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1984 Olympics: Mapping the LA venues that shaped the games

June 22,2018 23:21

That meant keeping costs down during the games and using plenty of existing venues for competition. The games took place across a wide swath of Southern California, with athletes competing in dozens of neighborhoods and on most of the area's major ...and more »



The Olympic cauldron lit at the Coliseum.Getty Images

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By Elijah Chiland Jun 22, 2018, 10:15am PDT
Photo by Getty Images

In 1978, Los Angeles agreed to host the 1984 Summer Olympics and, as described in the official report of the games, a small, secretive organizing committee formed to oversee the delivery and management of the two-week event.
The city had hosted the games once before, in 1932, when city officials used the opportunity to show off Los Angeles as a world class city that was—sort of—thriving, in spite of the Great Depression.
By the 1980s, organizing committee leaders had a different goal in mind: profit. For the first time, presentation of the games wasn’t funded by local taxpayers. Instead, the powerful committee, led by businessman Peter Ueberroth, operated as a nonprofit with full financial liability if the games went over budget.
That meant keeping costs down during the games and using plenty of existing venues for competition. The games took place across a wide swath of Southern California, with athletes competing in dozens of neighborhoods and on most of the area’s major college campuses.
For better or for worse, the strategy worked, and the 1984 Olympics were some of the most economically successful in history.
Most of the venues used during the games are still around, though some have been significantly remodeled or rebuilt. Organizers of the 2028 games, borrowing many of the tactics employed by the 1984 committee, plan to stage events in many of the same arenas.
Here’s a look at the places around Los Angeles that shaped Olympic history more than 30 years ago.
This story is the third in a series on the 2028 Olympics that looks at what Los Angeles can learn from hosting previous games and focuses on the issues the city will face over the next decade.
Casey Wasserman, who is chair of LA 2028’s organizing committee, is also a board member at Vox Media, Curbed’s parent company. Vox Media board members have no involvement in Curbed’s editorial planning or execution.

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O.J. Simpson famously carried the Olympic torch up the (recently rebuilt) California Incline in Santa Monica toward the culmination of a nearly three-month-long torch relay that began in New York. The Olympic cauldron was eventually ignited by decathlete Rafer Johnson.

O.J. Simpson carrying the Olympic torch.Los Angeles Public Library
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Just as it had during the 1932 Olympics, the Coliseum played a key role in the 1984 games. It was the site of all track and field events, as well as the venue where opening and closing ceremonies were held. The games opened with an elaborate celebration, highlighted by a demonstration of a working jet pack and a musical performance that featured 84 grand pianos.

Marchers on the Coliseum field spell out “Welcome” during the 1984 opening ceremonies.Getty Images
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LAX got a major update in preparation for the 1984 games. It saw the addition of two new terminals, including the Tom Bradley International Terminal. The second level of the airport’s U-shaped roadway was also added at this time. A similarly ambitious overhaul is now in progress at the airport and should be complete in time for the 2028 games.

Workers put the finishing touches on the new Terminal 1 building at LAX.Los Angeles Public Library
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No sporting events took place at the Hollywood Bowl, but it holds a special place in Olympics history as the venue where the world was introduced to John Williams’ “Olympic Fanfare and Theme” during a special concert the night before opening ceremonies.

The Hollywood Bowl in 2009.Shutterstock
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Then the home arena of the Showtime Lakers, the Forum in Inglewood was easily repurposed for Olympic basketball in 1984. Just a few days before competition, however, the court was badly damaged when the scoreboard hit the floor. Workers hurriedly patched up and repainted the court in time for competition.

The Forum in the 1980s.Getty Images
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The late Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena was used for boxing competition and as a rehearsal facility for the opening and closing ceremonies. Constructed in 1959, the Exposition Park arena was demolished in 2016. It’s since been replaced by the Banc of California soccer stadium.

The Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena in the 1980s.Los Angeles Public Library
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A labyrinth of offices, work spaces, and darkrooms was constructed at the Los Angeles Convention Center to house the thousands of reporters and photographers who descended upon Los Angeles to cover the games.

