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The 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles: Outcome on Sports Youth Development

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles – general overview
    • 2a. Promotion of sports among young people through the 1984 Olympics
  • Los Angeles and sports
    • 3a. Main aspects of sports in Los Angeles
    • 3b. The sports in Los Angeles after the 1984 Olympics
    • 3c. Effects of 1984 Olympics on youth in Los Angeles
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Appendix
  1. Introduction

Athletic events have been traditionally the most effective tool for the promotion of culture and ethics worldwide; patterns of human behaviour – those of athletes – are offered to young people that participate actively in the specific field – either as athletes or as spectators. Towards this direction, Olympic Games are used in order to promote specific ethics among people of all ages within a specific social and cultural context. However, Olympic Games are not used only for transferring specific ideas; they are also used in order to promote a series of sports; indeed, there are sports that have become well known to the public only by their listing among the Olympic Sports. Through the years it has been proved that Olympic Games do not have the same effects on all social frameworks; in some cases, they have even caused severe conflicts – like in the case of Olympics in Munich in 1972 during which the massacre of athletes of Israeli Olympic team led to severe social and political turbulences among the countries involved.

Current paper focuses on the examination of the effects of the Olympic Games of 1984 in Los Angeles on the sports that youth develop in Los Angeles. The examination of the social and cultural conditions of the particular society both before and after the specific event has led to the assumption that Olympic Games of 1984 in Los Angeles has been an important factor for the promotion of sports activities among youth in the specific region. The specific target was achieved by the active participation of the local authorities that took all necessary measures in order to promote the particular event to young people across Los Angeles; some problems occurred to the particular effort; however, all these problems were appropriately addressed keeping the quality of the event at high levels – as possible.

  1. 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles – General Overview

The promotion of sports among the population – especially the youth – has been the priority for the administrators of the Olympic Games in Los Angeles. The city’s place worldwide has been strengthened through the specific Games. Indeed, in a relevant report it is noticed that ‘the Olympics helped Los Angeles to make itself the capital of the world’s popular culture industry; the Los Angeles’ Olympic productions have provided enduring lessons in how to use the games to market nations to the world’ (Dyreson et al., 2008, 1991). On the other hand, the participation of the government – local authorities to the development of the various parts of the Games was rather limited; the social and political turbulences that have occurred during the Olympic Games up to that time (referring especially to the case of Olympic Games in Munich where 11 members of the Israeli Olympic Team were killed) may have been the reason for this outcome. In fact, the specific Games were based on the sponsorships and the financial support of the private sector – the state or the local authorities did not participate financially in the specific event. Even under these conditions, the Olympic Games of 1984 have been a profitable initiative for their organisers. In a relevant report it is noticed that ‘as the Los Angeles Games were the first since 1896 to be staged without government financing, the organisers depended heavily on existing facilities and corporate sponsors’ (Maps of World, 2008, online article). The success of the Games – at least financially – was significant. A total profit of $223m was achieved through the Olympic Games of 1984 in Los Angeles. The importance of Los Angeles Olympic Games for the local economy is also emphasized in the study of Seifart (1984). In the specific study it is made clear that ‘the private organizers made a surplus of $162 million’ (Seifart, 1984, 305). The specific event while leading to a financial success was also the reason for the change in character of Olympic Games; in the years that followed Olympic Games were closely related with finance – sports came in the second position in terms of their importance as criteria of success of the Olympic Games. The 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles have represented other aspects of the local society: the views of the majority of people – especially of youth – on sports. The specific event has played a role in the development of youth’s perception on sports – as explained in the section that follows.

2a. Promotion of Sports Among Young People Through the 1984 Olympics

The Olympics of 1984 in Los Angeles have been characterized as a successful athletic event regarding most of its aspects; financially the specific Games were quite successful if taking into consideration the profit generated for its organizers; however, in terms of the messages given to the region’s youth the Olympic Games of 1984 can be also characterized as quite significant having caused the interest of young people on the various sports listed in the Games. The sports included in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games cannot be characterized as youth-focused; all of these sports tend to cause the attraction of people of all ages when being developed within the context of Olympic Games; however, the Olympic Games of 1984 influenced the youth perceptions on sports indirectly: a series of venues and other establishments were developed for the needs of the particular games; after the end of the specific event, all these establishments were going to be used by the young people of the region. In a relevant report it is noticed that the specific event ‘left Los Angeles with a number of new and refurbished sports and cultural facilities; moreover, the Olympic Organizing Committee accrued a surplus of over $215 million, 40 percent of which was targeted to benefit youth sports organizations in southern California’  (Lawson, 1985, 127). In accordance with the above study, the money gathered for the organizers of the specific Games would be invested on the development of sports facilities and events for the region’s young people.

