Rafer Johnson

'Like, my parents are already saying they want to buy tickets!'

'Like, my parents are already saying they want to buy tickets!'

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 pompsity too often associated with the Olympic scene but by a genuine display of what the Olympics is supposed to be about:

Friendship, excellence and respect.

Plus, most of all, and this cannot be stressed enough, especially from and for Americans, and from and for Americans especially now: humility.

Straight talk from SoCal on 2024: it's LA's time


Dear friends around the world,

Hi from Los Angeles! It has been raining a lot here this winter, which is cool, because we need the water. That drought and everything. We got lucky Thursday morning. It was cool but dry — well, actually cold for us, about 56 degrees Fahrenheit, puffy down jacket weather unless you were dancing — as the local bid committee held a mellow, only-in-California sunrise party at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to mark the coming of the third and final phase of the International Olympic Committee’s campaign for the 2024 Olympics.

They lit the Coliseum cauldron, just like Rafer Johnson did in 1984. This being 2017 and a 2024 thing, there was electronic dance music along with before-dawn fitness, a little sunrise volleyball and, 'cuz this is SoCal, some ginger shots to promote your most excellent vibe and good health. Yo, dude. All good.

Daybreaking in red, white and blue style

Peace and love and the Olympics, people

So along with the mellow, everyone, this third and final phase marks an occasion, and here we have to shift gears, for some serious straight talk. Sure, the scene Thursday at the Coliseum was crunchy groovy and for sure Santa Monica can be, like, zany, and Venice, like, wacky, but, you know, we can be dead serious here, too.

And the time is now to be straight-up.

First, the disclaimer: I have lived in Los Angeles since the end of 1992. If you want to think this column amounts to nothing but a homer talking, go right ahead — there’s likely nothing I can say or do to change your mind and, honestly, I’m not even going to try because that kind of thing gets tiresome. To be abundantly clear: I have no connection, zero, with the LA24 bid committee. We have a normal professional relationship. That’s it.

Here is the truth: I have covered every Olympic bid campaign since 1999. It is crystal clear what is at stake. That is why I was the first journalist, in March 2015, to say that the U.S. Olympic Committee had made an inexplicably bad initial choice for 2024 in Boston and needed, as soon as possible, to get back to LA. Which, later in the year, it did.

So what is at stake?

The Olympic movement, meaning in particular the International Olympic Committee, is at a critical inflection point.

Over the past 20 years, Games costs have become not just gigantic but obscene. In turn, the number of countries — in particular western democracies — willing to spend millions on the chance to win an Olympics has all but evaporated. 

Bottom line: the IOC is facing a grave credibility problem.

This credibility problem makes for a serious threat to the vitality if not the relevance of the movement.

This 2024 race thus offers the IOC a chance to re-calibrate.

The only — again, the only — way the IOC can emerge a winner, however, is if it goes to LA.

At prior moments in its history, in 1984 and 1932, the IOC has faced similar turning points. At these junctures, it also went to Los Angeles. Now, again, for 2024 it must come once more to California.

One more thing, please: this column will take a few minutes to read. No way around it. That's the way straight talk sometimes has to be.

We get that maybe you don't understand us Americans

Even way out here in California, watching the sun set drop each day into the blue Pacific, we get that you maybe don’t understand us Americans.

We get that here in the United States we are surrounded by oceans and just two other countries and our time zones are far away from pretty much everyone else’s and soccer is really not even much of a thing. We even call it soccer, not football. Football is something entirely different here, and we have a super big game, more or less an unofficial national holiday, coming up Sunday.

We get that the way we measure distance and temperature and all that — it’s different (if you’re wondering: 56 degrees F is 13 degrees C, more or less).

We get that you love our movies and our music and especially our money, like when NBC pays $7.65 billion for the U.S. rights to televise the Olympic Games from 2020 through 2032.

Remember, I said this was going to be really straight-up.

In that spirit, we get that sometimes you don’t really like us very much. We’re Americans and for some reason we like ice in our drinks, like a lot of ice, and for many if not most of you that’s just weird.

We get all that.

In the spirit of gentle and constructive suggestion: you, wherever you are, just have to like us enough right now to give Los Angeles the 2024 Summer Games.

For that matter, the very thing that a lot of you have (in some cases defiantly) held against us for many years — that our governments, local, state and federal, are not underwriting the LA bid — is, in fact, this bid’s strongest asset. That’s because we are American and we do it differently here.

We even get that our new president is like no one you have maybe ever seen before on the world stage. A lot of us didn’t vote for him, especially in California. Mrs. Clinton won the state by 61-33 percent.

We, too, get that Donald Trump is different. You don’t have to like him, either, though to be honest, you might, because he and Vladimir Putin over in Russia seem to get along just fine, and most of you members seem to get along just fine with Mr. Putin’s Olympic vision.

At any rate, Mr. Trump is the president of the United States. And behind the scenes, President Trump has already made it very well known that he wants Los Angeles to win.

This 2024 race, at its core, is — and always has been, from Day One — a referendum on the United States.

Not per se on President Trump.

Again, you have to like us just enough to get to yes. Because, as ever, we will save your bacon.

You may not like hearing or reading that. But, again, it's straight-up time.

Revisiting history, or why the IOC's bacon is in the deep fryer

Here is why the IOC’s bacon is shriveling in the deep fryer, and apologies for the lengthy recitation, but this is the context that makes plain why it must — repeat, must — be LA for 2024:

Athens 2004:

After-Games cost estimates ran to $11 to $15 billion. Security costs for the first post-9/11 Summer Games ran up the numbers significantly. The years since have been punctuated by pictures of the Olympic venues in sorrowful disrepair.

Beijing 2008:

$40 billion, all-in. Nobody really knows. Accounting transparency is not a thing in China, at least for international consumption.

London 2012:

Roughly $15 billion, including infrastructure costs.

Sochi 2014:

A reported $51 billion.

$51 billion?! This is what you get when, like the children of Israel in the Exodus story who built the cities of Pithom and Ramses for the Egyptian Pharaoh, you build two cities literally from the ground up. For the 2014 Winter Games, the Russians built Adler (the ice venues, a few miles away from Sochi itself) and, up in the mountains, Krasnaya Polyana (ski, snowboard, biathlon), from scratch.

