Legacy Governance – LA84 Foundation

LA84 Foundation

  • Olympic City: Los Angeles
  • Country: United States of America
  • Edition of the Games: 1984 Summer Olympic Games
Since 1985
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How Legacy Governance Started In Los Angeles

The LA84 Foundation, a legacy of the 1984 Olympic Games, transforms lives and communities through its support of youth sports programmes in the City of Los Angeles and Southern California.

The LA84 Foundation is a nationally recognised leader in supporting youth sport programmes and public education on the role of sports in positive youth development. The foundation, with 30 years of on-the-ground experience, has supported thousands of Southern California youth sports organisations through grant making, while also training coaches, commissioning research, convening conferences and acting as a national thought leader on important youth sports issues. LA84 levels the playing field so that sport is accessible to all children, while elevating the field of youth sports as an integral part of American life.

Sport matters as 71% of Los Angeles youth do not currently obtain the recommended amount of exercise each week; 42% of low-income youth in Los Angeles are overweight or obese, while in contrast, 92% of LA public high school athletes graduate.

The LA84 Foundation’s impact can be summarised as follows:

  • More than 3 million youth and their families are impacted;
  • 2,200 not-for profit partners support the Foundation;
  • 30,000 kids are reached annually through LA84 programmes;
  • 42% of total participation is female participation;
  • 75,000 coaches have been trained so far.

The LA84 Foundation is proud to support young athletes and coaches, while evaluating the socio-emotional, health and academic outcomes of youth sports. LA84 creates sports opportunities for all kids and promotes the importance of sports in positive youth development.


Legacy is…

“When people are inspired to work together for the common good, then good things happen”, Renata Simril, President & CEO, LA84 Foundation.

The LA84 Foundation is a living legacy of the 1984 Olympic Games. The foundation supports youth sports in Southern California through grant making, coaching education, infrastructure investment, thought leadership, and research.  In addition, the LA84 Foundation celebrates the Olympic Movement and Olympic Values by operating an extensive online sports library available to a worldwide clientele and maintaining a collection of Olympic artifacts and posters which are displayed at the foundation’s headquarters.

What’s next?

“I don’t think (LA84 Foundation) should have a legacy. It should do its job each year and think about how it can be better each year, how it can impact more people and more kids. Everything either progresses or retrogresses, and I think LA84’s role is to continue to break new barriers and to do some new things that help further its mission.“ Peter Ueberroth, Chair of LAOOC 1984, LA Foundation Report 2012-2014.


Promote a healthy and active lifestyle

Sport matters, and above all, for the youth. It plays an essential role in promoting a healthy lifestyle, and has a tremendous impact on the life of the youth and their families. The Foundation supports youth sports in Southern California through grants to non-profit organizations that provide sports for youth. In addition, the foundation maintains an extensive online sports library; supports research on youth sports; and convenes meetings and conferences devoted to the examination of youth sports topics. The over-arching mission of the foundation is to eliminate the play-equity gap in youth sports. That is, the foundation works to ensure that all children regardless of family income, ethnicity, gender, and ability have the opportunity to participate in sport and reap the social, health and academic benefits associated with youth sports. Access to sport for all also implies an availability of sport facilities for all categories of people and the foundation invests in renewal and implementation of such facilities.

Promote social and constructive behaviour

Sport transmits essential values such as fair play, respect for rules, respect for peers, as well as pride in oneself and pride for the city. Education is the cornerstone of “living together” and sport is intrinsically linked to education.

The Foundation has placed education at the heart of its mission, making a significant investment in education through its library, research support, public op-ed postings on sports issues, and by convening thought leaders. Additionally, many of the youth sport programs that the LA84 Foundation funds through grants include an education component. The foundation particularly supports sports programming that intentionally seeks to provide benefits which transcend the field of play.

The foundation organises an annual Summit, a 350-person thought leadership conference that examines youth sports issues of interest to a national audience.

