1984 Summer Olympics

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Games of the XXIII Olympiad
1984 Summer Olympics logo.svg
Emblem of the 1984 Summer Olympics
Host city Los Angeles, United States
MottoPlay a Part in History
Athletes6,800 (5,231 men, 1,569 women)
Events221 in 21 sports (29 disciplines)
Opening July 28, 1984
Closing August 12, 1984
Opened by
Stadium Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

The 1984 Summer Olympics (officially the Games of the XXIII Olympiad and commonly known as Los Angeles 1984) were an international multi-sport event held from July 28 to August 12, 1984, in Los Angeles, California, United States. It marked the second time that Los Angeles had hosted the Games, the first being in 1932. California was the home state of the incumbent U.S. President Ronald Reagan, who officially opened the Games. These were the first Summer Olympic Games under the IOC presidency of Juan Antonio Samaranch.


The 1984 Games were boycotted by fourteen Eastern Bloc countries, including the Soviet Union and East Germany, in response to the American-led boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, Russia, in protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan; Romania was the only Soviet Bloc state that opted to attend the Games. Albania, Iran and Libya also chose to boycott the Games for unrelated reasons.

Despite the field being depleted in certain sports due to the boycott, 140 National Olympic Committees took part in the 1984 Games, a record number at the time. [2] [3] The United States won the most gold and overall medals, followed by Romania and West Germany.

The 1984 Summer Olympics are widely considered to be the most financially successful modern Olympics, [4] serving as an example on how to run an Olympic games. As a result of low construction costs, due to the use of existing sport infrastructure, coupled with a reliance on private corporate funding, [5] the 1984 Games generated a profit of over US$250 million.

On July 18, 2009, a 25th anniversary celebration of the 1984 Games was held at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The celebration included a speech by former Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee president Peter Ueberroth, as well as a re-enactment of the lighting of the Olympic cauldron.

Los Angeles will host the Summer Olympics for the third time in 2028. [6]

Host selection

After the terrorist attack at the 1972 Summer Olympics, the significant financial debts of Montreal (1976), and various boycotts by National Olympic Committees, few cities by the late 1970s were willing to bid for the Summer Olympics. Only two cities (Tehran and Los Angeles) made serious bids for the 1984 Summer Games, but before the final selection of a "winning" city in 1978, the bid from Tehran was withdrawn in June 1977. Hence, the selection process for the 1984 Summer Olympics consisted of a single finalized bid from Los Angeles, which the International Olympic Committee (IOC) accepted. The selection was officially made at the 80th IOC Session in Athens on May 18, 1978. [7]

Los Angeles had unsuccessfully bid for the two previous Summer Olympic Games (1976 and 1980, which went to Montreal and Moscow, respectively). The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) had submitted at least one bid for every Olympics since 1944 but had not succeeded since the Los Angeles Olympics in 1932, the previous time only a single bid had been issued for the Summer Olympics.

1984 Summer Olympics
bidding results
Los Angeles Flag of the United States.svg  United States Unanimous

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 3,636 runners. Noted athlete O. J. Simpson was among the runners, carrying the torch up the California Incline in Santa Monica. Gina Hemphill, a granddaughter of Jesse Owens, carried the torch into the Coliseum, completed a lap around the track, then handed it off to the final runner, Rafer Johnson, winner of the decathlon at the 1960 Summer Olympics. With the torch, he touched off the flame which passed through a specially designed flammable Olympic logo, igniting all five rings. Johnson became the first person of African descent to light the cauldron in Olympic history. [8] The flame then passed up to the cauldron atop the peristyle and remained aflame for the duration of the Games.

The Opening Ceremony at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Olympic Torch Tower of the Los Angeles Coliseum.jpg
The Opening Ceremony at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum


John Williams composed the theme for the Olympiad, "Los Angeles Olympic Theme" later also known as "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. Composer Bill Conti also wrote a song to inspire the weightlifters called "Power". An album, The Official Music of the XXIII Olympiad—Los Angeles 1984, featured those three 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, Paul Engemann and Giorgio Moroder. [9] [10] "Reach Out" was the main soundtrack and is the official theme song of the 1984 Summer Olympics. [11]

The Brazilian composer Sérgio Mendes also produced a special song for the 1984 Olympic Games, "Olympia," from his 1984 album Confetti . A choir of approximately one thousand voices was assembled of singers in the region. All were volunteers from nearby churches, schools and universities.

Etta James performed "When the Saints Go Marching In" at the Opening Ceremony. [12]

Vicki McClure, along with the International Children's Choir of Long Beach, sang "Reach Out and Touch".