Add in some roads, rail lines, electricity, sewage, water and whatever else figures in to the cost of doing business in Russia and there you have it, the reported $51 billion.

Rio 2016:

In December, nearly four months after the closing ceremony in Brazil, the IOC floated a new tagline for South America’s first Olympics: “the most imperfect perfect Games.”

Ha! Here is perhaps a more direct insight, courtesy of Bill the Cat, one of the main characters in “Bloom County,” which in 1987 won Berkeley Breathed the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning. Bill pretty much says one thing, and one thing only, in reviewing the many obviously perplexing developments in our crazy world:


A brief Rio review: did the thousands of us in attendance endure Zika or water poisoning or get mugged in the streets? Largely, no.

Then again, that’s a pretty low bar.

The IOC expects in the coming weeks to release figures showing that the Rio operational budget would come in close to the originally estimated figure, $2.9 billion.

So what?

That number, even if accurate, is both misleading and irrelevant.

When Brazil bid for the Games in 2009, it presented an all-in budget to the IOC of $14.4 billion — operations and infrastructure.

When the Games were awarded to Rio, the Brazilian economy was going great guns. By 2016, the economy had tanked. The government said it would backstop the project. Problem: the government ran out of money.

The final Rio number remains fuzzy. A reasonable estimate: maybe $20 billion.

Tokyo 2020:

Scary budget! Scary like one of those bad black-and-white Godzilla movies from back in the day!

Tokyo won the Games in 2013 promising an all-in budget of roughly $7.8 billion.

Last September, a local review panel said drastic changes had to be made or the whole thing might cost, ah, $30 billion. That would be roughly four times as much as $7.8 billion.

In December, the IOC said it could not, would not accept a revised budget of $20 billion.

Beijing 2022:

See $40 billion, above, and an appreciation of the accounting skills of our Chinese friends, who must, after winning the Games in 2015, build a high-speed rail line from the capital, where the air pollution could choke a duck, up to the mountains two hours away, where there is barely snow but they are nonetheless going to hold the alpine events there because, well, because.

At any rate, the Chinese — having learned from their Russian friends — are not going to count the costs of the railway in their Olympic accounting. Which both in the official records as well as media such as this will, you know, keep reporting of the costs down.

This brings us, naturally enough, to 2024.

But wait.

In December 2014, the IOC passed a 40-point series of purported reforms championed by Thomas Bach, the German elected president the year before, a good number of the 40 aimed at the bid process. The package goes by the name “Agenda 2020.”

The Agenda 2020 vote came amid the 2022 Winter Games bid campaign. That 2022 campaign made it abundantly clear how flawed, if not irretrievably broken, the bid process stands.

Six would-be bid cities in Europe dropped out of the 2022 campaign, five put off to varying degrees by the $51 billion figure associated with the 2014 Sochi Winter Games: Oslo, Munich, Stockholm, Davos/St. Moritz and Krakow, Poland. A sixth, Lviv, Ukraine, fell out because of war.

That left Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan. The members went for Beijing.

The 2024 race formally began in September 2015, with five cities: Paris, Los Angeles, Rome, Budapest and Hamburg, Germany. In a conference call as it launched, Bach said he looked forward to the race, calling it a “very, very strong and fascinating one.”

But wait.

On the very day it began, in this space, I offered these words:

“Would anyone be surprised, really, if as soon as six months from now, this 2024 race is already down to three?

“Or, when it comes to legitimate contenders, practically speaking, two?”

November 2015: Hamburg drops out. Residents vote against hosting the Games.

September/October 2016: Rome, after weeks of dithering, drops out, too, the mayor saying the city has other priorities.

February 2017: in Budapest the locals are gathering increasing numbers of signatures for a referendum as well, so many signatures that the bid is delaying what would have been Friday’s start of its international promotional strategy. It’s unclear when — if — any promotional activity will begin.

That leaves, then, practically speaking, two: Paris and LA.

LA and Paris are both fine cities. But any reasonable observer can see that the Olympic bid process needs a fix.

"Casablanca," Bogart and Bergman are swell but we're taking 2024

All of us will always have Paris.

But Paris is not what the Olympic space needs right now.

What it needs — what Bach needs, what the IOC needs — is for Agenda 2020 to be more than just so much more than lip-service if not outright BS.

Remember: straight up.

As much as this 2024 race is a referendum on the United States, it is almost as much a referendum on Bach, and his ability to deliver on his vision.

Make no mistake: that is why he made a trip last year to California, and in particular to Silicon Valley. He knows all too well that young people are immersed in their phones and screens and the IOC needs to figure out how to merge that world with sport to keep the Olympic Games relevant with the world’s teens and 20-somethings.

This is why, right now, out of the 40 points in Agenda 2024, there’s one — one — that so far has proven meaningful, and that's the launch of the Olympic Channel. This is why there's urgency in linking the 2024 campaign to Agenda 2020.

Back to Paris for the purpose of getting the sentiment out of the way, and quickly.

Paris played host to the 1924 Games; 2024 would be 100 years later.

The IOC, though, is not in the anniversary business. Ask Athens. It sought 1996 after 1896. Those Games went to Atlanta.

The thing about Paris, and sentiment: I lived there for a summer and have been privileged since to visit several times. I have gone for early morning runs down the Champs-Élysées, looping across the Seine and around the Eiffel Tower. Memories. I get it. Totally.

Typically, a major factor in these IOC bid campaigns is where the members’ spouses would like to be for 17 days. There’s a cogent argument to be made that, you know, you could find worse places to be for nearly three weeks than Paris.

But maybe not when the entire nation of France has been under a “state of emergency” since 2015 and anxieties are high at even the most senior levels of government over the risk of another terror attack. Or when one of the attacks was directed at the national stadium in suburban Saint Denis that would be the emotional center of a 2024 Games.

To be truthful, security matters, and it may matter a lot in deciding 2024, but the IOC must itself confront an issue more under its own control.

Take a moment, please, to re-read those dollar figures: $51 billion for Sochi 2014, $40 billion for Beijing 2008, probably $20 million for Rio 2016, an advertised $7-plus billion for Tokyo 2020 already up to maybe $30 billion with the IOC insisting that $20 billion just won’t do.

Take another look at all the cities that have dropped out for 2022 and 2024.

