The jumbotrons at the famed peristyle end of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum said it all Sunday as the Los Angeles Rams and Washington thrashed below to what eventually would be a 27-20 Washington victory.
In blue shading to purple, the big sign to the left of the cauldron read, “The Games are Back.” To the right, purple back to blue, “LA 2028.”
With International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach, LA mayor Eric Garcetti and LA 2028 chairman Casey Wasserman looking on, Rafer Johnson — the Rome 1960 decathlon champion who so memorably lit the cauldron at the 1984 Games — lit the cauldron again.
The Games are back.
Paris will stage the 2024 Games and Los Angeles 2028. Last Wednesday, at an assembly in Lima, Peru, the IOC ratified this historic double allocation.
In keeping with the approach that brought the Summer Games back to the United States for the first time in a generation, since Atlanta in 1996, Sunday’s moments at the Coliseum were — yet again — low-key and marked not by any of the excess, entitlement or pomposity too often associated with the Olympic scene but by a genuine display of what the Olympics, and indeed the broader movement, is supposed to be about:
Friendship, excellence and respect.
Plus, and this cannot be stressed enough, especially from and for Americans, and from and for Americans especially now: humility.
It has been a long road since Oct. 2, 2009, when Chicago got kicked to the curb in the race for the 2016 Games. Since then, the U.S. Olympic Committee, under the leadership of chief executive officer Scott Blackmun and chairman Larry Probst, have worked tirelessly to repair relationships, stressing that the United States of America has perhaps a unique role to play within the Olympic movement but that role is not only best but most appropriately exercised with humility.
At the session in Lima, results:
Beyond the LA28 decision, Anita DeFrantz of Los Angeles was elected an IOC vice president and Angela Ruggiero, the U.S. women’s hockey star who is chair of the IOC athletes’ commission, was appointed to the IOC ethics commission.
Is everything perfect? Hardly. If Los Angeles had run in a straight-up contest against Paris for 2024, it’s highly uncertain who would have won — global politics being what they are, and the president of the United States being who he is.
Even so, considerable progress has been achieved since 2009, and a lot of it is due to the people in place now, with Garcetti and Wasserman setting the tone, too, and to one over-arching concept:
The Games are back.
Kudos are due here for Sunday’s Coliseum event not just to the Olympic people, local and international, and Garcetti's events and communications teams but, as well, to the LA Rams. Anyone who has been around the NFL for more than a moment understands, and well, that the league can sometimes be, ah, overbearing. Not Sunday.
Credit from the top down to the Rams, who themselves are only in their second season being back in LA, facing competition this season from the Chargers and are themselves working at a strategy they have dubbed “My City, My Team, My Rams”: chief operating officer Kevin Demoff, vice president of strategy Dan August, Joanna Hunter in corporate communications.
Also, this: security was appropriately measured and discreet.
At one point Sunday on the walkway just outside the Coliseum’s famed peristyle end, two empty beer carts had to be moved slightly out of the way so that the angles could be better for a few photographers. The mayor — who wore an LA28 t-shirt and sneakers — moved the beer carts.
Not gratuitously. Not seeking attention. Just — the mayor, being an ordinary human being and seeing no reason to ask anyone else because he was there and could do it himself, moved the beer carts.
Earlier, Bach and Johnson ambled along the peristyle walkway, two Olympic champions, arms around each other’s shoulders. Bach is a gold-medalist fencer from the Montreal Olympics.
A few moments later, so, too, with DeFrantz.
At one point, as Bach was ambling outside the peristyle walkway, moving along the plaques on the stadium wall, two 12-year-old girls, trembling maybe just a little bit, stopped to ask if they could talk and take a picture.
Of course, the IOC president said. This is what I’m here for.
Tara O’Brien is 12 and lives in Los Angeles’ Hancock Park neighborhood; her BFF, Alex Torres, is also 12 and lives in Studio City. Both girls are seventh-graders at Immaculate Heart middle school in Los Feliz.
Tara wants to do triathlon. Alex likes soccer, and her favorite players are Lionel Messi and, of course, Alex Morgan.
You’re a perfect age for the 2028 Olympics, Bach told the girls. Keep trying hard.
To Tara, he also said, triathletes are the queens and kings of the Games.
Then he gave both girls a fist-bump.
He posed for cellphone pictures.
Who took one of the snaps? The mayor. Really -- it was that California mellow all around.
“It was really cool,” Tara said.
Alex added, “I was very excited,” adding with a nod toward 2028, “Like, my parents are already saying they want to buy tickets!”