Lionel Richie performed a special extended 9-minute version of his hit single "All Night Long" at the closing ceremonies. [13]


Official poster of the 1984 Summer Olympics Los Angeles 1984 poster.png
Official poster of the 1984 Summer Olympics

Arts Festival

The 1984 Summer Olympics was preceded by the 10-week-long adjunct Los Angeles Olympic Arts Festival, which opened on June 2 and ended on August 12. It provided more than 400 performances by 146 theater, dance and music companies, representing every continent and 18 countries. It was organized by then-CalArts President Robert Fitzpatrick.


The Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee named Ernie Barnes "Sports Artist of the 1984 Olympic Games". LAOOC President Peter V. Ueberroth said Barnes and his art "captured the essence of the Olympics" and "portray the city's ethnic diversity, the power and emotion of sports competition, the singleness of purpose and hopes that go into the making of athletes the world over." Barnes was commissioned to create five Olympic-themed paintings and serve as an official Olympic spokesman to encourage inner-city youth.

Track and field

Other sports


The Forum hosted the basketball events GreatWesternForum.jpg
The Forum hosted the basketball events

Venues in the city of Los Angeles

Venues in Southern California

Other venues

Medals awarded

The 1984 Summer Olympic program featured 221 events in the following 21 sports:

Demonstration sports


All times are in Pacific Daylight Time (UTC-7); the other two cities, Boston and Annapolis use Eastern Daylight Time (UTC-4)
  Opening ceremony  Event competitions  Event finals  Closing ceremony



Field hockey

Modern pentathlon



Synchronized swimming
Water polo

Total gold medals98131012162421105141120434

Medal count

These are the top ten nations that won medals at the 1984 Games.

1Flag of the United States.svg  United States*836130174
2Flag of Romania (1965-1989).svg  Romania 20161753
3Flag of Germany.svg  West Germany 17192359
4Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg  China 158932
5Flag of Italy.svg  Italy 1461232
6Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada 10181644
7Flag of Japan (1870-1999).svg  Japan 1081432
8Flag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand 81211
9Flag of SFR Yugoslavia.svg  Yugoslavia 74718
10Flag of South Korea (1949-1984).svg  South Korea 66719
Totals (10 entries)190147137474

Participating National Olympic Committees

Participating states 1984 Summer Olympic games countries.png
Participating states
Number of athletes 1984 Summer olympics team numbers.gif
Number of athletes

Athletes from 140 states competed at the 1984 Summer Olympics. Eighteen states made their Olympic debut: Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bhutan, British Virgin Islands, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, The Gambia, Grenada, Mauritania, Mauritius, North Yemen, Oman, Qatar, Rwanda, Western Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and the United Arab Emirates. Zaire had previously competed at the 1968 Summer Olympics as Congo-Kinshasa . The People's Republic of China made its first appearance in a Summer Olympics since 1952, while for the first time the Republic of China team participated under the politically contrived name of Chinese Taipei .

The Soviet Union led the Warsaw Pact members and other Communist countries in a boycott of the Los Angeles Olympics, in retaliation for the U.S.-led boycott of the Moscow Olympics four years earlier (over the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan in 1979). The pretexts for the 1984 Soviet-led boycott were concerns over security, "chauvinistic sentiments" and "an anti-Soviet hysteria ... being whipped up" in the United States. [18] However, a handful of communist countries disregarded the boycott and attended the Games anyway, among them Yugoslavia (host of the 1984 Winter Olympics), the People's Republic of China, and Romania (the only Warsaw Pact country that had opted to ignore the Soviet demands). The Romanian team received a particularly warm reception from the United States; when the Romanian athletes entered during the opening ceremonies, they were greeted by a standing ovation from the spectators, who were mostly U.S. citizens. This would turn out to be Romania's most successful Olympic Games – they won 53 medals, including 20 golds.

In the table below, the number of athletes representing each state is shown in parentheses.

Participating National Olympic Committees

Number of athletes by National Olympic Committees

Boycotting countries

Countries that boycotted the 1984 Summer Olympics are shaded blue 1984 Summer Olympics (Los Angeles) boycotting countries (blue).png
Countries that boycotted the 1984 Summer Olympics are shaded blue

Fifteen countries took part in the Soviet-led boycott of the 1984 Summer Olympics: [19]

Albania, Iran, Libya and Upper Volta (changed to Burkina Faso following August 4th) [20] also boycotted the Los Angeles Olympics, citing political reasons, but these countries were not a part of the Soviet-led boycott. Albania and Iran were the only two countries to boycott both the 1980 and 1984 Summer Games.

