Peter V. Ueberroth, president of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee for the 1984 Games, was interviewed recently in his office near the UCLA campus by Washington Post staff writer Robert Fachet. Excerpts follow:
Q. As far as the budget goes, it is my understanding that this will be a noncost Olympics, with everything covered by corporations, ticket sales, television. Is that correct?
A. That's right. It must be that way. There was a law passed here in California, a city ordinance, 73 percent of the voters, prohibiting one penny's worth of government funds from being used in the Games.
Q. Do you have any concerns about inflation cutting into it, making it impossible?
A. We planned around double-digit inflation and we're monitored by two different accounting firms all the way, at our own choice, and we pay them handsomely. We're not operating on any credit, we pay as we go, and I think from the financial side the Games will be adequately managed.
Q. What do the corporations get for the money they're spending, which I understand is well over $100 million dollars?
A. First, you should know we don't accept donations from individuals or corporations. We recommend anyone that wants to donate money could donate it to the United States Olympic Committee in Colorado Springs. Their job is to train athletes for Pan Am Games and Olympic Games from our country. Our job is to put on the Olympic Games. The corporate sponsors, first of all, join a very quiet, select group of people that care about youth in sports, because they can't just pay us money to become a sponsor of the Games. They have to show us a dedication to young people in this country and to sports on a long-term basis. They get identification with the most important sporting event in the history of mankind, a sporting event which will be viewed by 2 1/2 billion people. They have the opportunity of using our mascot (Sam the Olympic Eagle) and our logo (Star in Motion) with their products, but not during the Games, because we want to be sure the Games are decommercialized. We think that some of the recent Games have been overly commercialized, with an official hair spray and official chapstick and official all things. There were 381 sponsors of the Lake Placid Games and we've reduced the number to 30, and all of these have to prove their worth to the youth in the community. Any surplus we have goes to kids in sports in this country, so we think that that's positive.
Q. You've answered my next question, which was whether you thought the Olympics were becoming overly commercialized.
A. We'll be attacked because we've done well commercially, but there will not be a sign in any stadium, there won't even be a blimp going overhead, there will be no commercialization other than very small signs permitted on the scoreboards of Swiss Timing and Westinghouse, which are doing the scoreboards.
Q. What new facilities are required for these Olympics, how will they be obtained and how will they be used afterward?
A. There's an office building you can see out the window that will be the Olympic headquarters. We will give that to UCLA as a gift when the games are over. At USC, the other major Olympic Village, you will see a new swim center under construction. It will be the finest swim center in the world and that will be given to them after the Games are over . . . paid for by the McDonald's Corp. . . . Also, the Southland Corp. is building a velodrome, the first time there has been a world-class cycling stadium in this country, so our athletes don't have to go abroad to train. It will be the 7-11 Velodrome, but again, no signs or other commercialization.
Q. A lot of people question the future of the Olympic Games. Do you think they're getting so big that they can't be handled and the eventual solution is world championships in each sport?
A. I don't think that's valid. However, the Olympic movement must withstand gigantism. The Olympic movement has had political problems all its life from the very beginning. They get better and they get worse. I hope we can get it back on the good track by having a Games more reasonable in cost and more just an athletic event. That's our dedication, to have an Olympic Games for the athletes of the world, that's a pure athletic event.
A. There is some fear of a boycott by the Soviets, or the Africans, who always seem to be talking about it. What would be the effect if they didn't show and what do you think the chances are?
A. I don't think there is a very high risk of boycott. One thing that the Soviet Union and the United States agree on is that boycotts only do one thing well, and that is hurt athletes. The boycotting black African nations at Montreal, who left the Village crying and not able to compete, did not do anything to stop apartheid. And our athletes after training four years denied the rights to the Moscow Games did not do anything about Afghanistan. I think that lesson probably has been learned.
Q. There was some question from the Soviets about security at the Games. Have you made any adjustments on the basis of talks with them?
A. We make no adjustments based on talks with the Soviets. But security planning has been ongoing for a year already and there are still 2 1/2 years before the Games. Los Angeles is blessed with a truly excellent police force and a sheriff's department the size of the police force in manpower. So we have the double units, both of those locally combined with other local law enforcement and then the commitment of the federal law enforcement, which includes all the federal agencies, to make these a safe Games.
Q. What is the housing situation for the athletes? Are they going to be in several places?
A. Really only two places. See those yellow buildings (UCLA dorms)? They go up the hill and there are some red buildings beyond them and that will make up one-half the Olympic Villages (the other half will be the USC dorms). I might say each will be about the size of prior Olympic Villages. There is no ambiance loss to the athletes. There should be athletes from all five continents at each place and, I mean, how many can you get to know?
Q. When Mr. (IOC President Juan Antonio) Samaranch was here, did he request that any changes be made in anything you were doing?
A. When he left, he had a press conference and he said he was pleased. I don't think an organizing committee has been this far along in recent history. All our construction--we have about nine construction sites--are going on now and they'll all be completed in '82 and paid for in '82, thus avoiding the overrun problems of Montreal. So our concept of sponsors paying for them, that's going to work well.
Q. What about TV? A lot of people think that television has too much influence in the Games, for their $225 million or whatever.
A. Well, on a round-the-world basis it's over $300 million and I think they should have some influence, if they're paying for literally half the budgets for putting on the Games. They're paying for 90 percent of the funding to the International Olympic Committee--that's not us. But we've scheduled the events with weather as a condition, with the best availability for fans, with transportation in terms of the times when the freeways are so the people can come and go not in the high traffic hours, and with television in mind, so we've negotiated between those four items, and we don't please everybody, but I think we have a good schedule.
Q. What about the weather? Were changes made to allow for the heat?
A. Well, there're only endurance sports outdoors. It's about 5 percent of the Olympic Games. We've carefully scheduled those in the times of the best air quality. The Games themselves were selected for all the summer months in the times that were historically the best. There isn't a major city in the world that doesn't have problems with air quality. Here we have no altitude problem and no humidity problem.
Q. What about transportation?
A. We're going to name two or three major transportation companies and make them very visible handling transportation. We really have only one tight problem, and that's in and around the Coliseum. But we've had groups there in recent months that are many times the size of the Olympic Games. A few months ago we had on the same weekend the Rolling Stones concert with over 100,000, a USC football game with over 60,000, and we had the Street Scene, which is a festival right in around the Coliseum area, with 200,000, all going on at the same time, and the Rolling Stones type of crowd and the Street Scene type of crowd, rather rambunctious and not very orderly. So we'll have a lot less than that. But that's the only area that concerns us and we're planning adequately around that, because we do have three sports take place, plus half the Olympic Village in a very narrow area . . . The rest, we have our venues spread out enough that we don't have the problem that you have in a normal Olympic town.