Los Angeles 1984

  • Participating nations: 140
  • Number of athletes: 6,797 (5,230 men - 1,567 women)
  • Time of year: July 28 - August 12
  • Number of events: 221
  • Swedish medals: 2 gold, 11 silver, 6 bronze

The IOC president Samaranch´s hopes the “Games of reconciliation" were not realized. The Eastern European countries joined the Soviet Union in a boycott of the Games. The reason they states was that they didn´t feel that the safety of their teams could be guaranteed during the Olympics. A bad excuse, said many, and most people felt that the only reason for the boycott was to get revenge for the American boycott of the Games in Moscow.

From a political perspective, a lot of people thought that the boycott was mostly a way for the Soviets to worsen the odds for president Reagan´s reelection.

But the boycott had no effect. A wave of pride and patriotism swept across America, and Reagan was reelected.

Looking back, it´s not difficult to see how the countries that boycotted the Olympic Games in Montreal, Moscow and Los Angeles were the big losers. The Olympic Games survived and became stronger. The countries which boycotted the Summer Games in 1980 and 1984 wanted this to reflect badly on the host nation. But in both cases the purpose of the boycotts was lost. The Games instead turned out to be very successful for the countries hosting the Games and the nationalism flourished. The attempts to host alternative competitions during the time of the Olympic Games had little or no impact, in the host country or internationally.

Failed Boycotts

Starting with the Games in Los Angeles, politicians all over the world realized there was usually no point in using the Olympic Games for political purposes. It usually came back to haunt the countries responsible for the boycott.

The boycott in Los Angels was not complete since Romania and Yugoslavia decided to participate in the Games.

China also competed in Los Angeles, which was really a feather in the caps of the organizers. The last time China had competed in the Summer Olympics was in 1952 in Helsinki, but then the Chinese arrived late and only one of their athletes was able to compete. China´s new attitude towards sports also meant that they were there to win - the beliefs of the Cultural Revolution had been abandoned. China took 15 gold medals in their first real effort to succeed in the Olympic Games.

The Games in Los Angeles were also the first to do without any government funding, which lead people in the more conservative circles to grunt about how the Games were becoming increasingly commercialized.

Some pessimists also thought that the main feature of the Olympics, the athletics events, would now lose some of their appeal after the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF) decided to organize its own World Championships, which took place for the first time in Helsinki in 1983.

But that didn´t happen. The Olympic athletics medals are still very desirable.

Despite the boycott, the number of participants was at record-breaking levels. 140 nations came, which can be compared to 122 nations in Munich in 1972.

If the audience in Moscow had been gray and dull, the audience in Los Angeles was its complete opposite. The American nationalism had no boundaries and turned all the competitions into great parties where they didn´t forget to celebrate non-Americans. But if there was even just one American participant in an event, all the attention of the audience and the television producers was concentrated on that one athlete.

The trade was in full swing, and souvenirs and just about anything that could generate money were sold in connection with the Games. It was all about generating as much money as possible. And the organizers were very successful in this regard. The Games were a financial success and actually made a profit.

New Olympic Era

Starting with the Games in Los Angeles, the Olympic movement entered into a new era. When Los Angeles got the Games few, or no, cities had shown any interest in arranging the Summer Games.

With the success of the Los Angeles Games in mind, the Summer Games became big business and cities and countries all over the world now started looking at the Summer Olympics as a financially solid investment. Since 1984 the competition has increased, just like the amount of money that can be made by selling the television rights.

The success of Los Angeles secured the future of the Summer Olympics, both financially and politically.

From the sports perspective it was hard not to notice the absence of primarily the Soviet Union and East Germany. The women´s results, in particular, seemed hollow in Los Angeles.
The Swedes took a total of 19 medals, two gold, eleven silver and six bronze. Those medals placed Sweden in eleventh place in the overall ranking.

The chase for a Swedish gold was a common theme in the Swedish media. When three days remained of the competitions, the Swedish team was yet to take a single gold medal. The “Doomsday prophets" had already started talking about how Sweden had only missed taking a gold medal in two Olympic Games - in 1896 when Sweden only had one participant and in 1904 when Sweden didn´t even go.

Nice Save By the Canoeists

It had been rough for Sweden both in 1960 in Rome and in 1964 in Tokyo, but the Swedes had been “saved" by the canoeists both times.

In Los Angeles, the canoeing team was under the pressure from not only the Swedish team, but the entire Swedish people who more or less demanded that the canoeists save the Swedish honor.

Once again the canoeists were able to master the difficult situation.

Agneta Andersson was the favorite in the K1, and she quickly took control of the race and won a sure victory.

Barely two hours after the race it was time for Agneta to paddle the final in the K2 with Anna Olsson. The Swedes were favorites in this event too, and again the expectations were met after a great race.

In the K4, the Swedish women looked like they were about to take their third gold medal, but with 50 meters to go, they were passes by the Romanian team. The disappointment was enormous.

But the two gold medals had saved the Swedish honor.

The gold medals may have been playing hard to get, but the silver medals were much easier to come by. The Swedes took eleven silver medals, many of them involved the canoeing team. Lars-Erik Moberg took the gold in the 1,500 m K1 and the men also took silver medals in the 500 m K2 and the 1,000 m K4.

Swedish Doping Case

The wrestlers also did a good job. Roger Tallroth took the silver in the welterweight and Kent-Olle Johansson did the same in the featherweight. Frank Andersson and Sören Olsson each took one bronze medal.

But wrestling got, despite the medals, most of its attention because of Tomas Johansson´s doping conviction. He had to leave Los Angeles and the Olympic Games.

Before the doping test came back positive, Tomas was a celebrated silver medallist. Nowit turned out that he had used anabolic steroids to recover from an injury. Tomas readily admitted to the charges and was barred.