  1. Los Angeles and Sports

3a. Main Aspects of Sports in Los Angeles

In Los Angeles, as in other cities across USA, the development of sport activities has been related with the achievement of specific benefits. In most cases, existing facilities have been considered to be inappropriate for the development of significant sport events. Under these terms, local authorities have tries to persuade the local population on the need to develop new venues and other sports facilities – the payback of the invested made on the specific projects was presented as the main criterion for the specific initiative – at least at a first level. In accordance with the study of Lipsitz (1984, 1) ‘in St. Louis, Los Angeles, and Houston the pressure on local authorities to build new sports stadia in the 1960s was extensive; the use of public money for private profit-making ventures generated controversy at the time but won acceptance with promises of widely dispersed benefits’ (Lipsitz, 1984, 1). It is already noticed before that before the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles the sport events of this type were considered to be extremely risky (in financial terms) especially if taking into consideration the financial losses that these events had been caused to their organizers – at least up to that time. In this context, it should be mentioned that up to the nomination of Los Angeles as the city where the 1984 Olympic Games were going to be held, there was no particular plan for the promotion of the athletic initiatives to people across the specific region. The specific events were the reason for the active involvement of local population – especially of young people – in various sports activities. The specific trend could be explained using the sociological aspects of justification of human behaviour. Towards this direction, we could refer to the work of Güldenpfennig (1985) who made clear that ‘sport stands in ambivalent relation to war and peace; the actual peace movement has shown that, in its new dimensions, the total threat to mankind by nuclear armament requires a “Copernican turning point” in political thinking and acting in all social spheres’ (Güldenpfennig, 1985, 203). In accordance with the above view, sports are not only related with personal perceptions or the commerce; they can also reflect specific political ideas – the case of the Olympic Team of West Germany is an indicative example of the above phenomenon. Within this context, Olympic Games can be transformed to an area for the development of specific political views – like in the case of the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972.

3b. The Sports in Los Angeles After the 1984 Olympics

As already explained above, the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics were different from the similar events of the past; the specific event was related with the promotion of commercial initiatives through the various sport activities; in fact, the Olympic Games in 1984 in Los Angeles can be considered to be the first time that the influence of the money on the development of sport activities is clearly presented to the public. Moreover, it is noticed that in similar events ‘the greatest disparities remain at the levels of leadership, recreation, and the representation of sports in the mass media; many sports programs encourage the practice and habits of mind of domination’ (Kidd, 1995, 232). The development of cooperation with the media has been among the priorities for the organisers of the particular event; media had always a decisive role in the promotion of various social, political and financial events; however, through the years it has been made clear that the role of media in the specific field is not related only with the promotion of specific ideas/ ethics; it is rather related with the achievement of specific financial benefits – as explained analytically above.

3c. Effects of 1984 Olympics on Youth in Los Angeles

As already explained, the role of 1984 Olympic Games in the increase of participation of young people in sport activities across Los Angeles has been significant. An important part of the money gathered through the specific event has been dedicated to the development of establishments appropriate for training of young people to various sports. The active participation of young people in the relevant effort is critical. Indeed, the study of Seppanen (1988) led to the conclusion that ‘no achievement in high performance sport can be understood without reference to extraordinary personal motivation and effort; the however, the source of motivation and commitment lies in the community and other social preconditions of athletic life “(Seppanen 1988, 3). Motivation has a crucial role not only in sports but also in the professional life of individuals – motivation is extensively examined in the literature as of its role in the development of a specific work environment/ business unit. In the area of sports, motivation can lead to the development of competitive sentiments, i.e. to willingness for power and control over specific conditions/ framework. Motivation in sports can be increased by the engagement in activities that are likely to emphasize on the personal development and the increase of cooperation/ coordination within a specific professional or social environment. In any case, the financial support of the relevant efforts is necessary. In accordance with a relevant report ‘the Board of Directors of the Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles (AAF), the legacy of the 1984 Olympic Games, today approved 50 grants and expenditures totaling $2,125,734 for the benefit of local youth sports programs’ (LA 84 Foundation, 2005, online article).

The Board of Directors of the Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles (AAF), the legacy of the 1984 Olympic Games, today approved 50 grants and expenditures totaling $2,125,734 for the benefit of local youth sports programs (LA 84 Foundation, 2005, online article). In accordance with the issues developed above, youth in Los Angeles has been benefited by the Olympic Games held in the specific town in 1984; the relevant benefits have been both direct and indirect while the participation of the local authorities to the whole project was rather limited.