This is why, all around the world, the IOC has a huge or, if you prefer, bigly credibility problem.

Bids want to say, we can do the job for x. Seven years later, reality check: the cost is x-plus-plus-plus and in western democracies there’s taxpayer freak-out, and understandably and appropriately.

LA 2024 is the turnkey solution to the IOC’s credibility problem.

Emotion and math equal LA24

That LA24 is the turnkey answer is so obvious. That solution is rooted in both emotion and logic. Or, if you prefer, emotion and math.


The LA24 budget calls for $5.3 billion of revenue and costs, with a $491.9 million contingency stash.

With the exception of a slalom canoe venue (no big deal), everything is built. The bid gets the use of an about-to-be-built, privately funded $3-billion stadium for the NFL’s Rams and Chargers. Southern California is — Olympics or no — in the midst of a massive public transit upgrade, with $88 billion in ongoing public transit investment as well as a $14 billion modernization of LAX (thank the lord) in addition to $120 billion in funding that LA County voters (me among them) approved in November.

Read that last bit again: $120 billion in transit funding that’s happening without reference to the Olympics. 

The Paris 2024 people say, ”95 percent of our venues will be existing or temporary facilities.”

Indeed, as Table 22, “Venue Funding and Development,” in Part 2 of its Candidature File delivered last October to the IOC makes clear, the Paris 24 bid calls for just three new items to be built.

The catch is that these three items are, with the exception of what would be the Olympic Stadium itself — standing, as noted above — pretty much the most expensive things there could possibly be:

A new athletes’ village. A new media village. And a new aquatics palace, for swimming, synchro and diving.

Just to take the last of those three:

With all due respect to friends at the international swim federation, which goes by the acronym FINA, a new structure for swim sports, even if not really a "palace," is gonna cost a ton of money and be about the most unsustainable venue you might ever want to build.

There are two events in which you draw sustainable numbers of people (that is, say, 15,000 or more)  to watch swimming: the U.S. Olympic Trials and the Games. OK, maybe three: perhaps the evening finals of the FINA world championships, and then if someone like Michael Phelps is on the blocks.

Get back to me if the U.S. Trials are going to be in Paris in 2024.

This elemental math is why USA Swimming has, for its last three Trials, plunked a temporary pool in an already-built basketball arena in Omaha, Nebraska.

This is why FINA, at its last worlds, in 2015 in Kazan, Russia, plunked a temporary pool inside a soccer — er, football — stadium.

This is why the LA24 plan is to plunk a temporary pool on a baseball field at the University of Southern California.

This is why the LA24 bid abandoned its initial plan to build a new (would have cost $1-billion) athletes’ village in downtown LA in favor of (already there) dorms at UCLA.

Our French friends might say, OK, but the government guarantees the costs, and we promise to keep them down.

Of course.

They say the Paris 2024 infrastructure budget would be 3 billion euros, about $3.2 billion USD at current exchange rates.

Of that 3 billion euros, they say, the national government would pony up 1 billion; the city of Paris, 145 million; the Paris regional government another 145 million; the region of Seine-Saint Denis 135 million. That totals 1.425 billion euros.

The remaining funds — easy math, 1.575 billion euros — is, according to Paris 2024, “already secured and guaranteed by various other public authorities and institutions.”

For purposes of discussion, let’s take our French friends at their word.

Here, though, is the lesson from prior Games that are not the model of Los Angeles 1984 — that is, that are not privately run and that depend in part or, more likely, in significant measure on government dollars, as a Paris 2024 Games would, and this is why the IOC needs Los Angeles now and not Paris.

As London 2012 and Rio 2016 proved and Tokyo 2020 is proving again, if the government is a democracy and not a more authoritative if not autocratic institution — think China or Russia — commitments change. 

It may be worthy of an academic or journalistic panel in these early days of 2017 to have a discussion about what is a “fact” and what makes for the “truth,” but it is a damn fact and that is the straight-up truth: commitments change.

That is what the past 20 years have proven, and unequivocally.

The consequence of that fact and that truth is the follow-on taxpayer freak-out.

There is the equation.

That equation needs to be broken.

That's what a private-sector bid like Los Angeles — in 2024 just as in 1984 — does. 

In LA, 2024, 1984, math is math.

What does that mean?

It means, simply, the math is certain. There is no other option because there is no government money. For taxpayers, that means there is no risk of having to siphon off monies that would otherwise be designated for, say, some social service.

Thus: no freak-out.

The LA24 plan says $5.3 billion. It will be $5.3 billion.

Actually, costs probably won’t even reach $5.3 billion. They probably will total less. And the “fact” is, which the bid committee can’t say for political reasons but this space can because it’s patently obvious: the Summer Games haven’t been in the United States since 1996 in Atlanta, which means pent-up sponsor demand. That means all involved are virtually certain to make tons of money.

IOC friends, to reiterate: all involved are likely to make money instead of reading bitter news reports about overruns and deficits.

Again, even if you might be inclined not to like us Americans all that much, everyone can get behind certainty and surplus.

Relevance is good

Which brings us to the next element:

Along with certainty and surplus, you also get everything that makes California, the world's sixth-largest economy, so relevant. The IOC’s No. 1 objective is to be relevant with young people. What, especially, do they like? Tech and media. That’s why the IOC launched the Channel. California means tech and media like nowhere else. Here, then, is the opportunity to combine tech and media with sport. So obvious.

Hollywood. Facebook. Apple. Snapchat. Google. Twitter.

These companies and industries, genuinely, want to get involved. Why? An Olympics in Los Angeles in 2024 would not only be prestigious, interesting and unusual. It’s a vehicle though which these companies could reach literally billions of people. In Olympic speak — they could grow not just the IOC brand but, as well, the individual sports themselves that make up the Olympic Games.

Straight up: it's not just the companies and industries of California but the people of LA who would like to have you. Like nine of 10 say, yay for the Olympics! In a democracy, those numbers are all but unheard-of. 

More, and IOC friends: you really do want to be on Mr. Trump's good side. Because if you turn down Los Angeles after dinging Chicago for 2016 and New York — Mr. Trump’s kind of town — for 2012, it really might not go so well for you. This means you and the IOC itself.

Just something to think about.

While you wonder why we like ice so much. We're different. Different doesn't need to be better or worse. Just different. 

