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Olympic triumph in Los Angeles

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Each Olympics is successful in its own way - in its minidramas, its individual triumphs, and in its macrodramas and broader themes as well. By all these measures, the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics was a success.

Yes, the Soviet, East German, Polish, and other East-bloc teams that boycotted the event were missed. The United States' commanding edge in medals was not a fair representation of America's actual world athletic standing. The US did make gains, however, in providing better training conditions, support for athletes, and technological innovations in sports like cycling, which suggest the Americans would still have done better against the East Germans and Soviets than in the past.

If the East bloc was missed, the presence of China for the first time in 30 years was appreciated. The Chinese excelled in volleyball, gymnastics, diving. Television coverage of the games in China was increased from two hours a day to seven hours, because of public demand. Surely it must have helped to adjust the Chinese public's view of its place in the world to observe its athletes and coaches received so warmly in such a setting.

Some called it, admiringly, ''the Asian invasion.'' Not just China and Japan, which were among the leaders in winning team medals, but other Asian teams also made their presence felt. This sets the stage for the next Olympics, scheduled for 1988 in Seoul. The Pacific nations of the East have become some of today's most dynamic societies. If the Soviet bloc's absence allowed the Asian athletes to shine more brightly in Los Angeles, this was some compensation.


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