Four years ago, triumphant athletes stood in glory on victory stands to receive gold, silver and bronze medals in the Olympic Games.
A couple of weeks ago, three buxom young women named Julie, Trina and Lisa posed in glory on those same pastel wooden boxes to receive bottles of cheap champagne in the Third Annual South Bay Speedway Bikini Contest.
It might not be what Baron Pierre de Coubertin had in mind, but it sells in Gardena.
Most of the the colorful decorations--like the victory stands and signs and uniforms and scaffolding churned out four years ago to brighten up Southern California for the '84 Olympics--are gone by now, squirreled away as mementoes in dusty attic corners, discarded as trash in some canyon landfill or converted to commercial uses that render them unrecognizable.
But an amazing collection of Olympic goods--$300,000 worth, according to the man who purchased and treasures it--is at the Ascot Park speedway, home to such present-day competitions as motorcycle races and bikini contests.
Visitors to the speedway in the Gardena area wander beneath pink scaffolding that once graced an Olympic village, buying beer from tents that once sold soda pop to Olympic spectators before sitting in stands that once flanked an Olympic swimming pool.
There's bunting everywhere, resplendent in the still familiar "clean aqua," "hot magenta" and "rich chrome yellow" hues said by the planners of the '84 Games to represent the "Southern California spirit." Brightly colored pennants drape the walls between billboards promoting spark plugs, chewing tobacco and bail bond agencies. And there are the victory stands--faded and scratched now, but with the Olympic rings and star symbol still visible--planted in the race track infield amid the pink plastic flamingoes.
"I love that Olympics stuff," said Chris Agajanian, bubbling 39-year-old heir to the motor racing empire founded by his legendary father, the late J. C. Agajanian. "When we heard they were auctioning off a lot of it after the Games, we started bidding. I ended up buying 5,000 seats from the swim stadium and some of the ticket booths," he said. "I got some tents. Some flags. Some bunting. Some fencing. Some bullhorns.
"And I bought hundreds of gallons of Olympics paint. Used it all over."
Agajanian was down on his office floor, rummaging delightedly through a bottom-drawer collection of Olympic programs, ticket stubs, parking passes, souvenir medallions and the like as workers prepared for an evening of dirt bike competition that would include such racing stalwarts as Jim (The Animal) Fishback and Bobby (Boogaloo) Schwartz.
"I've got more stuff in a warehouse," Agajanian said. "Shirts. Uniforms. Even some of those blazers.
"But those colors? I'd never wear one of 'em."