tom bradley

Tom Bradley

*The world’s greatest sporting event owes a huge debt of gratitude to one man—the late Tom Bradley, the former mayor of Los Angeles.

As the 30th Olympiad in modern times draws to a close in London, it would be remiss not to mention Tom Bradley and the impact he had and continues to have on the Olympic Games.

Some will ask, “What in the world can Tom Bradley have to do with the 2012 Olympic Games?” Answer: his footprint is all over it. Tom Bradley was blessed with the gift of being able to bring people together or should I say developing collaborations.  And at no time was this gift more evident than when he fought to bring the Olympic Games to Los Angeles.

When Mayor Bradley began his quest to bring the Olympics to Los Angeles, it is an understatement to say, he was met with “a little” resistance, particularly from the Los Angeles City Council and from his nemesis Police Chief Daryl Gates and the Los Angeles Police Department.  There were concerns about traffic, a rise in crime and possible terrorist attacks. But the biggest concern was about the cost.  How would the city of Los Angeles pay for the world’s biggest sporting event? The Olympic Games had a bad track record when it came to host cities losing money and the residents of Los Angeles made it perfectly clear that they would not foot the bill.

“The people of Los Angeles passed a resolution not to put up any money for the games which is what a city does when they throw the games out,” said Peter Ueberroth, who was tabbed by Bradley to organize the Games. “Denver did that about 8 years earlier. They threw the winter games out and they (the IOC) had to go somewhere else. Nobody else would take them in that era…  Nobody would take the L.A. games.”

But Tom Bradley would not be deterred.  Mayor Bradley had a dream to make Los Angeles a world class city on par with the likes of New York, Paris, and London and with that dream an idea that revolutionized the way the Olympic Games and even sports facilities are paid for today.

“Mayor Bradley knew tax-plagued LA citizens would never agree to pay for the Olympics, so he conceived a plan for the first-ever private financing of the Games. Its most intriguing feature was that it would avoid the cost of building expensive new venues by giving the venerable Coliseum a facelift, and using existing sports installations in Southern California, including the housing and athletic facilities at USC, UCLA and other area colleges,” said Bee Canterbury Lavery, chief of Protocol, Office of the Mayor under Tom Bradley.

Prior to the 1984 games in Los Angeles, the Olympics were a huge financial burden on the cities that hosted the event. In 1972 the city of Munich was saddled with an $800,000 bill following the Games and Montreal taxpayers are, reportedly, still paying for the 1976 Games that incurred a $1 billion debt. But the Bradley Plan brought big corporate sponsors into the mix.  Bradley assembled a powerhouse of civic and business leaders as the Los Angeles Organizing Committee to raise funds for a self-supporting Olympics.

It had been The International Olympic Committee’s policy that the host city or country would be responsible for financing the Games. But through dogged determination and a series of strategic moves Mayor Bradley got the IOC to change that rule.

“Mayor Bradley worked furiously during the interim to bypass the IOC rule on financial responsibility, hammering out the exact language of contracts that specified that liability would be assumed by the organizing committee and not the city. Yet with the mayor still insisting on private funding, many believed the IOC would not accept the latest offer. To make sure where the electorate stood, Charter Amendment N, which was co-written by Anton Calleia, guaranteeing that the Olympic Games would not be financed by city government funds, was placed on the November 1978 ballot. It passed by an overwhelming margin with 78 percent of the vote,” Lavery recalled in a recent article.

That amendment change has been a windfall for the International Olympic Committee and has helped cities in defraying some of the costs of the Olympic Games. The first privately financed Olympic Games in Los Angeles resulted in a surplus of nearly $250 million.

“In 1984 the IOC had about $3 million dollars in the bank. Now it has over $3 billion in the bank. So they have done very well in copying the format of the Los Angeles games.  The cities get money from television rights and sponsorship…(and) cities get a percentage,” said Ueberroth.

Recently, Lorraine Bradley, Tom Bradley’s daughter and co-founder of the Tom and Ethel Bradley Foundation, had a conversation with a member of the British Consulate who stated to her that the London Games are a direct copy of the Los Angeles Games. The Bradley Effect in action.

Are you still wondering what Tom Bradley had to do with the London, Beijing, Athens, Sydney, etc, etc, etc, Olympics? Tom Bradley had a huge foot and cast a giant shadow. The Bradley Effect.

Ms. Chico Norwood is a freelance writer and the former managing and sports editor for the Hub City News in Los Angeles, California. She is a former staff writer and assistant sports editor of the Los Angeles Sentinel, the Los Angeles Watts Times and Rapid Publishing, publishers of the Lynwood Journal, Compton Bulletin and the Californian. An award-winning journalist she is the recipient of a National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) Best News Story Award, NNPA Best Sports Story Award, an American Media Health Fellowship, Outstanding Young Woman of America and several other awards of merit. Her articles have been published in the Los Angeles Times, Ebony Magazine and other local and national publications. Contact her via: [email protected]

chico norwood

Chico Norwood