But Tomas was back two years later and became a World Champion!

Another “Swedish" event - the modern pentathlon - became dramatic in more than one way.
In the team competition, the Swedes had chances of taking a medal but these vanished when Roderick Martin shot twice in the same interval. That was not allowed and it meant that Martin´s result, and thereby the results of the whole team, were stricken. Sweden was gone from the competition.

In the individual event, Svante Rasmusson participated in his last big competition, according to what he had said before the Games, and here too the problems came in the shooting. If Svante had taken one more point in the shooting, he would have started at almost the same time as his Italian competitor Daniele Masala. Because he didn´t take that much needed point, Masala could start the cross-country race more than eight seconds before Rasmusson. It turned out to be a very dramatic race.

Right before the finish line, Rasmusson had caught up with, and passed, Masala. But his chase had been costly and 50 meters from the finish line the conditions changed from solid ground to sand in a sharp left turn. In this curve, Rasmusson almost fell, probably from fatigue, and Masala then took his chance to spurt across the finish line as Olympic Champion.

Sweden had to settle for two bronze medals in the swimming, courtesy of Per Johansson in the 100 m freestyle and the men´s 4x100 m relay team. But the Swedish women were criticized for their performance. Many people thought that they should have taken at least one medal, now that the East Germans didn´t participate.

Silver For Skanåker

When it came to the shooting, all Swedes had learned to keep an eye on Ragnar Skanåker. Since he took his sensational gold medal in Munich on the first day of competitions no one dared to ignore him. This time, in his fourth Olympic Games, Skanåker once again showed his strength and took the silver medal in the free pistol. The gold went to Haifeng Xu from China who thereby became the first Chinese gold medallist in Olympic History. But Skanåker probably didn´t get himself defeated just to be polite!

But the most sensational medal came in another favorite “Swedish" event -fencing.
Björne Väggö came to Los Angeles as a 29-year-old engineer, familiar only to very few within the fencing community.

His conquests in the piste soon became a cliff hanger on the radio, television and in the newspapers. His road to the final was a thriller which contained many exciting ingredients. But once he got to the final there was very little he could do, the Frenchman Boisse beat him easily by 10-5.

The equestrian team contributed by taking one bronze medal in the dressage team competition.

In the athletics arena, Sweden took two medals.

19-year-old Patrik Sjöberg took the silver medal in the high jump by touching his Swedish record of 2.33 m.

The high jump was dramatic, as usual. The world record holder, the Chinese Jianhua Zhu had knocked down the bar in his first attempt at 2.33 m and decided to save his other two jumps for the 2.35 m level. Sjöberg cleared the bar in his second attempt at 2.33 m whereas Dietmar Mögenburg cleared the same height in his first attempt, he had actually done so on all heights.  

Mögenberg, true to his habit, cleared the bar on 2.35 m whereas the Chinese failed his two remaining attempts, and the silver consequently went to Sweden.

Sjöberg had a good jump on 2.35 but was eventually defeated by Mögenburg.

In the javelin throw, Kent Eldebrink took a bronze by throwing 83.72 meters in the fifth round.
In the athletics arena, the Coliseum, which had also been used in 1932, Sweden took one more silver through Bosse Gustafsson on the 50 km walk. This time the judges were on his side.
Gustafsson had no chance against the winning Mexican, Raul Gonzales, but he had to fight a hard battle against Belluci, from Italy, who didn´t let go of the Swede until one kilometer before the finish line.

King Carl

The King of the Games was, without a doubt, Carl Lewis who took four gold medals. He won the 100 m, the 200 m, the 4x100 m relay and the long jump. Lewis greatly contributed to the nationalistic frenzy, which didn´t lessen with Mary Lou Retton´s victory in the all-around gymnastics competition.

There were many athletics stars, among them was Sebastian Coe who showed that he was the middle-distance running king of the world. The Briton defended his 1,500 m title and became the first person in “modern times" to take two straight gold medals on the distance.

The American Edwin Moses on the 400 m hurdles was as popular as, if not even more popular than, Carl Lewis. He took the gold medal in Montreal, was stopped by the boycott in 1980 and was now a big favorite in Los Angeles. In the final, he took his 105th straight victory. Another noteworthy fact about this final is that Sven Nylander took fourth place and showed that he had what it took to run well in major competitions.

One of the most talked about races was the women´s 3,000 m.

The American Mary Decker, twice World Champion in 1983 on the 1,500 and the 3,000 m, was the favorite, even though she was behind in the world ranking for the year, that list was topped by the Romanian Puica. But that was not the duel everyone was talking about, people were more concerned with the one between Decker and Zola Budd from South Africa.
Budd had become a British citizen right before the Games so that she would be able to compete.

With only two laps remaining on the 3,000 m final, Budd was in the lead. Her chance of winning would be to pick up the pace because she knew she wouldn´t have a chance if the race ended in a spurt. Behind her, on the side, things started happening. Someone stepped on her heel, it´s not known whether it was Decker or one of the others, and she tripped. Decker ran right into her and fell. Decker was completely knocked out and was crying and grimacing while the rest of the field ran off into the distance. At first, Budd was disqualified, but the disqualification was reversed only an hour after the race when the jury had seen that she had not purposely done anything to stop Decker, which was what had been claimed by the American team officials.

A brief look at the basketball tournament reveals that the American team had a certain member by the name of Michael Jordan. A name which went on to become the best known in professional basketball for many years.

The Americans dominated the boxing ring completely and won nine out of the twelve classes! But the most talked about boxer was one who didn´t win - Evander Holyfield. He was disqualified in the semi-finals after having knocked out his opponent, the referee claimed that this had happened after he had said “break". The ruling was subject to a lot of discussions, as were many other rulings during the whole tournament.

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