This report appeared in The Japan Times in August 2014 as the lead-in item of a Olympic Notebook.
Legacy of 1984 Olympics still growing strong
By Ed Odeven
What will be the legacy of the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics?
There won’t be a simple, one-size-fits-all answer, and those answers will depend, of course, on who you ask. New buildings will transform areas of Tokyo, new sporting stars will emerge and others will extend their fame and accomplish new feats to awe the masses.
There will also be criticism and missteps. That goes with the territory.
At the same time, the inspiration for future Olympians cannot be measured with a thermometer or another handy tool.
But looking back at 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics, one can see clearly that effective planning, use of resources (including existing venues such as Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum) and capable management can serve as learning tools for the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games and others who’ll stage the quadrennial global games in the future.
The LA84 Foundation Board recently released its biennial report, including a wide-ranging interview with Peter Ueberroth, the chairman of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Committee and former Major League Baseball commissioner.
In the interview, Ueberroth sheds some light on what the Los Angeles Olympic Committee and the LA84 Foundation has done since the conclusion of the ’84 Games, funding youth sports throughout California, for instance, but also influencing how the IOC operates.
Ueberroth revealed that the surplus of nearly $250 million generated from the 1984 Games, which planted the seeds for the work of the LA84 Foundation, was a direct result of strategic planning.
“A lot of credit goes to the commissioners of each sport,” Ueberroth said in the interview, which is posted online at la84.org.
“It was our idea to have people in place who were entrepreneurs and used to having run companies. They understood budgets. They were careful in budgeting, but they were more careful than we knew. They were planning on worst outcome, and when it turned out to be the best outcome, there were very substantial surpluses. . . .”
He added: “The goal was clearly to break even and not cost the taxpayers any money. We really wanted to be sure that we didn’t have a deficit. When you do that, you budget carefully. You do that with your costs being high, so that if you can beat the budget, you’ll have a surplus. . .”
Ueberroth was asked about the legacy of the 1984 Olympics.
His response: “The first is the LA84 Foundation. What the LA84 Foundation does is the true legacy. A wise person once said, ‘Give a person a fish, and he will eat for a day. Teach a person to fish, and he will eat for the rest of his life.’ LA84 Foundation says, ‘Let’s teach coaches how to coach. Let’s teach coaches how to encourage young athletes. Let’s make a difference in kids’ lives now to make their future better.’
“The second thing is, Los Angeles became a more diverse, international city after 1984. . . . Those 16 days of glory right here. It worked. It worked.”
As the LA84 Foundation continues to support sports — it funded 170 grants totaling $7.2 million between October 2012 and June 2014, according to the report — its legacy will benefit future generations.
And how does Ueberroth see that legacy taking shape?
“If I could roll ahead 30 years,” he said, “I’d like it to be such an important factor in our society that nobody else could fill this space. I’d like to see other cities model it, with the private sector working with a not-for-profit, and not doing it on a donated-dollar basis, but on a project basis, to impact youth in the major cities of the United States.
“I’d like to see look-alikes all over the nation, impacting our youth, groups that are totally focused on kids and sports. It’s that simple. It’s not complicated.”
There’s talk that Los Angeles could be a bid city for the 2024 Summer Olympics, and Ueberroth was asked how he sees this possibility and its potential surplus affecting the LA84 Foundation.
“L.A. could certainly get the bid,” he said in the report, “and it would be very deserving. I think that it’s unlikely that the current mechanism of the International Olympic Committee and its relationship with the bid cities would allow for any substantial surplus.
“Basically, the International Olympic Committee took our model and made it theirs.”