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Legacy of 1984 Olympics still growing strong

by Ed Odeven

What will be the legacy of the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics?

There won’t be a simple, one-size-fits-all answer, and those answers will depend, of course, on who you ask. New buildings will transform areas of Tokyo, new sporting stars will emerge and others will extend their fame and accomplish new feats to awe the masses.

There will also be criticism and missteps. That goes with the territory.

At the same time, the inspiration for future Olympians cannot be measured with a thermometer or another handy tool.

But looking back at 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics, one can see clearly that effective planning, use of resources (including existing venues such as Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum) and capable management can serve as learning tools for the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games and others who’ll stage the quadrennial global games in the future.

The LA84 Foundation Board recently released its biennial report, including a wide-ranging interview with Peter Ueberroth, the chairman of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Committee and former Major League Baseball commissioner.

In the interview, Ueberroth sheds some light on what the Los Angeles Olympic Committee and the LA84 Foundation has done since the conclusion of the ’84 Games, funding youth sports throughout California, for instance, but also influencing how the IOC operates.

Ueberroth revealed that the surplus of nearly $250 million generated from the 1984 Games, which planted the seeds for the work of the LA84 Foundation, was a direct result of strategic planning.

“A lot of credit goes to the commissioners of each sport,” Ueberroth said in the interview, which is posted online at la84.org.

“It was our idea to have people in place who were entrepreneurs and used to having run companies. They understood budgets. They were careful in budgeting, but they were more careful than we knew. They were planning on worst outcome, and when it turned out to be the best outcome, there were very substantial surpluses. . . .”

He added: “The goal was clearly to break even and not cost the taxpayers any money. We really wanted to be sure that we didn’t have a deficit. When you do that, you budget carefully. You do that with your costs being high, so that if you can beat the budget, you’ll have a surplus. . .”

Ueberroth was asked about the legacy of the 1984 Olympics.

His response: “The first is the LA84 Foundation. What the LA84 Foundation does is the true legacy. A wise person once said, ‘Give a person a fish, and he will eat for a day. Teach a person to fish, and he will eat for the rest of his life.’ LA84 Foundation says, ‘Let’s teach coaches how to coach. Let’s teach coaches how to encourage young athletes. Let’s make a difference in kids’ lives now to make their future better.’

“The second thing is, Los Angeles became a more diverse, international city after 1984. . . . Those 16 days of glory right here. It worked. It worked.”

As the LA84 Foundation continues to support sports — it funded 170 grants totaling $7.2 million between October 2012 and June 2014, according to the report — its legacy will benefit future generations.

And how does Ueberroth see that legacy taking shape?

“If I could roll ahead 30 years,” he said, “I’d like it to be such an important factor in our society that nobody else could fill this space. I’d like to see other cities model it, with the private sector working with a not-for-profit, and not doing it on a donated-dollar basis, but on a project basis, to impact youth in the major cities of the United States.

“I’d like to see look-alikes all over the nation, impacting our youth, groups that are totally focused on kids and sports. It’s that simple. It’s not complicated.”

There’s talk that Los Angeles could be a bid city for the 2024 Summer Olympics, and Ueberroth was asked how he sees this possibility and its potential surplus affecting the LA84 Foundation.

“L.A. could certainly get the bid,” he said in the report, “and it would be very deserving. I think that it’s unlikely that the current mechanism of the International Olympic Committee and its relationship with the bid cities would allow for any substantial surplus.

“Basically, the International Olympic Committee took our model and made it theirs.”

Special honor: Former NBA star Yao Ming has been appointed one of the 2014 Youth Olympic Games ambassadors.

Other ambassadors include swimmer Chad de Clos and golfer Michelle Wie.

Yao, who played for the Houston Rockets from 2002-11, is scheduled to watch 3×3 games and meet the youth athletes.

“The IOC chooses ambassadors for each edition of the YOG to help spread the word of the event and inspire young people to get active and enjoy the sport,” FIBA, basketball’s world governing body,” wrote in a news release.