By 2024, it will have been 28 years since Atlanta, 40 since the last time you were at the Coliseum like the daybreakers were at sunrise on Thursday.

Straight up: it’s time to come to California. Dude, kind of a no-brainer, really.

Sustainability? Legacy? LA 1984 revisited


No one likes I-told-you-so’s, and if there is a good lord up above, he — or she — knows full well that others find it tiresome, indeed, to hear Americans boasting about anything. So this is not — repeat, not — that column. There’s no point. At the same time, it’s just plain dumb to ignore reality. So, now, with International Olympic Committee extolling a renewed commitment to “sustainability” and “legacy,” and with the true believers this week celebrating the 30th anniversary of the 1984 Games that changed everything, it’s entirely reasonable to look anew at those Los Angeles Olympics. Because they didn’t just save the modern Olympic movement — they set the standard for sustainability and legacy, too.

Also this: if in more recent Olympic bid campaigns, U.S. efforts have gotten knocked down in part because American cities are different — the whole notion of 50 states means the federal government itself won’t underwrite a bid the way national governments in other countries will — it’s only fair now to note for the record that the LA Games, while often touted as privately run, absolutely included significant public monies.

Rafer Johnson with the torch at the 1984 30th anniversary party. That's Mary Lou Retton at the right // photo courtesy LA84 Foundation

It’s easy, perhaps even understandable, for others elsewhere to want to beat up on the United States, the world’s only superpower.

However, when it comes to the Olympics, and issues of sustainability, legacy and public-private partnership, the question — as the historical record proves without a shadow of a doubt — is, why the knock on the USA?

You’d think the American way would be celebrated as a model.

The planning that went into the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games, for instance, was always meant to transform the U.S. into a winter-sports nation — with major universities in and around town and world-class venues just up Interstate 80 in Park City, Deer Valley and a few minutes beyond in Soldier Hollow. The proof has come in the medals count in Vancouver and Sochi.

If in Olympic circles no one much likes to talk loudly about Atlanta — the main Olympic Stadium, when all is said and done in two years, will have served as the home for the baseball Braves for nearly 20 years. There's a legitimate argument about whether 20 years is enough -- but compare 20 years of day-in, day-out baseball to, for instance, the Bird's Nest in Beijing or the Olympic Stadium in Athens.

And then, of course, there is Los Angeles — where on Monday evening, at the LA84 Foundation grounds, they held a low-key party to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the opening ceremony.

Just as he did on July 28, 1984, Rafer Johnson carried the torch. This time, though, it wasn’t up the steeply angled staircase that had been built at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. It was only a few easy, level steps.

“Tonight was fantastic,” Johnson said as he posed for photos with Peter Ueberroth, who oversaw those 1984 Games. “No stairs.”

The gymnast Mary Lou Retton was on hand. The hurdler Edwin Moses. Dozens more athletes from 1984. Anita DeFrantz, the senior IOC member to the United States and the foundation president, herself a bronze medalist from the 1976 Montreal Games.

Even Sammy Lee, the gold medal-winning diver from 1948 and 1952.

It was a celebration — and there was, upon reflection, much to celebrate.

Peter Ueberroth at the 1984 30th anniversary celebration // photo courtesy LA84 Foundation

The foundation was created with 40 percent of the $232.5 million 1984 surplus.

Since 1985, the foundation has invested $220 million into Southern California youth sports. This includes $103.3 million in direct grants, plus spending on foundation-initiated youth sports programs, coaching education, research projects, youth sports conferences.

The foundation has developed a major sports library and digital collection, and has published reports on, among other topics, the prevention of ACL injuries, the educational benefits of youth sports, increasing Latina sports participation and tackling in youth football.

The foundation’s grants have served three million young people (under age 17). Some 1,100 organizations have received grants. About 80,000 youth sports coaches have been trained.

Simply put, is there another institution in the world, anywhere, that has done anything like the LA84 Foundation?

Remarkably, it has done even more — its definition of “legacy” incredibly expansive.

LA84 has made over $20 million in infrastructure grants. That investment, in turn, has leveraged another $100 million from other funders. That money has meant nearly 100 facilities have been refurbished or built from the ground up.

Among the most notable projects: the John Argue Swim Stadium at Exposition Park across from the University of Southern California, in which the 1932 Olympic Swim Stadium was refurbished, and the construction of the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center in Pasadena, California.

LA84 has an ongoing partnership with the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation. To date, 30 baseball fields have been built.

That $232.5 million figure has long been a source of fascination, if not more.

In 1978, Los Angeles voters, by a wide margin, voted against public funding for the Games. And as the official report of the 1984 Games notes, the federal government turned down a $200 million grant request from the LA84 organizing committee in the "early" planning stages.

Even so, there absolutely was public spending on the Games.

For instance:

-- The federal government spent $30 to $35 million for security; other federal agencies projected another $38 million in spending, which was accounted for through additional appropriations or by reduced spending in non-Olympic areas. The LA84 organizing committee budgets do not account for these federal funds.

-- The state of California would claim $14.3 million in unreimbursed Olympic costs but only $3.6 million represented a special appropriation.

-- The organizing committee paid for policing in Los Angeles and other Southern California cities.

Overall, the $232.5 million surplus is, as it should be, strictly a reflection of the organizing committee's budget. Even so, if you were to figure in federal, state and local spending, there's still no question the organizing committee would have finished the 1984 Olympics way into the black.

Finally, this:

On November 1, 1984, the LA Times published a story whose headline declared, “Giant Olympic Surplus Spills Over Into Anger.” At that point, the surplus was being estimated at perhaps $150 million — the $232.5 million figure would not yet be known — and the city attorney in Fullerton, California, was bemoaning the money it had paid out to hold the Olympic team handball events at the Cal State campus there.

It would be a fascinating measure of legacy, indeed, to weigh the costs to taxpayers in or before 1984 against LA84 Foundation grants to public entities in the 30 years since.


Living in the moment: track's It Couple


The world’s greatest athlete is taking his first outdoor runs of the season in the pole vault. His coach, Harry Marra, is here, of course, at the Westmont College track, in the hills above Santa Barbara, California. His wife, Brianne, herself the reigning indoor and outdoor silver medalist in the women’s versions of the all-around event, is here, too, practicing her javelin throws and running some hard sprints.

