1984: Santa Anita-An Olympic Venue
In terms of sports, 1984 was a big year for Southern California.
The first half of the year was a buildup to the Games of the Twenty-Third Olympiad. After multiple years of preparation, athletes from all around the world converged on the City of Angels for over two weeks to compete in the planet's greatest sporting competition.
The Olympics would involve mutlple venues in the Los Angeles area. The Forum, just next door to Hollywood Park (site of the inaugural Breeders' Cup that November), served as the home of Olympic basketball. In the city of Los Angeles, Dodger Stadium played host to baseball contests. And across town, the Memorial Coliseum, home of the Opening Ceremonies, became the stage for the track and field portion of the Games.
While Thoroughbred racing was not (and never has been) part of the Olympics, horses and riders did participate in the equestrian events.
The location for most of those events? Santa Anita Park.*
Being involved in the Olympics added to what was already a big year for the track, for Santa Anita's fiftieth birthday would follow in December. Before then, however, the grand venue was going to be part of a global event that would give it additional prestige.Tens of thousands visited the track to see the events, which included team and individual dressage as well as jumping. Television viewers all over the planet watched each competition from their homes.
Fans saw elegant horses and their elegant riders competing against the best the world had to offer. Those rooting for the American equestrian team were not disappointed. The group collected five medals, the most of any country, and they did it in their home nation.
The result for Santa Anita was that it became known worldwide in the span of a couple of weeks. People not just visited the track, or even merely saw it on televison. There were people who were introduced to it from countries thousands of miles away, making it known on an even larger scale. Millions of eyes were directed towards the Olympics, and everyone saw great horses, great riders, and a great racetrack. One of the sport's finest venues gained even more prominence as it prepared to celebrate its first half-century.
In the present day, visitors to Santa Anita can find a plaque commemorating that short but banner time in the track's history. If you move past the statue of John Henry and see the escalators leading to the second floor of the track, go to the left where there are doors leading to offices. Walk along that path, and you shall find the plaque.
There are probably quite a few who were there for the equestrian events at Santa Anita back then that still come to the track today. For those who were not there during those two weeks in the summer of 1984, however, they can read about it and become familiar with what is a truly unique chapter in the history of the Great Race Place.
*The eventing endurance part of the equestrian events was contested at Rancho Santa Fe's Fairbanks Country Club.
Source: "Equestrianism at the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games." S/R Olympic Sports. https://www.sports-reference.com/olympics/summer/1984/EQU/