Yao sank China’s first field goal at the 2008 Olympics in a game against the United States in Beijing. He later declared that was “the proudest (moment) of my career.”

The 2014 Youth Olympics will be held Aug. 16-28 in Nanjing, China.

Japan news: The Japanese Olympic Committee is sending a 120-person delegation to China for the upcoming Youth Olympic Games. This consists of 78 athletes (39 males, 39 females) and 42 support staff, including coaches. . . . A JOC send-off ceremony is scheduled for Tuesday.

Quite a journey: A more than 1,000-km journey that began in Aomori on July 24, six years before the 2020 Olympics are set to commence, ended on Thursday at Tokyo Bay, where Tokyo Gov. Yoichi Masuzoe and several hundred spectators were on hand to greet the finishers. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government-organized, 800-person relay event passed through Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures en route to Tokyo. The two-week trek featured a 439-km running course and a 795-km cycling course.

Among the participants: 2000 Sydney Olympic women’s marathon gold medalist Naoko Takahashi, 2010 Vancouver Olympic speed skating bronze medalist Joji Kato, 2012 London Olympic table tennis silver medalist Kasumi Ishikawa and 2004 Athens Paralympic wheelchair tennis gold medalist Shingo Kunieda. Locals from the March 11, 2011, disasters also took part in the relay and celebrities, too.

“The immense hardships suffered by the people in the disaster-affected areas and the amazing support for the recovery and reconstruction efforts acted as a source of inspiration and drove me on along the long 1,000-km course,” Takahashi said.

Said Kato: “I took part in the relay in the hope that it might contribute in some small way to inspiring and revitalizing the local communities. If running can play a role in the reconstruction efforts,

I would run forever!”

New deal: Michael Phelps, known for his longtime endorsement deal with Speedo, has finalized a deal with Italian swimsuit company Aqua Sphere, NBC Olympic Talk’s Nick Zaccardi wrote earlier this week. The Associated Press has also reported on the development.

Aqua Sphere, established in 1998, has specialized in making swimming eyewear, but has expanded to other equipment and training gear.

There’s a catch, though. “Since the company is creating a new suit for Phelps, it must be approved by FINA (the world governing body of aquatic sports) and can’t be worn in competition until 2015 at the earliest,” Zaccardi wrote.

Now 29, Phelps started endorsing Speedo when he was 16. That deal concluded last year.

The AP noted that Phelps’ Aqua Sphere contract runs is scheduled to expire after the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“Michael Phelps is one of the select global icons in all of sports while Coach Bob Bowman is a true swimming mastermind,” Todd Mitchell, Aqua Sphere’s business line manager, said in a statement on the company’s website. “We are honored to align our rich history of innovative aquatic technology and international distribution with their passion for the sport and commitment to share their knowledge and experiences with others in this collaborative line. Their positive impact and influence in the aquatics community transcends cultural borders and together we have an extraordinary opportunity to inspire and educate consumers about the full lifestyle of swimming through a premier brand complete with instructional context that will minimize the barrier to entry regardless of skill level.”

Chasing history: American shooter Kim Rhode has a chance to become the first person to capture a medal in an individual event at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Rhode claimed the gold in the skeet competition in London two years ago, marking the fifth consecutive Olympiad in which she medaled.

Rhode’s place in the context of Olympic history appeared in an interesting online piece by Zaccardi entitled “Two years to Rio Olympics: More sports storylines.”

Aug. 5 marked two years until the Rio Games get underway.

Zaccardi also pointed out that indoor volleyball and the beach version of the fast-paced game should feature quality Brazil team, with the South American nation having a long history of success indoors and outdoors.

Indeed, the Copacabana Beach slate of matches will be highly anticipated for fans and competitors.

Sailing plans: While the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee listed Wakasu Olympic Marina as the site for the sailing venues in its official candidature file to the IOC, it’s far from a done deal, media reports have suggested.

The Yomiuri Shimbun reported the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has pinpointed Inage Yacht Harbor, located in Chiba’s Mihama Ward, as an alternative. The Wakasu site’s construction costs could be as much as $87.8 million, Tokyo 2020 estimated, and the marina’s use, or lack thereof, after the Summer Games could raise issues about legacy.