Press area at the Los Angeles Convention Center.Los Angeles Public Library
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Mary Lou Retton won gold at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion, where gymnastics competition was held. The school was an important hub during the games; it was also the site of the Olympic Village, with most athletes staying in student dorms during their stays in Los Angeles.

Gymnastics at Pauley Pavilion.Getty Images
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ABC used Hollywood’s Sunset Gower Studios as a base of operations for coverage of the Olympics. The company had paid $225 million for the right to broadcast the games in the United States and was able to reach an enormous audience. Across the globe, more than 2 billion people—nearly half the world’s population at the time—tuned into the opening ceremonies alone.

An ABC camera operator during the 1984 games.Los Angeles Public Library
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The International Olympic Committee decided to give baseball a shot as an Olympic sport in 1984. Six teams competed in a demonstration event (no medals were awarded) at Dodger Stadium.

A night game at Dodger Stadium in the 1980s.Getty Images
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VIP guests, including IOC leadership, stayed at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Downtown LA. The hotel overlooks Pershing Square, and the park was given a hasty $1 million makeover in preparation for the games.

Interior of Millennium Biltmore HotelShutterstock
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The venerable Rose Bowl hosted football (soccer) matches during the 1984 games. Preparing the stadium for the Olympics was significantly easier than it had been in 1932, when a temporary cycling track had to be constructed on the field.

The Rose Bowl as it looks at present.Shutterstock
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Canoeing events were held all the way out in Ventura County on Lake Casitas, a manmade reservoir. Rowers and coaches stayed at their own Olympic village at University of California Santa Barbara during the games—roughly 100 miles from the other athletes at UCLA.

Lake Casitas as it looks today.Shutterstock
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The committee constructed a state-of-the-art cycling velodrome on the campus of Cal State Dominguez Hills. It opened in 1982 and was demolished in 2003 to make way for the StubHub Center, where Mayor Eric Garcetti announced last year that Los Angeles had agreed to host the games in 2028.

Velodrome at Cal State Dominguez Hills.Getty Images
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Most equestrian events were held at Arcadia’s famed Santa Anita Race Track—though not on the track itself. Instead, temporary bleachers were erected on the dirt track and a competition ground was installed alongside the existing grandstand.

1984 equestrian event.Getty Images
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Both fencing and volleyball were held at the Long Beach Convention Center in 1984. The fencing final took place at the neighboring Terrace Theater, home of the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra.

Volleyball at the Long Beach Convention Center.Getty Images
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East Los Angeles College’s Weingart Stadium was thusly named after the Weingart Foundation paid to refurbish it specifically for use as a field hockey venue during the Olympics.

The 1984 British Field Hockey team at Weingart Stadium.Getty Images
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Most of the handball matches during the 1984 games took place on the Cal State Fullerton campus, but the men’s finals were held at the Forum.

Handball competition during the 1984 games.Los Angeles Public Library
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Cal State Los Angeles hosted the Judo event in 1984. The school’s gym was equipped with an enormous mural by artist Guillermo Wagner Granizo, one of dozens of Olympics-themed murals that popped up on the sides of buildings and freeway walls in anticipation of the games.

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A testament to the organizing committee’s willingness to hold events in unorthodox locations, four of five pentathlon events were staged in the gated community of Coto de Caza in Orange County. Temporary facilities were developed for competition and enclosed behind 15,000 feet of chain-link fencing. Spectators were bused in on shuttles.

Entrance to Coto de Caza.Google Maps
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The archery range at El Dorado Park in Long Beach is still there. Gone are the temporary bleachers with capacity for up to 4,500 spectators.

Archery competition during the 1984 games.Los Angeles Public Library
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A shooting range was constructed for the games at Chino’s Prado Regional Park. It took the organizing committee a long time to lock down a location for this event. Incredibly, one location the committee briefly considered was Caesar’s Palace on the Las Vegas Strip.

