This week begins a special 30th anniversary of one of the best U.S. Olympic moments ever, the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
Heading into these Olympics, the movement was about to die for good, and a lot of communist countries, including the Soviet Union decided to boycott the Games. However, these Summer Games will be remembered for bringing the United States together under a lot of national pride.
I have to admit, when these Olympics took place I was only 2 years old, and I do not remember watching any of it. However, I enjoy studying sports history, including the Olympics, so I ordered the VHS highlight tape off of Amazon, and read several books on this event.
While researching for this column, I was amazed on how important these Olympics were back then for many different reasons. Some experts have said these Summer Games saved the Olympic movement.
Remember in 1980, the USA boycotted the Summer Olympics in Moscow because of the Cold War, and this time the Soviet Union decided to do the same this time around, along with many of the other communist countries.
Also, Los Angeles was one of only two cities to put a bid in to host the Olympics. However, by the time these Olympics ended on Aug. 12, 1984, a lot of experts believed the movement was saved for good, and the success continues to this day.
These Olympics began on July 28 with the opening ceremonies in front of a huge crowd of more than 100,000 fans inside the legendary LA Coliseum, which included the return of the Chinese team for the first time since the 1950s. All throughout these Olympics, USA pride was in full display, and the athletes dominated the competition with an amazing 83 gold medals, 61 silvers and 30 bronzes.
Beside the huge crowds throughout California during the various events, millions more watched the Olympics on ABC. The network had been the standard barrier on broadcasting the Olympics. However, the 1984 event was the last time ABC televised the Summer Olympics. In a tradition, which will continue in 2016, NBC has televised every Summer Olympics since 1988.
As for the USA athletes themselves, there were numerous historic performances in many sports, which are too many to mention here, but there were some highlights.
Track and field was led by Carl Lewis, who won four gold medals in the 100, 200, 4x100 relay and the long jump. This past weekend, Lewis was in Pennsylvania for the Hershey’s North American Finals youth track and field event and meeting some of the athletes, including Murfreesboro native Elijah Hairston. He told me a few weeks ago he hopes to get Lewis’ autograph during the NAF.
While on the basketball court, two legendary college basketball coaches, Bobby Knight and Pat Summit, led their respective teams to gold medals. Both teams were all collegiate players, but some of them would become future Hall-of-Famers, including Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing and Cheryl Miller.
Another young female USA athlete who received a lot of attention was 16-year old gymnastics star Mary Lou Retton, who won six total medals, including the All-Around gold. USA distance runner Joan Benoit also made history by winning the first ever women’s marathon event.
These highlights were just some of many for the USA Olympic team, which will never been matched ever again since more countries than ever take part in the Olympics today. However, the 1984 Summer Olympics in LA will be remembered for many reasons, including saving the Olympic movement to where it is today.