1984 Los Angeles Olympics Revisited

Sharing family stories and anecdotes with your children is the best way to keep those memories alive, and pass them on to the next generation. Every four years I have the opportunity to bring my family closer and relate the incredible experiences I had at the 1984 Olympics held in Los Angeles, California. I, along with 29,000 people, volunteered for the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee, LAOOC, in exchange for the opportunity to be part of this historic XXIIIrd Olympiad.

I have a ritual for this: I go through my edge-worn photo album with my kids, spread out my prized pin collection, and choose one to wear each day during the two-week competitions. As my family and I watch the athletes on television, I’ll recount the adventures and memories I accumulated during the games 28 years ago. (The memories part is getting harder to do as I move up the age podium!)

Los Angeles Coliseum Opening Day 1984 Olympics Photo Suzette Valle

In 1984, a few months before the Olympics, I applied to be a volunteer interpreter and passed two stringent language tests: Spanish and French. A few weeks later, I was the designated interpreter to the Mayor of Barcelona, Spain, Pascual Maragall, and this city’s Olympic Committee bidding for the 1992 Olympics, which they won! (This is when I also point out to my children the usefulness of all those high-school and college language courses!)

Based at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown LA, the volunteer pool assembled there to get their daily itinerary. My list of activities during those two exciting weeks resembled a day in the life of a Hollywood celebrity; I rode in limos with officials and attended lavish lunches and dinners; I recall a private evening at Paramount Studios, and a spectacular luncheon put on by the Spanish Olympic Committee at a Hollywood director’s home. Special food was brought in from Spain and prepared by Spanish chefs (I still remember the delicious chilled cantaloupe soup!). It was surreal to witness the glamorous side of the negotiations to secure the Catalans the right to host the 1992 Olympics!

During free time, volunteers with clearance were allowed to visit different venues and watch the competitions. The Olympic village at UCLA was a favorite place to see the athletes. It was there I spotted Nadia Comaneci, the world-famous Romanian gymnast, casually walking by with her parents, and asked if she could turn around for a photo. I quickly snapped away with my Kodak Instamatic camera and got the photo below!

Nadia Comaneci at UCLA Olympic Village Photo Suzette Valle

Pin trading and collecting were popular activities during these Olympics. I collected several pins, but I’m most proud of the trade I made of a USA pin for a pin representing the Egyptian Synchronized Swimming Team — a rare pin because Synchronized Swimming debuted in Los Angeles as an Olympic sport — and these were difficult to find.

As volunteers, we were given a special pin to wear (note the pink square on our tops in the photo below) with our LEVIS-designed LAOOC-issued uniforms and shoes. Ah, yes, pure polyester!

Another volunteer perk was participating in the full rehearsal for the Opening Ceremonies. After the bands and flags paraded by, everyone sitting at the Coliseum heard instructions on the loudspeaker to reach underneath the seats and pull out a color card to hold over our heads. Once all the cards were up, the entire stadium turned into a giant display of the world’s flags. It was quite a low-tech Technicolor sight!

Photo by Suzette Valle

Closing ceremonies were also out of this world! They included a space ship landing reminiscent of the movie Close Encounters of Third Kind, and an All Night Long party with Lionel Ritchie singing until we couldn’t dance anymore.

Greg Louganis, Carl Lewis, Synchronized Swimming, the Russian boycott and other historical events took place in Los Angeles during the summer games of ’84. But for a twenty-four year old waiting to start grad-school, it was a summer of Olympic size memories.

I hope I’ve inspired you to take the time to share your cherished stories with your own kids or grandkids. And remember, your adventures don’t have to be of Olympic proportions either; the tree house you built, or the mud fights at the nearby pond are just as much fun to re-tell.

Why not take advantage of these last few days of summer vacation to start a new tradition? You just may remember something you did a few years ago (well, maybe more than a few), that will impress your kids today!

“Swifter, Higher, Stronger” Olympic Motto


  1. Anonymous says:

    suzette – what a fantastic experience to share, along with a good thought about sharing with your children! loved this post! sharon.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thanks Suzette for reminding us of the importance of sharing stories with our families. As a personal historian, I'd like to add that it's really important not only recount stories but to find a way to record and preserve these stories as well. As you yourself admit, as time passes it becomes harder to recall the details.
    I'd like to encourage everyone to think seriously about the legacy they'd like to pass on. A favorite quote of mine comes from Ellen Goodman. “…what the next generation will value most is not what we owned, but the evidence of who we were and the tales of how we loved. In the end, it’s the family stories that are worth the storage.”

  3. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for reading Sharon! I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment while on vacation!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Dan, I couldn't agree with you more. Thanks for adding your thoughts and advise on my post!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for your enjoyable article…and for sharing your memories. I am one of the Opening Ceremony attendees in the photo of the flags…it was a thrill to be there.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I just visited UCLA, the site used for the athletes as the Olympic village, and took a photo of an Olympic conmemorative plaque erected right next to the Bruin bear. Having been a part of the 1984 Olympics is an event in our lives we'll never stop re-living!
    Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts too.

  7. Karen says:

    Does anyone remember the story of the prince that traveled all the way from the middle of somehwere to the L A Olympics on his horse (where possible)? I have tried to find out his name and where he was from. I literally ran into him and his horse during the closing ceremonies and I asked him for a kiss and he obliged!


    • Dominic says:


      I am currently working for the IOC and am re creating the Olympic Museum.

      In the Museum there is an exhibit that is all about the Volunteers at the Games.

      I am very interested to hear your ‘horse prince’ story so please get in touch via volunteers@centrescreen.co.uk.

    • dominic says:

      can you contact me please? I am desperate to understand the ‘horse prince’ story as I am currently part of the making of the IOC Museum and your story might get into the musuem

  8. Marcia Rodriguez Kraus says:

    Does anyone have the group picture of the press level interpreters for ghe 1984 Olympics?

  9. Marcia Rodriguez Kraus says:

    I was one of the interpreters there and I don’t have any pictures. I too would like to leave these memories with my kids and grandkids. It was an AMAZING event that I always recommend to people if they were to get the chance.

  10. Marcia Rodriguez Kraus says:

    I may be reached at cubankraus@verizon.net

  11. Chelsea says:

    Thanks for sharing! Could you explain the pin in the center for me, below the stars?

    • Suzette Valle says:

      Hi Chelsea, the pin below the stars pin is from Seoul, Korea. That Olympic Committee was in LA to prepare to host their own Olympics in 1988!


  1. […] In 1984 I was part of the Los Angeles Summer Olympics and worked as an interpreter for the Barcelona Olympic Committee who was in Los Angeles bidding for the 1992 Summer Olympics, and won! […]

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