Ashton Eaton is the 2012 gold medalist at the London Games in the decathlon. At the U.S. Olympic Trials earlier that year, he set the world record in the event. He is the 2013 Moscow decathlon world champion. He is also the 2012 and 2014 gold medalist in the heptathlon, the indoor version of the multi-discipline event. He holds the heptathlon world record, too, and missed setting it again at the 2014 indoor worlds by one second in the 1000 meters.

On this day, a bungee cord takes the place of the bar at 5 meters, or 16 feet, 4 ¾ inches. Eaton takes his practice runs. He doesn’t go one after the other, in sequence. No. He shares pole vault time, and graciously, with a 54-year-old doctor of holistic health, Victor Berezovskiy, and a 77-year-old clinical psychologist, Tom Woodring.

Ashton Eaton and Brianne Theisen Eaton after practice at Westmont College

This scene summarizes perhaps all that is both sweet and unsettling about the state of track and field in our world in 2014.

It’s sweet because the fact that Ashton Eaton would so willingly, humbly take practice runs with these two guys speaks volumes about his character. Obviously, neither is coming anywhere close to 5 meters. It’s no problem. Eaton patiently helps them both with their marks. In turn, they watch his take-off points.

Sweet because Ashton Eaton and Brianne Theisen Eaton – he’s now 26, she’s 25 – are, by every measure, track and field’s It Couple. They are at the top of their games. Yet here they are, at the track, just like everyone – anyone – else, practicing. And practicing some more. And then some more, still.

Because, obviously, that’s how you get better. How even the best get better.

It’s hard work that gets you to the top and for those who have seen track and field tainted these past 25 or so years by far too many doping-related scandals, here are Ashton and Brianne, examples of the right stuff. Never say never about anyone. But Ashton and Brianne? So wholesome, Harry says, and he has been in the business for, well, a lot of years, and seen it all, and he adds for emphasis that they don’t even take Flintstone vitamins.

Ashton follows his pole-vaulting with a series of 400 hurdle splits, trying to get the timing down – how many steps between each? 13? All the way around? Does he cut the hurdle? Float? What’s right? She does her repeat 150s so hard that, when she’s done, it’s all she can do in the noontime sun to find some shade.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is how you rise to the top.

And yet – the questions have to be asked:

Is track all the better because it’s a kind of extended family where one of its biggest names can hang on a sunny morning practice with a 54-year-old and a 77-year-old?

Or isn’t that, in its way, kind of ludicrous?

Does LeBron James practice with a 54-year-old doctor of holistic health?

Do Peyton Manning or Tom Brady run 7-on-7 drills with a 77-year-old clinical psychologist at wide receiver?

Tom Woodring, 77, left, and Victor Berezovskiy, 54, right, with Ashton Eaton

It’s not that James, Manning and Brady don’t understand their responsibilities as stars. But this is – practice. This is not a fan meet-and-greet.

What if things were different for track and field? What if the decathlon champ was The Man, the way it was when Bruce Jenner and, before him, the likes of Bill Toomey, Rafer Johnson and others were venerated the way Manning, Brady and James are now?

It’s not just Ashton. Brianne is herself a major, major talent.

Of course, track and field does not hold the same place in the imagination that it once did. Dan O’Brien, the 1996 Olympic decathlon winner, is not The Man the way Jenner was. Bryan Clay, the 2008 Olympic decathlon winner – not The Man the way Jenner was.

And that’s no knock on either O’Brien or Clay.

Times simply have changed. Jenner won in Montreal in 1976. That is a long time ago.

Yet in Ashton and Brianne, track has a marquee couple.  Here are breakout stars in the making: doping-free, handsome, articulate, passionate about advancing track and field the same way Michael Phelps has always been for swimming. Phelps is on bus stop advertisements in Shanghai. Why aren’t these two, for instance, featured on the bright lights looking out and over Times Square?

For sure that would be better for the sport.

Would it be better for Ashton and Brianne – and Harry?

It’s all very complex.

Right now, track and field is, for all intents and purposes, Usain Bolt.

Isn’t there room for Ashton and Brianne, too?

The scene at Westmont this weekday morning is all the more striking because it comes amid the news Phelps will be racing again. The media attention enveloping Phelps is, predictably, striking.

Yes, Phelps is the best in the world at what he does.

Then again – so are these two.

Yet here are Ashton and Brianne and Harry – and, for that matter, a Canadian delegation that includes Damian Warner, the 2013 world bronze medalist in the decathlon – going about their business at Westmont, along with the others at the host Santa Barbara Track Club, with no interference, no autograph requests, no attention.

Phelps has always sought to live a normal life. But let’s be real: could Phelps walk around Westmont – or, for that matter, any college campus in the United States – with the same quietude?

Coach Harry Marra watches as Brianne Theisen Eaton throws the javelin

After practice, there is a quick session in the Westmont pool. No one swims like Phelps. Then it’s over to the Westmont cafeteria, where lunch is five bucks and the beet salad is, genuinely, awesome.

Brianne says they consistently make a point of reminding themselves that these are the best days of their lives – to live, truly live, in the present and know that they are experiencing special moments.

“To somebody who is in it more for fame or money,” Brianne says, “they would have a lot different outlook on this.”

“The goal is to improve yourself,” Ashton says.

“The goal is excellence,” Harry echoes.

So sweet.


This Eaton couple is really good

SOPOT, Poland — From the bang of the first gun Friday, it was crystal-clear Ashton Eaton is truly one of the most remarkable and versatile athletes of our time. On the track, he seemingly does everything so well. Why doesn’t he get more due? Running in Lane 8 in the 60-meter dash, Eaton got off to a quick start and, outlined in Team USA red against the blue track, an even-faster finish. He crossed in 6.66 seconds, equaling a personal best.

Eaton is of course the 2012 Olympic decathlon champ. He is, too, the decathlon world-record holder. The heptathlon, the indoor version, offers seven events instead of 10. Eaton’s last three heptathlons have produced world records as well — at the last world indoors, in Istanbul in 2012, he racked up 6,645 points.

Ashton Eaton in the long jump portion of the heptathlon // photo Getty Images

To watch Eaton Friday — and, for that matter, the Ethiopian middle distance runner Genzebe Dibaba — is to bear witness to athletic greatness.

