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.
Simon and his wife, Cheryl, both fans of Szechaun food, sought out the best Szechuan restaurant in the city, but getting there was a little difficult because the cab dropped them off in an area of town where there was no English in site. They were approached by a Chinese guy who thought they were lost and happened to speak perfect English. When they showed him the name of the restaurant, he exclaimed that it was the best place for Szechaun food in Beijing and led them down the block to a crowded restaurant.
"We would not have found that place on our own. The maitre d' seated us right away. You remember that as a traveler," Simon said.
He added that he didn't try the scorpions.
While the Beijing Olympics are over, work is still under way to produce the Beijing Paralympics, which will begin Sept. 6. Los Angeles-based Universal Sports will present the Paralympics with extensive media coverage.
Live coverage of the events will be broadcast on UniversalSports.com, followed by television coverage on Universal Sports TV on Oct. 8. NBC will broadcast a Paralympics show Oct. 18.
Andrew Freund, director of USA Sumo, is putting on a Sumo wrestling tournament at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, and this time, it's a rush job.
Freund directs the U.S. Sumo Open, now in its eighth year. He spent much of the first six months of 2008 working on a Japanese professional sumo tournament that was held in June in Los Angeles. He served as co-producer, announcer at the event itself, interpreter for the athletes and media representative.
So that left Freund just a few weeks to produce the U.S. Sumo Open, which will happen Sept. 6. The event is expected to draw about 5,000 spectators and has the support of several long-term sponsors including TV Japan, Sapporo Beer and Hakutsuru Sake.
The challenge is finding a mainstream American or Japanese brand to come on as title sponsor. He has reached out to many automakers this year in an effort to draw in a sponsor for 2009, and some representatives of car companies have said they will attend.
Freund said that major sponsors want to see the events get more media exposure.
"The sponsors want to see us televised on a major platform," he said. "Some television crews come out, but only show clips from the event."
Staff reporter David Nusbaum can be reached at email@example.com or at (323) 549-5225, ext. 236.
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