Entrance to Prado Park.Google Maps
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Uytengsu Aquatics Center—where athletes competed in swimming, diving, and synchronized swimming during the games—was known as McDonald’s Olympic Swim Stadium when it opened in 1983. Built on the campus of the University of Southern California, it was constructed specifically for the games but continues to be used by the school.

Winners of the women’s 100-meter freestyle competition.AP
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Water polo players and spectators headed to Malibu during the games, where competition took place on the campus of Pepperdine University.

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Tennis wasn’t yet an Olympic sport in 1984, but the IOC agreed to test it out during the summer games that year. A small, medal-less tournament was held at UCLA’s new tennis stadium, which had just opened that spring.

Competition at the Los Angeles Tennis Center in 2012.Getty Images
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The gymnasium at Loyola Marymount University was covered over with 920 square feet of carpet in preparation for its role as a weightlifting venue.

Weightlifting at Gersten Pavilion.Los Angeles Public Library
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At the Anaheim Convention Center, wrestlers competed in three different rings simultaneously. The 1967-built arena, within the convention center, was decked out with banners and color-coded mats in preparation.

Wrestling during the 1984 games.Getty Images
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Yachting events took place at the Shoreline Marina adjacent to downtown Long Beach. The marina and nearby beach were temporarily dubbed “Olympic Harbor.”

Olympic yachting at the Long Beach marina.Getty Images
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The equestrian speed and endurance events were held 110 miles from Downtown LA at the Fairbanks Ranch Country Club north of San Diego. For three days, horses trotted, galloped, and jumped all over the newly opened golf course.

Equestrian event at Fairbanks Ranch Country Club.Getty Images
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The last event held during the games was the men’s marathon, which kicked off at Santa Monica College. Runners wound their way through West LA and Marina del Rey before turning east and passing through Culver City and South LA en route to the Coliseum—in time for closing ceremonies.

Runners pass under misters during the 1984 women’s marathon.Getty Images
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California Incline, Santa Monica, CA

O.J. Simpson carrying the Olympic torch.Los Angeles Public Library

O.J. Simpson famously carried the Olympic torch up the (recently rebuilt) California Incline in Santa Monica toward the culmination of a nearly three-month-long torch relay that began in New York. The Olympic cauldron was eventually ignited by decathlete Rafer Johnson.

Open in Google Maps

3911 S Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90037

Marchers on the Coliseum field spell out “Welcome” during the 1984 opening ceremonies.Getty Images

Just as it had during the 1932 Olympics, the Coliseum played a key role in the 1984 games. It was the site of all track and field events, as well as the venue where opening and closing ceremonies were held. The games opened with an elaborate celebration, highlighted by a demonstration of a working jet pack and a musical performance that featured 84 grand pianos.

Open in Google Maps

1 World Way, Los Angeles, CA 90045

Workers put the finishing touches on the new Terminal 1 building at LAX.Los Angeles Public Library

LAX got a major update in preparation for the 1984 games. It saw the addition of two new terminals, including the Tom Bradley International Terminal. The second level of the airport’s U-shaped roadway was also added at this time. A similarly ambitious overhaul is now in progress at the airport and should be complete in time for the 2028 games.

Open in Google Maps

2301 N Highland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90068

The Hollywood Bowl in 2009.Shutterstock

No sporting events took place at the Hollywood Bowl, but it holds a special place in Olympics history as the venue where the world was introduced to John Williams’ “Olympic Fanfare and Theme” during a special concert the night before opening ceremonies.

Open in Google Maps

3900 W Manchester Blvd, Inglewood, CA 90305

The Forum in the 1980s.Getty Images

Then the home arena of the Showtime Lakers, the Forum in Inglewood was easily repurposed for Olympic basketball in 1984. Just a few days before competition, however, the court was badly damaged when the scoreboard hit the floor. Workers hurriedly patched up and repainted the court in time for competition.