Based on the issues just described, one longtime observer of global sports recommended to The Japan Times that Tokyo 2020 officials should consider using Sagami Bay, the Kanagawa Prefecture locale that was the site of the 1964 Tokyo Olympic sailing events.

Recommended reading, part I: Washington Post writer Dave Sheinin’s Aug. 1 profile of basketball player Kristi Toliver, a native of Virginia, is an illuminating expose on a standout athlete in her prime seeking a chance to play on a national team.

In the 27-year-old Toliver’s case, an opportunity to suit up for the Ukrainian national team as it chases a spot in the 2016 Olympics is attained.

Sheinin presents a thoroughly researched account of Toliver’s challenges of competing for the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks and European pro teams and why obtaining a Slovak passport gives her greater flexibility for in employment in Europe. He also details the process that led to her getting the Slovak passport.

“Playing for Dynamo Moscow this past season, Toliver made roughly $350,000,” Sheinin wrote.

“It’s not Steph Curry money,” he added, “but it’s about triple Toliver’s WNBA salary.”

Here’s the link to the story:

www.washingtonpost.com/sports/othersports/kristi-tolivers-career-speaks-volumes-about-life-as-a-womens-basketball-player/2014/08/01/87d354c6-197b-11e4-88f7-96ed767bb747_story.html

Recommended reading, part II: Sports On Earth’s Joe Delessio chronicles the rise and fall of roller hockey in a compelling Aug. 4 feature (“Seizing the Moment”. It made its debut at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics as a demonstration sport and never returned.

Through the experience of the U.S. roller hockey team, Delessio paints a vivid picture of what went wrong for the sport’s changes on the biggest global stage.

Here’s the link:

www.sportsonearth.com/article/87775998/rink-hockey-enjoyed-olympic-spotlight-during-1992-barcelona-games#!bxVytZ

Money talk: In a wide-ranging interview with the Daily Telegraph, a British newspaper, four-time Olympic gold medalist runner Michael Johnson talks about his employment experiences and thoughts on finances.

Writer Caroline Rees’ July 27 story included the following Q&A exchange:

“What was your first paid job?”

Johnson: “Working for Toys R Us in the Christmas break. Kids would pull all the toys off the shelves and it was my job to put them back neatly for the next day. We got about $3 an hour in 1985, and I would get home at 1:30 a.m. I enjoyed getting a pay check but I did not see that as my future.”

“Are you a spender or a saver?”

Johnson: “I’ve always taken a long-term view. One thing I learnt from my parents was to take care of what may be coming. I don’t do things that wouldn’t be good for my financial bottom line, though it’s easier to resist those things when you can have most of the other things you want.”

“You won multiple golds at 400m and 200m. How much earning potential does a gold medal add?”

Johnson: “It’s the pinnacle of track and field, so it adds a lot to your cachet. When I won a gold medal, my appearance fees went up dramatically and I was able to sign bigger contracts. Being a champion meant people wanted to see me run, so the appearance fee dwarfed the prize money.

The Bolt factor: What makes Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt such a unique global icon?

Tom Fordyce, BBC’s chief sports writer, examined the issue in a story posted on the BBC Sports website on Aug. 1.

“Wherever Bolt goes, normal goes out of the window,” Fordyce wrote. “One of the saddest aspects of Tiger Woods’s comparative fame is how miserable he makes being Tiger Woods appear,” he added. “Bolt utilizes that same weight of public pressure to drag out his best.”

He concludes by writing, ” Bolt is not Muhammad Ali. He has not taken the same radical political stance nor gambled his sporting career on a point of principle. Sport is different now. Few have.

“But he has shared Ali’s ability to transcend his sport, and he has sucked in the world’s willing attention in just the same way. And he has done so with remarkably few problems.”

Feedback: Got a topic suggestion for the Olympic notebook? Send an email to: edward.odeven@japantimes.co.jp