Today’s post comes from Reagan Library Education Department staffer Brett Robert.
14 May 1984 – John Hughes’ Sixteen Candles was flickering across the nation’s silver screens, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was born in White Plains, N.Y., and in Washington, D.C. the Olympic Torch came to the White House on its way to Los Angeles. President Reagan delivered a brief speech then attempted to help the two torch bearers light the new torch. Gymnast Kurt Thomas, who had competed in Men’s Gymnastics in 1976 at the Munich Olympiad and is also known as the star of the cult-classic film Gymkata, tried for several minutes to light the torch carried by Charlotte Pearson, a Special Olympics competitor. You’ll have to watch the video to see how it worked out in the end.
The Olympic torch relay in 1984 was somewhat controversial because it was the first time the torch relay was used as a fund raiser. For $3,000 anyone could run a kilometer with the torch, which meant many famous and infamous people participated alongside everyday citizens and accomplished former Olympians. The money raised went to charities, including groups like the West Valley YMCA in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley. President Reagan himself was enthusiastic about the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984, and didn’t let the controversy over either the Soviet boycott or the sponsorship of the relay dampen his spirits.
Over the next few weeks as the games in Rio take place, we’ll be featuring Olympic memories and moments from our records here on our Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts. Be sure to join us as we share our memories of past Olympiads while celebrating the emergence of new heroes in Rio de Janeiro. In the words of Ronald Reagan, from the speech linked above:
Athletes know better than anyone that there is more, much more, to the Olympic experience than winning medals. It’s the personal striving, the ability to achieve the fullest measure of human potential that counts most.