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Sidebar: The 1984 Olympics: A Reporter's Notebook


By Paul Feinberg '85

Published Jul 1, 2009 9:01 AM

It took more than the Olympic spirit to make L.A.'s '84 Games run smoothly — it also took a few Bruins. One UCLA prof founded the country's first Olympic-accredited dope-testing lab, and another helped lead the Olympic band at the opening ceremonies.


Medaling Bruin gymnast Peter Vidmar competes in Pauley; fun and games at an Olympics dance on campus; the Olympic marching band, including 125 Bruins, rehearses under the hot August sun; before the Dream Team, a collegiate basketball player named Michael Jordan helped his squad win gold.

The Legacy

Bruin Olympian and current UCLA track coach Jeanette Bolden '85 says that "once you're an Olympian, you're an Olympian for life." The lifelong legacy of the Los Angeles Olympic Games, though, goes beyond the athletes themselves. It also busted the myth that the Olympics were a money pit for municipalities. The Los Angeles Games generated $232.5 million dollars in profits, with 40 percent of that ($93 million) becoming an enduring endowment for youth sports in Southern California, administered by the LA84 Foundation. The Games also netted $2.3 billion in economic activity for the L.A. economy. To date, the foundation has funded more than 1,000 youth sports organizations and more than 2 million young athletes.

Straight Dope

Golden Days: When the Olympics came to LA 25 years ago, gymnastics took over Pauley, Bruin band members joined the opening ceremonies, and campus became an Olympic Village. Relive what it took to make the '84 Games a success.

Making History: The UCLA History Project weighs in on the '84 Olympics, where Bruin athletes won 37 medals — more medals than any other university.

UCLA Professor Emeritus Don H. Catlin, M.D., founded the UCLA Olympic Analytical Laboratory with a grant from the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee in 1982; it was the first lab in the country that was accredited by the International Olympic Committee. The facility tested Olympic athletes for performance-enhancing drugs during the 1984 Los Angeles Games, and then did the same at the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta and the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

The Big Band Theory

Professor Gordon Henderson, associate director of bands and Department of Music internal vice chair at UCLA, was one of the big music-makers for the L.A. Games. He assistant-directed the 736-member All-American Olympic Band that performed at the 1984 Opening Ceremonies in the L.A. Memorial Coliseum. "I know it was 736," Henderson wrote in an e-mail, "because I wrote some of the drill and I had to draw each dot on the drill charts." According to Henderson, 125 members of the band were UCLA band members.


Of all the miracles Peter Ueberroth and Co. pulled off during the 1984 Olympics, eliminating traffic in Los Angeles must rank at the top. Ueberroth estimates that through ride-sharing and scheduling deliveries for the early morning, 20 percent of traffic was reduced — enough to keep the freeways clear. "We were being criticized on (the traffic issue) and wanted criticism to be focused on it," Ueberroth says. "We wanted people focused on something we knew we could fix, because we didn't want them focused on the things we couldn't fix."

Quick Notes

Carl Lewis won four gold medals, matching Jesse Owens' feat in the same events: the 100-meter sprint, the 200-meter sprint, 4x100 meter relay and the long jump. ... President Ronald Reagan officially opened the games. ... A then-record 140 nations participated. ... View a complete list of UCLA Bruins in the '84 Games here.