David Simon first went to Beijing in 1984 as a guest of the Chinese Olympic delegation after its return from participating in the L.A. games. He had served as vice president of the organizing committee of the L.A. Olympics, and was invited to dinner by two men involved in the Chinese Olympic program who waited until after the meal to ask him their key question.
"They wanted to know if I thought that China could host the Olympics," Simon said.
The following day, Simon was asked to speak in front of 50 senior Chinese officials who peppered him with questions for two hours about how to apply to host the Olympic Games.
Simon, now president of the Los Angeles Sports Council, saw Michael Phelps win his eighth gold at the Water Cube in Beijing. It was the culmination of the journey that brought him to China 24 years ago.
"The seeds for the Beijing Olympics were planted in Los Angeles in 1984," Simon said.
Before that, China had little involvement in the Olympic movement. It had not fielded at team in more than 50 years. But the Chinese delegation was warmly welcomed in Los Angeles, especially in light of the Soviet boycott.
Simon went back to China for the most recent games as the leader of a 30-person group made up of L.A. Sports Council board members and their families. Simon made a point to visit as many venues as possible, seeing 15 sites in Beijing.
While the delegation did plenty of sightseeing and saw lots of competition, Sports Council board members used the games as a networking opportunity.
"I had several conversations that will lead to events in Los Angeles in the future," Simon said.
The events will include world championships of Olympic sports. The Sports Council promotes Los Angeles as a venue for sports teams and tournaments.
Simon was also invited to the first meeting in October of the World League of Olympic Cities in Lausanne, Switzerland, where the International Olympic Committee is headquartered. The role of the World League has yet to be defined, but it will comprise members from former Olympic host cities. Simon and Barry Sanders, chairman of the Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games, were appointed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to attend the meeting on his behalf.
The Beijing Games were well organized, Simon said, but there were a couple of minor oversights. Food at the venues was a concern as the limited menu had sausage on a stick, peanuts, popcorn and sweets.
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