All's Quiet Where Athletes Once Vied for Olympic Glory

Times Staff Writer

At some of the sites, you'd hardly know the 1984 Olympics ever took place.

Take Lake Casitas, for example.

Today, where men and women from 60 nations once rowed and canoed for 78 gold, silver and bronze medals, there's not a single remnant of the competition.

The grandstands, the finish-line tower, the lane markers, the scoreboard, the trainers' tents, the concession stands, the docks--all of them are gone.

"That was part of the original agreement, that they would leave nothing here," said Brent Doan, a ranger for the Casitas Municipal Water District, which manages the lake near Ojai as a recreational facility for anglers and campers.

Within weeks of completion of the competition in Ventura County, everything had been dismantled, packed into trucks and hauled away. Hillsides that had been leveled were regraded to their original configurations, and trees were planted where prefabricated buildings had briefly stood.

Johnnie Williams, a retired office worker from Ventura, was fishing quietly for bass the other day, parked comfortably in a folding beach chair positioned precisely where the judges' stand once stood.

"Yeah, I remember the Olympics," she said. "But they didn't do any of that around here, did they?"

Doan said someone talked of putting up a marker or a plaque, "something like that, but they ran out of money."

"We had an Olympic poster around here for a while," he said, "but I guess somebody swiped it."

At the Prado Recreation Area, in the flood plain of the Santa Ana River near Chino, the permanent structures--traps, shooting platforms, pistol sheds and the like--erected for the '84 Olympic shooting competition are largely intact.

The truss-work scaffolding that once marked the entrance to the shooting venue is still in place, and off to one side, there still are four of the little canopied stands that served food and drink to Olympic spectators.

But the place just doesn't look the same.

The elaborate irrigation system that kept the place verdant during the Games has fallen into disrepair, with once-lush lawns giving way to parched weeds and dust. And the few remaining remnants of the decor that gave the Olympics their distinctive pastel pastiche have faded in the sun.

The place--now the property of San Bernardino County--is still used for shooting competitions, though, and concessionaire Robert E. Petersen, the publisher of sports magazines who served as shooting commissioner during the '84 Games, is refurbishing the site to operate it as a public shooting range.

Ken Elliott, who is supervising restoration work that includes repainting the buildings and installation of a new sprinkler system, said the place will be ready for the U.S Olympic Trials to be held there next month (Aug. 17-27).

Olympic training has been going on in recent weeks at another '84 Olympic site--the velodrome built for the Games by the 7-Eleven store chain at Cal State Dominguez Hills in Carson.

It's one place that does still look pretty much the same.

Everything there is in as good shape as it was in 1984; in fact, some of it is in better shape.

The track, which cracked soon after construction and was hurriedly patched in time for the Games, has been resurfaced, and racing officials say it's probably faster now than it was in 1984.

Officials for the university, which now owns the velodrome, said that when it isn't being used for cycling, it's pressed into service for other events--things like concerts, skateboard competitions, graduation ceremonies and 4th of July fireworks.

Another venue constructed specifically for the '84 Olympics was the swimming and diving stadium at USC--built by the MacDonald's fast-food chain and deeded to the university after the Games.

Much of it is the same--the pools and diving platforms, for example.

And much of it is changed.

Where large, temporary grandstands once bordered the pools on the north, a multistory university center is now under construction. Where more temporary stands once flanked the pools on the south, the Kennedy Family Aquatics Building is now nearing completion.

The university uses the pools for swimming, diving and water polo competition, and toward the end of August the U.S. Olympic team will stop off for some last-minute training before heading to Seoul.

A few hundred yards to the south is the place that garnered most of the attention four years ago--the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, home to the track and field events as well as the opening and closing ceremonies.

The vast bowl, which seats more than 100,000, had been enlarged to its present size prior to the 1932 Olympics, when it was used for exactly the same things.

The big difference in 1984 was the color--lots of aqua, magenta, lavender and orange--splashed throughout the stadium in what designer Deborah Sussman said was a vivid demonstration that Los Angeles had moved to the "leading edge of the creative spirit."

In the weeks that followed the Olympics, a lot of that color remained in place, but time began to take its toll.

Football fans soon stripped the Coliseum rim of its crown of national flags, and as the months wore on, the remaining decorations wore out.

The strongest reminders of the '84 Games inside the Coliseum today are the still-colorful tunnel entrances, painted in pastels, and the two giant electronic scoreboards erected atop the eastern, peristyle end of the stadium.

Outside the Coliseum--just beyond the peristyle--stand the graphically nude bronze statues of two athletes, one of each sex, executed for the 1984 Games by sculptor Robert Graham.

And just beyond those, a little off to the side, is the Coliseum Main Event souvenir stand, where the pins, mugs, T-shirts, buttons, cigarette lighters and maps hawked to spectators at the Games of the XXIII Olympiad can still be bought.

These days, there's a discount.

The Sam-the-Eagle bedroom slippers, $25 four years ago, are marked down to $5.

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