Soviet doping plan

Documents obtained in 2016 revealed the Soviet Union's plans for a statewide doping system in track and field in preparation for the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Dated prior to the country's decision to boycott the Games, the document detailed the existing steroids operations of the program, along with suggestions for further enhancements. The communication, directed to the Soviet Union's head of track and field, was prepared by Dr. Sergei Portugalov of the Institute for Physical Culture. Portugalov was also one of the main figures involved in the implementation of the Russian doping program prior to the 2016 Summer Olympics. [21] Filmmaker and director of 2017 movie Icarus Bryan Fogel has said that stricter doping controls might have been the main reason for the Soviet boycott. [22]

Financial success of Los Angeles as host city

Newspaper vending machine announcing the 1984 Olympics. 1984-Newspaper-Vending-Machine.jpg
Newspaper vending machine announcing the 1984 Olympics.

Following the news of the massive financial losses of the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, the only two cities to express a genuine interest in hosting the 1984 Games were Los Angeles and New York. Given that only one city per country is allowed to bid for any one Games, the USOC vote for the American bid city was effectively the deciding vote for the 1984 Olympics host city. In this case, the Los Angeles bid received 55 votes compared with New York's 39 votes – this is the closest that the city of New York has ever come to being selected to host the Olympic Games, coming closer in 1984 than they did in their 2012 bid (when they lost to London). [23]

The low level of interest among potential host cities for the 1984 Games had been viewed as a major threat to the future of the Olympic Games. However, after the financial success of the Los Angeles Games, cities began to show a renewed interest in bidding to become host again. The Los Angeles and Montreal Games are seen as examples of best and worst practice when organizing the Olympics and serve as valuable lessons to prospective host cities.

Ambitious construction projects for the two previous Summer Olympics, Montreal 1976 and Moscow 1980, had burdened organizers with substantial debts as expenses greatly exceeded revenues. Furthermore, the 1976 and 1980 Olympics were entirely government-funded. Unlike Montreal and Moscow, Los Angeles 1984 was privately funded, with strict controls imposed on expenditure; rather than constructing new venues with overly ambitious designs, the organizers chose instead to utilise existing venues and facilities wherever possible. The main example of this was the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which was also the Olympic Stadium for the 1932 Summer Olympics. [24] The only two new venues constructed specifically for the 1984 Summer Olympics were secured with the backing of corporate sponsors: the Olympic Velodrome was largely funded by the 7-Eleven corporation and the Olympic Swim Stadium by McDonald's.

In addition to corporate support, the Olympic committee also used the income from the exclusive television rights, and for the first time these contracts would prove to be a significant source of revenue. Adjusted for inflation, the Los Angeles Games secured twice the amount of income received by the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics and four times that of the 1976 Montreal Summer Olympics. [25] [23]

Following the success of the 1984 Games, the Los Angeles OCOG, led by Peter Ueberroth, used the profits to create the LA84 Foundation for promoting youth sports in Southern California, educating coaches and maintaining a sports library.

The games were the subject of the 1983–84 United States commemorative coin series.

American fast food chain McDonald's ran a promotion titled, "When the U.S. Wins, You Win" where customers scratched off a ticket with the name of an Olympic event on it. If the U.S. won a medal in 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 more popular than expected due to the Soviet boycott which led to the U.S. winning far more Olympic medals than expected. [26] This promotion was parodied in 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. 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.

On NCIS , Tim McGee has an obsession with jet packs, stemming from having attended the 1984 Olympic ceremony as a child and having Bill Suitor fly over his head in his jet pack. [27] This storyline is based on the real experience of executive producer and writer Jesse Stern. [28]

Pop-punk band Bowling for Soup references the games in the song "I Can't Stand LA". During a section showing appreciation for the city, the song states, "thank you for hair metal and the '84 Olympics."

Jilly Cooper's novel Riders has a storyline set at the show jumping event at the 1984 Summer Olympics.

In the Seinfeld episode "The Gymnast", Jerry dates a woman who competed in the 1984 Olympics and won a silver medal for Romania.

In American Horror Story: 1984 , the characters watch it together on the TV in the girls cabin.

In the same week that the Games began, British pop star Howard Jones released a single called Like to Get to Know You Well which eventually made number 4 on the UK Singles Chart and number 49 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States. On the sleeve, the record was "dedicated to the original spirit of the Olympic Games".

See also

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Further reading

Summer Olympics
Preceded by XXIII Olympiad
Los Angeles

Succeeded by