As 6,500 athletes from 165 nations took part in the Opening Ceremonies of the Special Olympics World Games, it was another important feather in the cap of one of the country's most historic venues, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, and the first of several classic L.A.-area venues hosting key events and inspiring athletes this week.
The Coliseum opened in 1923 as a memorial for World War I soldiers at a cost of just under $1 million. Since then, it has hosted practically every major sporting event and large-scale gathering imaginable, including the 1932 and 1984 Olympic Games, the latter held shortly after the Coliseum was designated as a National Historic Landmark.
“We're thrilled that USC is able to host a number of the events, including the opening ceremonies at the Coliseum, which is one of the country's iconic athletic venues,” University of Southern California Athletic Director Pat Haden said. “It's a great place for the World Games."
“You start in 1923 (at the Coliseum) and you have Olympic events, the Pope, Robert F. Kennedy, the Dodgers played there... you have USC, UCLA and the Rams. You can imagine how many great athletes have played there. It has a football history like very few stadiums. It's a classic, classic facility.”
Haden knows a bit about the Coliseum and historic venues in Los Angeles, starring for USC in college and playing his professional career with the Southern California Sun of the World Football League and the NFL's Los Angeles Rams.
“When I was running out on the field at the Coliseum, you realise all the great athletes that have come before you,” he said. “You are part of this tremendous continuum of fantastic athletes that have graced the field.”
The Coliseum is just one of several facilities in Los Angeles with a long and storied history that will add to their legacy by hosting events in the Special Olympics World Games.
“You don't have to travel too far around town to travel to a great sporting venue,” Haden said. “To have 7,000 athletes in our city and our venues is a very, very special event. We're thrilled to be a part of it.”