Track and field is lucky to have them both.

It is lucky to have anyone, frankly, not named Bolt because the sport cannot be all Usain all the time. Since 2008, when the record-breaking rampage in the sprints began, if most casual fans were asked to name just one track and field athlete the answer would, of course, be Bolt.

Generally speaking, an overarching question for track and field this weekend is easy to frame. These Sopot indoor world championships, as IAAF president Lamine Diack noted at a news conference Thursday, make for the biggest meet of the year, with some 600 athletes from roughly 140 nations. There will be a first edition of the world relays — in the Bahamas in May — but there are no outdoor world championships in 2014.

Bolt is not here in Sopot. He does not do the indoors.

For track fans, as Diack noted, these indoors are indeed a big deal. For everyone else?

The situation is further complicated when the likes of American Nick Symmonds, a silver medalist in the 800 at the 2013 Moscow worlds — he of the new Brooks shoe contract, he of the book due out in June — announces after failing Friday to qualify for the 800 finals that he is done, forever, running indoors.

“It’s a season to have fun and try different things,” Symmonds, always candid, said, adding, “There’s one championship, I want to be out there, I want to give my sponsor the best exposure I can,” and here he waved his shoes at the camera, “so here I am, having a good time even though I’m not in the finals.”

With Dibaba, the major challenge for the sport is she does not speak English — at a time when English is increasingly the global language. Eaton, if he were seemingly anywhere but Oregon, could go to the mall unpestered. Good for him. Bad for track.

First, Dibaba.

Her running style is elegant. Moreover, she comes from running royalty. Her older sister, Tirunesh, has five Olympic distance-event running medals, three gold; another sister, Ejegayehu, is the 2004 Athens 10k silver medalist; a cousin, Derartu Tulu, is the 1992 and 2000 10k gold medalist.

Genzebe Dibaba won the 1500 in Istanbul. In London, a hamstring injury took her out. At the 2013 Moscow world championships, she finished — surprisingly — eighth in the 1500.

This winter, she has simply been on a tear.

Within two weeks in early February, she set two world records — 3:55.17 in the 1500 and 8:16.6 in the 3k. For good measure, she also ran a two-mile world best, 9:00.48.

Here, because this is only a three-day meet, she said she had to choose between the 1500 and the 3k. She opted for the 3k, and in Friday’s heat made it look too easy, running away from the field in 8:57.86.

In the heats, they typically don’t run any faster than they need to — yes, that was indeed 40 seconds slower than that new world record.

She said afterward, “The race went very well. I didn’t want to lead in the early laps. I only wanted to move up with five laps remaining, and I executed my plan. I know I have a great time in this event, and it gives me great confidence.

The Kenyan running in the second heat is the one I have to watch out for,” she said, referring to Hellen Onsando Obiri, who finished behind Maryam Yusuf Jamal of Bahrain in a much-faster heat. Jamal, moving up for the first time from the 1500, finished in 8:53.07, Obiri, the reigning Kenyan champion, in 8:53.31.

“My goal is to win,” Dibaba said. “I don’t think I’ll have a hard time taking gold, God willing.”

Eaton’s elemental goal is to win, too.

In seemingly every way, Eaton comes off as the perfect package. He is not only an athletic talent, he is handsome, well-spoken and humble. And he is now one-half of track’s power couple, married to Canadian Brianne Theisen. Last summer, when he won gold in the decathlon at the world championships, she won silver in the heptathlon; they train together in Eugene, Ore., under coach Harry Mara.

At a news conference here, Eaton had said, “My coach will definitely be the most tired tomorrow. This is the first time [Brianne and I] have done a world indoor championships together. This will be the first time we’ve competed [in the combined events] at the same meet in such close proximity.

“So when I’m doing the long jump, she’ll be doing shot put; we’ll be 20 meters away. It’ll be fun to kind of look over and cheer her on and see how she’s doing and also get some encouragement. We do practice together and it’ll increase our performances being able to feed off each other.”

The pentathlon is a one-day event. Theisen Eaton, with 4768 points, a Canadian record, finished a close second Friday behind Nadine Boersen of Holland, with 4830.

Just 237 points separated first and eighth in the pentathlon — it was the closest-ever contest at the world indoors.

If the 2013 Moscow heptathlon silver marked a breakthrough, this 2014 Sopot silver served as confirmation that she, too, is a world-class talent.

It also served as evidence of her mental resolve -- the thing that all champions have, and must show under pressure.

Theisen Eaton started off the long jump with two fouls before jumping 6.13 meters, or 20 feet, 1-1 1/2 inches.

After that second foul, she said, he — preparing for the shot put — smiled, clapped his hands and said, “Keep going.”

She added, “That is the exact moment when I looked for kind of comfort because I felt scared. It’s great competing with him.”

She also said, “It’s almost like unfair, because no one else gets that.”

During the 800, her final event, “I knew that he would be right there, [saying], ‘Come on, Bri, pick it up, pick it up.’ I thought, ‘I can’t, it’s hard.’ I could just hear him cheering.”

He said, “I am proud of her. I wish she could have gotten one of those long jumps. But that is the way it goes.”

In the night’s only other final, the men’s shot put, American Ryan Whiting took gold with a toss — on his fourth throw — of 22.05,  or 72-4 1/4.

For the first time ever at a world indoors, five guys went over 21 meters. Whiting,  however, was the only guy in the pack to go over 22.

In Oregon, as noted, Eaton is something of a rock star.

Elsewhere in the United States? The reality is, Marcus Mariota, the quarterback for the Ducks’ football team, would be better known, and by a lot.

That is the — now seemingly eternal, if not infernal — challenge.

The days when Bob Mathias, Milt Campbell, Bill Toomey, Rafer Johnson, even Bruce Jenner were the man among men — those days are long, long gone.

All Eaton does is relentlessly produce.

The long jump — the heptathlon's second event of seven — seemed to doom any world-record bid. Eaton jumped a season-best 7.78, 25-6 1/4. Again, that was best in the field. But in Istanbul two years ago he jumped 8.16, 26-9 1/4.

Then, though, In the evening session, in the shot put, he crept back toward world-record pace, throwing 14.88, 48-10. In Istanbul, his best had been 14.56, 47-9 1/4.

