1984 was the year when the Soviets lead a revenge boycott,
in retaliation for the U.S.-led boycott of the 1980 Games.
13 Communist allies including the
Soviet Union, East Germany, and Cuba ,stayed at home . Romania was the only
Warsaw Pact country to come to Los Angeles.
Communist China, also, participated, with 353
competitors. This was the first time they had
participated at a summer Olympics
Inspite of the boycott, however, more countries
attended these games than ever before.
6,797 athletes representing 140 nations came to Los Angeles.
These Games were also the
first to be staged without government funding. More than 30
contributed more than $500 million. In return they
were allowed to put Olympic symbols on their products, which were then
sold as “official” products of the Olympics. The ABC (Television), alone paid $225 million
for exclusive television rights which allowed them to say when they wanted events to start.
Most events of course started in the evenings, during prime TV time.
Other companies funded the building of the Olympic Village, and other
sports facilities in deals which allowed them to advertise on tickets,
and outside the stadium. No corporate advertising was allowed inside the stadium.
Everything, from the watches used to time the athletes
to the garbage bags used , were up for sale.
Spots on the Olympic Torch relay were even sold.
The going price was $3,000 per kilometre.
All this was done under the direction of entrepreneur , Peter Ueberroth.
He made commercialism a central element in the staging
of all future Games, inspite of the concerns raised about the effects
of big business on the ideals of the Olympics.The Olympics were originally
a festival of amateur sport.They were now a commercial event.
When the L.A. Olympics had finished, they had made an unheard of profit of $215 million.
Peter Ueberroth was named
“Man of the Year” by Time magazine and
the financial success of these games, probably assured the future of the
Olympic movement . The financial debacle of Montreal’76 had been laid to rest.
The boycott, as in 1980, did lower the standards of competition and
resulted in an unbalanced distribution of medals, favouring the US.
They won a record 83 gold medals, and 174 medals in total.
This was the most
lopsided Summer Games for the United States since St. Louis, 80 years before.
The star of these games was undoubtably , American Carl Lewis.
He won four gold medals, (100m , 200m , long jump and the
4x100m relay ), competing in the same events as Jesse Owens in 1936.
His teammate Valerie Brisco-Hooks ,
won three golds , taking the 200m, 400m and 4x100m relay.
U.S. hurdler Edwin Moses, who won in 1976 but was not allowed
to defend his title in ’80 , returned to the winners circle, taking the gold in the 400m
Britan’s Daley Thompson sussessfully defended his decathlon title, that he won in Moscow’80.
He became only the second man , after Bob Mathias to do this.
This team mate, Sebastian Coe , also defended his 1,500m title,
becoming the second man to achieve
this feat since Jim Lightbody of the U.S. in 1906.
The number of events for women grew to include cycling, rhythmic gymnastics,
synchronized swimming, and many new athletics events, most importantly the marathon.
Joan Benoit (U.S.) took the gold in the first women’s
Olympic marathon in 2 hours, 24 minutes, 52 seconds.
The U.S. women’s team won 11 of the 14 swimming events. Mary T. Meagher (U.S.) and
Tracy Caulkins each earned three gold medals.
Mary T. Meagher won gold medals in the
100m and 200m butterfly and the 400m medley relay.
Her world records in the butterfly, established in 1981,
Probably the most controversial event occured when American Mary Decker
fell in the 3,000m after a tight pass with Zola Budd
(a South African running for Britain).
As the 2 collided Decker triped on Budd’s right leg and
Budd was cut deeply by Decker’s spikes. Budd
ended up finishing 7th.
In the end, neither Budd nor Decker were actually found to be at fault
for the accident, although both made mistakes.
For the local crowd, another highlight must have been that of the 16-year-old
(4-foot-83/4)Mary Lou Retton
She became the first American woman to capture the individual gold
medal in the combined exercises.She recieved perfect 10s for the
floor exercise and the vault.
In the men’s events, one highlight was when
Bart Conner (U.S.) took the gold in the team
competition and the parallel bars.
With the Russians & Eastern European teams absent,
the U.S. gymnastic teams had their best Olympic results ever.
One notable exception to American dominance was that of the
Romanian gymnast Ecaterina Szabó who matched Lewis’ four gold medals and added a silver.
without the the Cuban boxing team,
the U.S. team dominated the boxing, earning 9 gold medals.
In the diving , the American Greg Louganis won gold in
both the platform and springboard diving events.He is the first Olympian
to win both since 1928 and he repeated
this success 4 years later in Seoul.
U.S. men’s volleyball team beat Brazil to win the gold.
This was the first time that America
had won in this sport which was very unusual as volleyball was
invented in the U.S.