Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Los Angeles '84 Olympics Play On

For the past week, you may or may not have been watching the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics (the Militant, admittedly, has been watching the speed skating and bobsled events lately). And despite NBC's moronic prime-time tape delay of the games (which even have the east coast folks angry), this is the first Olympic games to take place in the Pacific Time Zone since the Games of the XXIIIrd Olympiad, which, as you all know, took place right here in Los Angeles in 1984 (even a transplant would know that...well, at least transplants over age 26 do).

The legacy of the '84 games live on to this very day, notably in the LA84 Foundation (formerly known as the Amateur Athletic Foundation), an organization that supports local youth sports programs with surplus funds from the games. Prior to '84, Olympic games incurred considerable debt to the host city, most notably in the '76 Montreal games. When the '84 games were up for bid in May 1978, Los Angeles was the only city in the world with the shot-put balls to host them, and after becoming the most financially successful games evar, they forever changed the game (Of course, that doesn't surprise the Militant - as does Los Angeles, the world follows, right?). Other legacies of the games include the Los Angeles Marathon, which will take place next month and will run a Los Angeles-to-Santa Monica route that is virtually reverse to the '84 Olympic marathon route (The Militant, then a teenager, fondly remembers watching the '84 Olympic marathon from Rodeo Rd and La Cienega Bl. in Baldwin Hills, across from the old Fedco).

But for those watching the Vancouver games, and any Olympic telecast since '92, there's one lasting legacy of the '84 games that lives on today - John Williams' "Olympic Fanfare and Theme":

This musical piece was commissioned by the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee for Williams to compose for the games. In the '84 Opening Ceremonies, Williams conducted an orchestra situated in the peristyle end of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and performed the song for the very first time.

Okay, Williams writes music all the time, so what's the big deal here? The Angeleno composer (who moved here with his family at age 16 and attended North Hollywood High School, UCLA and Los Angeles City College), has also written themes for the 1988 Seoul and 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics, and the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter games -- but his piece for the Los Angeles '84 games is by far the most memorable and still plays on today in the commercial bumpers for the NBC tape-delay Olympic broadcast (Do you know what his '88, '96 and '02 Olympic themes sound like? Anyone? Yo, all you chirping crickets, do you know?).

In fact, it's one of the most well-known pieces of music associated with the Olympics, second only to Leo Arnaud's 1958 piece, "Bugler's Dream," which was first used by ABC (now there's a network that knows how to broadcast the Olympics) in their coverage of the 1968 Mexico City Olympics (and certainly Williams' '84 music is far more recognizable than the actual Olympic Hymn).

So who says Los Angeles has no history? We make history all the time. And we certainly know how to put on an Olympics, and make them memorable for generations. In fact, we've hosted the Olympics twice (take that and suck it, all you "L.A. Isn't A Sports Town" haters out there)!

1 comment:

Gabe said...

I'm very fond of watching Olympics.I never forget that when I was 14 year old there was a Olympics in our city.I was very excited that there is a Olympic in our city.....
And my father took me to watch this game.But as you write i've not watch 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.Thanks for this blog , you've provided such a wonderful content.

Dr.Gabe Mirkin
IT Services Los Angeles