A confident Los Angeles

The planning and financing of the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles are both moving along on schedule -- and well ahead of where some previous host cities stood at the same stage -- according to a report presented to the United States Olympic Committee's House of Delegates at its quadrennial meeting here.

"Our goal is to identify, contract for, and have sewed up all venues by the end of March," said Harry Usher, executive vice- president and general manager of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee. "We think that, with possibly one exception, we will make it" by then.

That's good news for those who remember Montreal's frantic race to get the stadium finished before the teams marched in for the opening ceremony in 1976, or the amount of work Moscow had to do in the final year to complete many of its new structures.

As Usher noted, though, the Los Angeles area starts out with a great many existing facilities. Furthermore, he said, the committee has already obtained the necessary strong corporate support to build new sites and refurbish current ones as required.

This heavy involvement by business was a key element in Usher's presentation.

Among companies he named were such heavyweights as Canon Camera, McDonald's American Express, Coca-Cola, Atlantic Richfield, and the Southland (7-11) food store chain, plus some local companies like Arrowhead drinking water, which also served as a sponsor at the 1932 Olympics in L.A.

Usher said licensing agreements have also been made with three companies that will manufacture Olympic-related souvenir items. And besides US businesses, there is also the foreign picture.

"I can't begin to tell you the amount of enthusiasm in Japan," he said. "They're extremely aggressive in the sponsorship area."

The Coliseum, originally built for the '32 Olympics, will of course be the centerpiece among the athletic facilities as the site of the track and field competition as well as the opening and closing ceremonies. Usher said Arco has agreed to refurbish the stadium, put in a new track, and finance six additional training tracks at various area colleges.

The main new facility will be the swimming pool, to be built at the University of Southern California with money provided by McDonald's.

Sites for other major sports include the Forum for basketball, the Sports Arena for boxing, UCLA's Pauley Pavilion for gymnastics, and the Rose Bowl in Pasadena for the soccer final, with preliminaries scattered around in other stadiums, possibly even in other cities, as has been the case in previous Olympics.

Wrestling will be at the Anaheim Arena, volleyball at Long Beach Arena, weightlifting at Loyola Marymount University, judo at California State University in Los Angeles, and equestrian competition probably at Santa Anita race track, though there is a problem concerning the three-day event.

Usher said most other sites were just about firmed up, with the exception of canoeing and rowing, when the committee was informed that the original San Diego site is unacceptable because of tidal conditions. He said that two alternate sites are being considered and that this is the one venue that might not be nailed down by the March deadline.

Noting that several women's events have already been added to the program for 1984 (extra hurdles and cycling events plus the addition of synchronized swimming and rhythmic gymnastics), Usher said that his committee is also "strongly urging" the addition of a women's marathon and that he thinks there is a better than 50-50 chance for approval by the International Olympic Committee.

On the question of "demonstration sports," which have been part of some previous Olympics, he said the committee is working with the national tennis and baseball federations, both of which are bidding for such status. He said the question is whether to approve one or both, with final approval, of course, up to the International Olympic Committee.

With Lake Placid's transportation problems still fresh in many memories, Usher insisted that things should be all right in Los Angeles. He noted that the events are spread out over a wide area and that the freeways are not as busy in summer as during the school year. Furthermore, because of television schedules for East Coast viewing, sessions will tend to start around 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., thus avoiding the rush hours. Finally, he said, on any given school day more children are moved via the busing program than there will be Olympic visitors requiring transportation to the various venues.

As for another potential controversy -- the decision to forgo building an Olympic Village and house athletes at both the University of Southern California and UCLA -- Usher said it had not yet been decided whether to split them up by nation or by sport. He noted that the latter might enhance interaction among athletes from different nations, but that (1) it would pose a problem with support personnel, and (2) the East-bloc countries would undoubtedly want to keep their entire teams together.

As for the overall picture, Usher said, "You'll hear aspersions, rumors, doubts, and concerns at times. During every Olympics that's the way it has been until around 6 to 12 months before the Games, when things always seem to turn positive." But he noted that many top officials from the IOC and various national committees have already visited the city and have expressed satisfaction with progress so far.

"I think when they come here they understand how we're going to operate the Games -- for the athletes," he said.

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