  1. Conclusion

The 1984 Olympics held in Los Angeles have benefited the young people in the specific region. It has been already noticed that the specific town was the only one to bid for the specific event – under the influence of the financial losses that Olympic Games caused to the cities that hosted the specific event in the past. Olympic Games in Los Angeles – as in other cities up to then – was not exclusively related with the promotion of ethics and culture; it was also a commercial event. The specific assumption is in accordance with the view of Sewart (1987) who supported that ‘puerility has come to dominate sport as modern culture becomes standardised and administered as a commodity; sport is thus viewed in terms of the tensions between its emancipatory potential and its function as a commodity for social consumption’ (Sewart, 1987, 171). In the past sports were considered to be a tool for promoting the power of the cities involved in the relevant events (see the case of ancient Greece); in modern history Olympic Games have a similar role. More specifically, apart from their role as social and cultural events, Olympic Games have been used by the two major powers of the world (USA and Russia) in order to show their power to their rivals. In accordance with the study of Seppanen (1988) ‘since the 1930’s when the importance of the Olympic Games and other great sports events was fully realized, international sport success has become one of the primary weapons in the struggle for hegemony between the big power blocs’ (Seppanen, 1988, 3). Referring to their role as events with a political character, we could characterize the Olympic Games as part of the countries’ strategy in order to improve their position in the international community. Other targets, like the promotion of the idea of sports among the youth are also possible to exist and be developed through the specific events; however, this will be a target of secondary importance for the Olympic Games’ organisers. Towards this direction, it has been proved in the study of Seppanen (1984) that ‘the modern Olympic Games have grown into a social and cultural spectacle without parallel in kind or scope; in spite of its goals of mutual understanding, the Olympic movement has been quite powerless in promoting peace and understanding’ (Seppanen, 1984, 113). It is not made clear in the above study whether Olympic Games are been differentiated in accordance with the social and the political context in which they are developed or whether they have the same principles/ priorities in all states around the world. In the case of the 1984 Olympic Games, the benefits of the specific event for the region’s youth have been many – as explained above; however, efforts should be made by the local authorities in order for these benefits to last in the long term.

  • Dyreson, Mark, Llewellyn, Matthew. ‘Los Angeles is the Olympic City: Legacies of the 1932 and 1984 Olympic Games.’ International Journal of the History of Sport 25, no. 14 (2008): 1991-2018
  • Güldenpfennig, Sven ‘Sport in the Peace Movement — A Challenge for the Sport Science.’ International Review for the Sociology of Sport 20, No. 3 (1985): 203-213
  • Kidd, Bruce ‘INEQUALITY IN SPORT, THE CORPORATION, AND THE STATE: AN AGENDA FOR SOCIAL SCIENTISTS.’  Journal of Sport & Social Issues, 19, No. 3 (1995): 232-248
  • Lawson, Craig ‘Intergovernmental Challenges of the 1984 Olympic Games.’ Publius: The Journal of Federalism 15, no. 3 (1985): 127-142
  • Lipsitz, George ‘Sports Stadia and Urban Development: a Tale of Three Cities.’ Journal of Sport & Social Issues 8, No. 2, (1984): 1-18
  • Seifart, Horst. ‘Forum Sport and Economy: The Commercialization of Olympic Sport by the Media.’ International Review for the Sociology of Sport 19, no. 3-4 (1984): 305-316
  • Seppanen, Paavo ‘A Revisit to Social and Cultural Preconditions of Top Level Sport.’ International Review for the Sociology of Sport 23, no. 1 (1988): 3-14
  • Seppanen, Paavo. ‘The Olympics: A Sociological Perspective.’ International Review for the Sociology of Sport 19, no. 2 (1984): 113-127
  • Sewart, John ‘The Commodification of Sport.’ International Review for the Sociology of Sport 22, no. 3 (1987): 171-192
  • LA 84 Foundation, (2005), available from https://www.la84foundation.org/10ap/NewsRelease06102005_frmst.htm
  • Los Angeles Times, (2006), available from https://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-125olympicsmar30,0,1117619.story
  • Nation Master Encyclopedia, (2008), available from https://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/1984-Summer-Olympics


The 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles: Outcome on Sports Youth Development

Figure 1 – Los Angeles 1984, Olympic Logo

(source: The Ambassadors, online magazine, January 2005 https://ambassadors.net/archives/issue18/opinions2.htm)

The Los Angeles 1984 Olympics: Outcome on Sports Youth Develop

Figure 2 – Opening ceremony in 1984 Olympics – Los Angeles

(source: Los Angeles Times, 2006)

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