After three events in Istanbul, Eaton had been at 2823 points. After three in Sopot: 2794. Just 29 off.

In the high jump, he banged out 2.06, or 6-9. In Istanbul, he went 2.03, 6-8.

His overnight score in Istanbul: 3654. In Sopot, after that huge effort in the high jump: 3653.

Andrei Krauchanka of Belarus would clear 2.21, 7-3, the outright best-ever within a heptathlon high jump at a world indoors. That pulled him to 3583 points overnight, 70 back of Eaton.

The hurdles, pole vault and 1000 are set for Saturday.

“That is another thing,” Brianne Theisen Eaton said. “I just want to go to sleep and feel at home, you know. Get ready for him for his next day, bring him dinner so he can just lay in bed and relax.”

“I’ve been running great hurdles this year so try to run great again,” Eaton said. Same in the pole vault. “And if I have to go for a record in the 1000, I’ll do it.”

2024: LA's time again?


Shutters on the Beach, the Santa Monica hotel, is one of those Southern California legends. The beautiful people go there, and for excellent reason. You get there by heading west down Pico Boulevard until it dead ends at the sand. The president of the University of Southern California, C.L. Max Nikias, had them in full roar Wednesday evening for an alumni event at Shutters. It was not even two and one half years ago that USC announced a $6 billion fundraising campaign. Already, the president said, the university is more than halfway to its goal.

A few blocks away from USC itself, the 73-story Wilshire Grand Hotel is going up at 7th and Figueroa streets, a $1-billion downtown Los Angeles complex with 900 rooms and 30 floors of office space. It will be the tallest building west of the Mississippi River.

2014-01-29 12.04.00

Just steps away from that, of course, is the LA Live complex, anchored by Staples Center, where the Lakers, Clippers and Kings play, and where ESPN has its West Coast studio. The Ritz-Carlton and Marriott there have already become destinations. In 2011, it’s where the International Olympic Committee held its Women and Sport conference; just a few weeks back, USA Swimming’s Golden Goggles gala took place in the same ballroom.

There really can be little doubt Wednesday why USA Track & Field chose Los Angeles — over Houston — as the site of the 2016 U.S. Olympic marathon Trials.

In short: LA is rocking, especially downtown LA, which used to be dreadful but is now staking a claim to be hipster central.

The intrigue, really, is whether the U.S. Olympic Committee will see what is becoming increasingly obvious as it weighs not only whether to get into the race for the 2024 Summer Games but what U.S. city to pick: Los Angeles just might be — again — the right place at the right time.

There’s only one Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Athletes from all over the world want to compete there, to make history, the way it was made in 1932 and 1984.

It’s why there could be only place for the announcement that the marathon Trials were coming to LA — the famed peristyle end of the Coliseum.

It was just after 12 on a glorious January afternoon, the California bear flag swaying overhead to one side, the American flag on the other by those three stately palm trees reaching up high into the sky.  The new Los Angeles mayor, Eric Garcetti, fixed LA’s place in the sun for one and all, saying, “Los Angeles is the western capital of the United States, the eastern capital of the Pacific Rim and the northern capital of Latin America.”

To be clear, the USOC is in no hurry to make any sort of announcement. The IOC won’t pick a site until 2017. The USOC has more pressing concerns — like the impending Sochi Games — before it resumes its focus on 2024.

Yet as the IOC members begin arriving over the weekend in Sochi for the meetings that precede next Friday’s opening ceremony, the issue of what the USOC will do for 2024 will be gathering increasing relevance.

Sochi and the Rio 2016 Summer Games are seen by many within the Olympic movement as “adventures.”

In 2018 and 2020, the Games will be in Asia, in choices seen as involving less risk, in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and Tokyo.

The 2022 race is just now taking shape. But insiders are already suggesting it would be little surprise to see Almaty, Kazakhstan, and Beijing emerge as frontrunners. Both, again, are seen as choices involving less risk. The IOC will pick the 2022 city in 2015.

Again for 2024 — at this very early stage, the IOC is known to be keen to be soliciting a U.S. bid.

The USOC wants in only if it has the closest thing to a guarantee — of course there is no such thing — that it is going to win. It can not afford another debacle like Chicago 2016 or New York 2012.

If the USOC jumps in, the obvious question is, what city gives it the best chance?

Chicago? With its amazing lakefront? And great technical plan for 2016? Not likely. The mayor was President Obama’s key adviser when Chicago got bounced.

New York? The new mayor seemingly has other priorities.

Boston? Not once over the last year has even one IOC member been heard to say, you know what, I would really, really love to spend 17 days in Boston, Massachusetts. Also, if Mitt Romney — who, genuinely, did a first-rate job running the Salt Lake 2002 Games — is serious about getting back into the Olympic scene, advising the Boston 2024 people, he had better brush up on some reading. He told Fox News two weeks ago that the Munich Games had issues with Hitler; the Munich Games were in 1972, 27 years after Hitler’s death. (Mr. Romney’s staffers: see Berlin, 1936.)

Dallas? The state of Texas could for sure meet the IOC’s financial guarantees. But not a chance Dallas can win. Among its several challenges, beyond being in the American South, and the South is where Atlanta is, and the IOC still recalls Atlanta 1996 all too well: the first thing that comes to mind for some who don’t know about Dallas is, believe it or not, the JFK assassination. Not a positive vibe for an IOC election.

Houston? Not running.

There is sound reason to consider San Francisco, and seriously. It has technology assets the IOC, bluntly, needs. It is typically seen as every European’s favorite American city, and the IOC is heavily dominated by European interests. USOC board chairman Larry Probst is based in the Bay Area. Moreover, San Francisco has never played host to the Games and LA, of course, has done it twice.

It’s that twice-before thing that, over the past several bid cycles, has been a considerable strike against LA.

Now that London is a three-time host, though, that has opened the door for LA, and perhaps in a big way.

A significant faction within the IOC is known to favor New York and LA, and if New York truly ends up being a non-starter — that tilts things considerably.

The New York thing is all about the 2012 bid. It’s about what people remember.

LA: the same, and more. Given all the uncertainties in our uncertain world, it may be, as a symposium at the LA 84 Foundation last Saturday suggested, that the IOC needs Los Angeles — the same way it did in 1984, when Los Angeles was essentially the only city in the world that wanted the Olympics, and 1932, the first Games to last 16 days and the first with an athletes’ village.