Open in Google Maps

3939 S Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90037

The Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena in the 1980s.Los Angeles Public Library

The late Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena was used for boxing competition and as a rehearsal facility for the opening and closing ceremonies. Constructed in 1959, the Exposition Park arena was demolished in 2016. It’s since been replaced by the Banc of California soccer stadium.

Open in Google Maps

1201 S Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90015

Press area at the Los Angeles Convention Center.Los Angeles Public Library

A labyrinth of offices, work spaces, and darkrooms was constructed at the Los Angeles Convention Center to house the thousands of reporters and photographers who descended upon Los Angeles to cover the games.

Open in Google Maps

301 Westwood Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90095

Gymnastics at Pauley Pavilion.Getty Images

Mary Lou Retton won gold at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion, where gymnastics competition was held. The school was an important hub during the games; it was also the site of the Olympic Village, with most athletes staying in student dorms during their stays in Los Angeles.

Open in Google Maps

1438 N Gower St, Los Angeles, CA 90028

An ABC camera operator during the 1984 games.Los Angeles Public Library

ABC used Hollywood’s Sunset Gower Studios as a base of operations for coverage of the Olympics. The company had paid $225 million for the right to broadcast the games in the United States and was able to reach an enormous audience. Across the globe, more than 2 billion people—nearly half the world’s population at the time—tuned into the opening ceremonies alone.

Open in Google Maps

1000 Vin Scully Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012

A night game at Dodger Stadium in the 1980s.Getty Images

The International Olympic Committee decided to give baseball a shot as an Olympic sport in 1984. Six teams competed in a demonstration event (no medals were awarded) at Dodger Stadium.

Open in Google Maps

506 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90071

Interior of Millennium Biltmore HotelShutterstock

VIP guests, including IOC leadership, stayed at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Downtown LA. The hotel overlooks Pershing Square, and the park was given a hasty $1 million makeover in preparation for the games.

Open in Google Maps

1001 Rose Bowl Dr, Pasadena, CA 91103

The Rose Bowl as it looks at present.Shutterstock

The venerable Rose Bowl hosted football (soccer) matches during the 1984 games. Preparing the stadium for the Olympics was significantly easier than it had been in 1932, when a temporary cycling track had to be constructed on the field.

Open in Google Maps

Lake Casitas, California 93001, Stati Uniti, Ventura, CA 93001

Lake Casitas as it looks today.Shutterstock

Canoeing events were held all the way out in Ventura County on Lake Casitas, a manmade reservoir. Rowers and coaches stayed at their own Olympic village at University of California Santa Barbara during the games—roughly 100 miles from the other athletes at UCLA.

Open in Google Maps

1000 E Victoria St, Carson, CA 90747

Velodrome at Cal State Dominguez Hills.Getty Images

The committee constructed a state-of-the-art cycling velodrome on the campus of Cal State Dominguez Hills. It opened in 1982 and was demolished in 2003 to make way for the StubHub Center, where Mayor Eric Garcetti announced last year that Los Angeles had agreed to host the games in 2028.

Open in Google Maps

Arcadia, CA 91007

1984 equestrian event.Getty Images

Most equestrian events were held at Arcadia’s famed Santa Anita Race Track—though not on the track itself. Instead, temporary bleachers were erected on the dirt track and a competition ground was installed alongside the existing grandstand.

Open in Google Maps

300 E Ocean Blvd, Long Beach, CA 90802

Volleyball at the Long Beach Convention Center.Getty Images

Both fencing and volleyball were held at the Long Beach Convention Center in 1984. The fencing final took place at the neighboring Terrace Theater, home of the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra.

Open in Google Maps

1301 Avenida Cesar Chavez, Monterey Park, CA 91754

The 1984 British Field Hockey team at Weingart Stadium.Getty Images

East Los Angeles College’s Weingart Stadium was thusly named after the Weingart Foundation paid to refurbish it specifically for use as a field hockey venue during the Olympics.

