LA's 1984 Olympic Games Live on in the Britt House

By Garrett Schwartz

With Los Angeles left as one of three finalists to host the 2024 Summer Olympics, local taxpayers and city officials are weighing the bid's economic implications. The LA84 Foundation, the living legacy of the 1984 Summer Olympics, may be reason for LA to hope for the 2024 Games.

The LA84 Foundation is based in the Britt House, a colonial-revival mansion in Jefferson Park. In 1985, First Interstate Bank, one of the 1984 Games' primary sponsors, donated the house and its sports memorabilia collection to the Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles, which is now the LA84 Foundation. The organization emerged as a result of the 1984 Olympics' $93 million surplus, the first profit for any Olympic host since LA hosted the Games in 1932.

More than three decades since LA last hosted the Olympics, LA84's endowment has grown to $163 million. As a result, the organization has supported local, youth sport organizations throughout Southern California. More specifically, LA84 has funded an excess of $225 million in grants, impacting more than 2,200 non-profit organizations and 3 million children.

Also, LA84 has since expanded its sports collection, now including around 75-thousand documents and artifacts. The collection is part of the organization's digital sports research library, which has totaled more than 4 million downloads for public use.

In the past year, LA84 began a transition period under new President and CEO Renata Simril.

"One of the things [Simril's] intent on is changing our focus from being exclusively on outputs, like how many dollars were given out… to also looking at outcomes," said Wayne Wilson, LA84's Vice President of Education Services. "In other words, [we're] trying to determine what the social, academic, and health impacts of our funding have been."

To emphasize the new effort, LA84 will prioritize coaching education, commissioning research, and organizing conferences on youth sport. At the end of the month, LA84’s 5th annual summit will focus on the theme of "Playing Forward," an inclusivity initiative to make sport accessible to all children. Last week, LA84 released a report citing inequalities in sport participation rates in Los Angeles. For instance, African-American and Latino children were more likely to be inactive in sport, as well as girls compared to boys.

While LA84's lasting success can spur economic optimism, Los Angeles' 2024 bid is far from certain. In addition to LA, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will also consider Paris and Budapest.

"LA offers something that the IOC should find attractive," said Wilson. "In an era when young people are increasingly disinterested in the Olympic games, Los Angeles offers a great deal of expertise in storytelling, creating narratives, framing stories and combining that with technical expertise on how to distribute that to large scale audiences."

If Los Angeles wins the Olympic bid, LA 2024 predicts the city to rake in a $161 million surplus. However, recent Olympic Games shade doubt on LA 2024's predictions.

Following the 2010 Winter Games, Vancouver ended up with $630 million in debt, and Sochi went almost $40 million over budget as a result of the 2014 Winter Games. Most recently, Brazil finds itself in economic crisis after the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

In the case that Los Angeles were to go over budget, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation last week that puts Los Angeles on the hook for up to $250 million.

However, LA 2024 expects the city's existing infrastructure and prior experience hosting the Olympics to temper budget costs.

"There's still this idea that [LA] knows how to do this efficiently," Wilson said. "[LA's] going to use existing facilities… and there's not a lot that needs to be built for this."

The IOC will announce the host of the 2016 Summer Olympics in September 2017.