The Games, it must be understood, are part of the fabric of civic life in Los Angeles.

Olympic Boulevard? That’s 10th Street. Named after the X Olympiad, the 10th Olympic Games, in 1932.

For most Angelenos, the period from the moment Rafer Johnson lit the cauldron in 1984 until the day Rodney King was beaten by police in 1991 were golden years in Southern California, and they want a new version of those years.

The LA city council, the county board of supervisors, other local political figures — they all support the idea of a 2024 Games. There’s no political opposition. Only support.

To emphasize that point, Garcetti keeps a 1984 LA Olympic torch in his office. How many mayors do that kind of thing? For real — not for show.

Thousands of would-be Olympic athletes train in Southern California. Hundreds of Olympians live in the area.

You want shopping? There’s Beverly Hills and more. Disneyland? Right. You want celebrities, Hollywood, the beach? Check, check, check.

The weather? Only perfect.

That blockbuster hotel complex going up downtown? Yang Ho Cho, who runs the South Korean conglomerate, Hanjin Group, is not only a USC trustee — he led the winning Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Games bid.

In an era in which the IOC is avowedly seeking to minimize costs, 85 percent of what’s needed for a 2024 LA Games is already on the ground.

And then, of course, there’s the Coliseum.

Garcetti, speaking in Spanish — the mayor is so fluent he asked a reporter whether she wanted a question answered in English or Spanish — called the Coliseum “a grand symbol of Los Angeles’ Olympic history,” which is, of course, the essence of the thing.

USC now has a 98-year master lease for the place. They’d have to put a new track inside; it’s football-only now. But, you know, these things can be worked out if that’s what everyone wants.

The mayor, back to English, said of the 2016 marathon Trials, “This is a great thing on its own.” And then he also said, “Los Angeles is truly a great Olympic town.”


Ashton Eaton: decathlon world record

EUGENE, Ore. -- Bruce Jenner, before he became the guy who hung around with the Kardashians, was once the best athlete in the world. This was 1976. That was a special summer. It was the Bicentennial. Sixteen Tall Ships sailed into New York Harbor. And Bruce Jenner was larger than life. During the Montreal Olympics, Bruce Jenner rocked. He won the gold medal in the decathlon, and ABC's cameras followed his every move. He was the living embodiment of all that was red, white and blue, and he understood then what he understands now. As he said,  "They were looking for stories." America doesn't really know or understand the complexities of the decathlon. Americans just love stories.

Ashton Eaton broke the world record Saturday in the decathlon at Hayward Field. He is 24. He is handsome and well-spoken. He is now heir to the title of best athlete in the world and the London 2012 Olympics beckon, in high-definition glory.

What a story.

"I think the reason the decathlon is so appealing," Eaton said, "when you try it and you do it, is because it's like living an entire lifetime in two days.

"You have the ups, the downs, the good, the bad. The comebacks. It all happens in two days. Everybody loves life. That's why we love the decathlon. It's just like life."

Eaton scored 9,039 points over the two days, breaking the prior record -- set by Czech Roman Seberle at a meet in Gotzis, Austria in 2001 -- by a mere 13 points.

To break it, Eaton had to run the final event here, the 1500, in 4:16.37. His previous best had been 4:18.94. Eaton is an Oregon native and went to college here, at the University of Oregon. The locals were going berserk in the stands. Even so, he was two seconds slow with a lap to go -- but then turned it on to finish in 4:14.48.

Trey Hardee, the 2009 and 2011 decathlon world champion, finished second, with 8,383 points. He is recovering from a surgically repaired right elbow and was, as he candidly acknowledged, cruising through this meet, thrilled to have thrown the javelin without ripping his elbow to bits.

Only he and Eaton qualified for London.

Bryan Clay, the 2008 Olympic champion, who had a solid first day, had a run-in Saturday with the hurdles. That produced a lengthy appeals process; ultimately, his time and scores were counted. But it left him so unfocused in the next event, the discus, which traditionally had been a strength, that he fouled three straight times.

With no score in the discus, he was essentially out. But he did not quit. He stayed in the event until the end, saying later, "There was a lot of hope and exception there and when you see that go out the window it's pretty disappointing. It was important to finish. I know I needed to finish. I didn't want to finish.

"… Between [my coaches] and my wife and my kids and everybody, I had to finish. The last thing I wanted to do is look back on things and have my kids remember the time I didn't finish the decathlon. As much as I didn't want to, there was really no other option."

He also said, "It was a rough day for me. But it was fun to be part of what Ashton had going on."

Hardee said much the same, adding that when historians assess this record they should take the wicked weather -- the nasty, cold rain that has soaked Hayward over the past two days -- into account.

It should come with bonus "parentheses and asterisks and everything" to denote degree of difficulty, Hardee said.

Eaton won seven of the 10 events on the program. That is genuinely impressive, and all the more so in the football weather that he had to do it in.

The world record is the first set at the U.S. Trials since Michael Johnson's 19.66 in the 200, at Atlanta in 1996, according to USA Track & Field. It also marked the fifth time an American set a decathlon world record at the Trials; Jenner had done it the last time, in 1976.

Making Eaton's accomplishment all the more special is that he did it in front of some of the American legends of the sport.

Here, along with Jenner: Milt Campbell, the 1956 Olympic gold medalist. Rafer Johnson, the 1960 gold medalist. Bill Toomey, the 1968 gold medalist. Dan O'Brien, the 1996 gold medalist.

Of course Eaton also broke the American record -- that was 8,891 points, set by O'Brien, at a meet in France in 1992 -- on Saturday. O'Brien couldn't have been more gracious, saying, "I had the record for 20 years and I'm happy for him."

Trey Hardee may have something to say about what happens in London. But all the signs are that it's Ashton Eaton's time.

And he is, genuinely, a great story. He gets it. And seemingly everyone in the sport is pulling for him.

"I really -- I really, truly love this event," Eaton said, trying to explain what the world record means.

"Not because I love running and jumping and all that stuff. Just because what it means and symbolizes for me -- just what the decathlon community, the track and field world is about. And maybe it's not about that much to the rest of the world but to me it's my whole world. To do the best that I possibly could in my world makes me really happy."