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The Vault
August 03, 2009
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August 03, 2009

The Vault

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Every SI Story ... Every SI Photo ... Ever SI.COM/VAULT

EXCERPT | Aug. 6, 1984

Opening Message

Nothing could spoil the party at the L.A. Olympics

A Soviet Union--led boycott by 14 nations didn't dampen the spirit of the athletes, as Kenny Moore reported.

Only the athletes save the Olympic Games. Each Olympiad, winter and summer, the months before the competition are rancid with boycott, eligibility squabbles, drug accusations and plain, adrenaline-fired suspicion. Then suddenly the flame is kindled, and it becomes the athletes' obligation to somehow redeem the whole Olympic movement by virtue of their performances, to leave flawed Games shining in memory because they produced a Shorter or Spitz, a Korbut or Comaneci.

In Los Angeles, in these XXIII Summer Games, the athletes didn't even wait for the competition to start. They took a gorgeously produced opening ceremony at the Coliseum last Saturday and turned it into a powerful display of the binding emotions of international sport. They were so hungry to demonstrate the substance of LAOOC president Peter Ueberroth's words—"the finest group of young men and women ever assembled in the history of sport ... the best hope for the future of mankind"—that they broke ranks, embraced and lifted the formality of the ceremony into something containing elements of both pagan rite and sacred affirmation.

"It felt," said Canadian basketball player Bev Smith, walking, stunned, from the Coliseum, "like it was supposed to feel."

And in the process, it made millions know that the Soviets had been wrong to boycott. Wrong simply because they missed a great time.

The U.S. would dominate the competition, winning 83 gold medals and 173 overall—114 more than runner-up West Germany.

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