Open in Google Maps

Fullerton, CA 92831

Handball competition during the 1984 games.Los Angeles Public Library

Most of the handball matches during the 1984 games took place on the Cal State Fullerton campus, but the men’s finals were held at the Forum.

Open in Google Maps

5151 State University Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90032

Cal State Los Angeles hosted the Judo event in 1984. The school’s gym was equipped with an enormous mural by artist Guillermo Wagner Granizo, one of dozens of Olympics-themed murals that popped up on the sides of buildings and freeway walls in anticipation of the games.

Open in Google Maps

Coto De Caza, CA 92679

Entrance to Coto de Caza.Google Maps

A testament to the organizing committee’s willingness to hold events in unorthodox locations, four of five pentathlon events were staged in the gated community of Coto de Caza in Orange County. Temporary facilities were developed for competition and enclosed behind 15,000 feet of chain-link fencing. Spectators were bused in on shuttles.

Open in Google Maps

7339 E Spring St, Long Beach, CA 90815

Archery competition during the 1984 games.Los Angeles Public Library

The archery range at El Dorado Park in Long Beach is still there. Gone are the temporary bleachers with capacity for up to 4,500 spectators.

Open in Google Maps

16700 Euclid Ave, Chino, CA 91708

Entrance to Prado Park.Google Maps

A shooting range was constructed for the games at Chino’s Prado Regional Park. It took the organizing committee a long time to lock down a location for this event. Incredibly, one location the committee briefly considered was Caesar’s Palace on the Las Vegas Strip.

Open in Google Maps

1026 W 34th St, Los Angeles, CA 90089

Winners of the women’s 100-meter freestyle competition.AP

Uytengsu Aquatics Center—where athletes competed in swimming, diving, and synchronized swimming during the games—was known as McDonald’s Olympic Swim Stadium when it opened in 1983. Built on the campus of the University of Southern California, it was constructed specifically for the games but continues to be used by the school.

Open in Google Maps

Malibu, CA 90265

Water polo players and spectators headed to Malibu during the games, where competition took place on the campus of Pepperdine University.

Open in Google Maps

555 Westwood Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90095

Competition at the Los Angeles Tennis Center in 2012.Getty Images

Tennis wasn’t yet an Olympic sport in 1984, but the IOC agreed to test it out during the summer games that year. A small, medal-less tournament was held at UCLA’s new tennis stadium, which had just opened that spring.

Open in Google Maps

1 Loyola Marymount University Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90045

Weightlifting at Gersten Pavilion.Los Angeles Public Library

The gymnasium at Loyola Marymount University was covered over with 920 square feet of carpet in preparation for its role as a weightlifting venue.

Open in Google Maps

800 W Katella Ave, Anaheim, CA 92802

Wrestling during the 1984 games.Getty Images

At the Anaheim Convention Center, wrestlers competed in three different rings simultaneously. The 1967-built arena, within the convention center, was decked out with banners and color-coded mats in preparation.

Open in Google Maps

450 E Shoreline Dr, Long Beach, CA 90802

Olympic yachting at the Long Beach marina.Getty Images

Yachting events took place at the Shoreline Marina adjacent to downtown Long Beach. The marina and nearby beach were temporarily dubbed “Olympic Harbor.”

Open in Google Maps

15150 San Dieguito Rd, Rancho Santa Fe, CA 92067

Equestrian event at Fairbanks Ranch Country Club.Getty Images

The equestrian speed and endurance events were held 110 miles from Downtown LA at the Fairbanks Ranch Country Club north of San Diego. For three days, horses trotted, galloped, and jumped all over the newly opened golf course.

Open in Google Maps

Corsair Stadium, Santa Monica, CA 90405

Runners pass under misters during the 1984 women’s marathon.Getty Images

The last event held during the games was the men’s marathon, which kicked off at Santa Monica College. Runners wound their way through West LA and Marina del Rey before turning east and passing through Culver City and South LA en route to the Coliseum—in time for closing ceremonies.

Open in Google Maps

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