happened: "the twisties", which (like hte yips in golf or tennis) leaves you unable to control your body the way you need to.

wg

D. McEwan said...

"Anonymous Wendy M. Grossman said...
D.McEwan: Gymnasts' skill makes what they do look easy but the fact is it's incredibly dangerous if you go even just a little bit wrong."


Having followed men's gymnastics for 4 DECADES, I am well aware how dangerous and difficult it is. Don't treat me like I'm a moron who thinks gymnastics are easy.

I stand by my statement. The Olympians we admire are the ones who overcome, not quitters.

Greg Louganis bashed his head open diving in the '88 Olympics. I saw his wound in person when it was 3 days old. He did not quit. He went on and won the gold. THAT is an Olympian. Simone Biles doesn't measure up. She's a quitter.

ventucky said...

I have to disagree. 1984 was the beginning of the decline of the Olympics. OK 1980 probably really was, but we didn't even see them. I was 23, and all I remember was flag waving USA patriotism, with very little coverage of athletes that were not American. I found it terribly embarrassing to our country. More PR interview BS instead of actual sports, and there were no side networks at that time. Aside fro the hostages in Munich, the 72 and 76 Olympics are the standard for the Olympics in my mind. Back then it seemed more of a celebration of athletes. In 1984 it was an American cultural jerk off.

Andrew said...

@ D. McEwan:

Female gymnasts:
Samantha Cerio
Melanie Coleman
Adriana Duffy
Julissa Gomez
Sang Lan
Elena Mukhina

I know their names because my daughter used to compete in gymnastics.

Once, in a practice, she received a minor concussion. She was not allowed to compete until more than a month later. Because gymnastics and diving are not the same.

To call Louganis an "Olympian," but Biles a "quitter," is very Trumpian. "Winners" and "losers," right?

And virtually the entire gymnastics world, past and present, is endorsing Biles's decision.

With all due respect, you're a moron.

By Ken Levine said...

We've reached the point in the thread where readers are attacking each other. So the thread has ended.

JessyS said...

OrangeTom

I believe the mystery act was to be the UFO that appeared after the torch went out. According to Peter Ueberroth's "Made in America," that was supposed to be the surprise according to ceremonies director David Wolper.