Through collective celebrations such as Olympic Day in the United States, the installation of plaques (funded by the LA84 Foundation) and the induction of Olympians Anita DeFrantz and Joan Benoit Samuelson into the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (Olympic Stadium in 1932 and 1984) Court of Honour, the Foundation contributes to the promotion of sport and Olympism-related values.


Figures speak for themselves and LA84 Foundation has achieved the following over more than 30 years:

  • More than 3 million youth and their families been impacted;
  • 2,200 non-profit partners support the Foundation;
  • 30,000 children are reached annually through LA84 programmes;
  • 42% of total participation has been female;
  • 75,000 coaches have been trained.

Through the number of kids helped, the number of grants distributed, participation inquiries and satisfaction questionnaires, LA84 has a solid understanding of its impact. The Foundation releases a biannual report.

Key Challenges

In the 1970s youth sports in Los Angeles faced the same problems that existed in most large US cities. Sporting choices were limited. Education and certification for coaches was few and far between. Most girls did not play formal sports. Young people with intellectual or physical disabilities had very few options for play. Fact-based evidence attesting to the importance of sport in young people’s lives was rare. And race, ethnicity and income tended to exclude low-income children and people of colour from sports that required expensive equipment, travel and membership in clubs, such as – aquatics, tennis, golf, skiing, rowing and cycling.

These problems existed throughout Southern California but were most acute in Los Angeles and other large cities. Therefore, in 1978, the City of Los Angeles signed a multi-party agreement with the IOC, NOC, and the OCO to establish a private foundation devoted to improving youth sports in Southern California, in the event that the 1984 Olympic Games resulted in a surplus.

The 1984 Games ended with a $232.5 million surplus, of which 40% was used to create the LA84 Foundation. The foundation has never strayed from its core mission of improving youth sports in Southern California, through grant making, coach education and educating the public on the role of sport in society.

Grant making took two forms – programs and infrastructure. Most grant making was programmatic. In its first three decades, however, the foundation made $20.4 million in infrastructure grants, benefiting nearly 100 facilities. In recent years, the foundation has made its advocacy and communications efforts more explicit, focusing on the Play Equity Movement to bring the transformational power of sport to all children.

Key learnings and recommendations

The LA84 Foundation, in three-and-a-half decades of operation, has learned three overarching lessons: 1) Play Equity is an ongoing problem in youth sports, 2) the youth sports landscape is constantly changing, and 3) solving problems requires a coordinated effort among many partners from a variety of sectors. To be successful, the LA84 Foundation has had to navigate these issues in a way that accounts for this changing landscape and evolving knowledge.

Encouraging progress has been made on Play Equity. Developments since the foundation began operations in 1985 suggest that we are headed in the right direction.

  • There is a wider range of sports choices for low-income families.
  • Far more girls play sports than in the 1970s.
  • The number and variety of programs for both the intellectually and physically disabled have grown.
  • Coaching education is the norm rather than the exception.
  • There is a body of research that frames sports participation as a key component of positive youth development.

These encouraging developments, though, are threatened by change, as well as the persistence of certain problems.

  • The rise of pay-to-play youth sports in the US has created a youth sports industry that privileges the affluent, and this is reflected in physical-activity rates correlating with family income.
  • Girls still participate in lower numbers than boys.
  • Options for disabled children remain limited.
  • Many policy makers, despite a wealth of research to the contrary, still regard youth sports as a luxury, not as an essential.
  • The Internet, social media, streaming, video games and other aspects of the information revolution provide young people with a growing number of non-sports diversions.

Today, the foundation functions much as an NGO, relying on private/public partnerships and using its platform to advocate for the value of sports.

The foundation provides support to a diverse range of youth sports providers – both public and private – in dozens of sports. Working toward Play Equity requires constant vigilance and the willingness to adjust priorities and tactics, while retaining the goal of providing sports opportunities to everyone, especially those who have historically been excluded.



More information


The full case is available in printable version on the members’ portal

In addition to the above description, the PDF version also gathers practical information including internal and external partners involved; finance and cost; use of the olympic brand; human resources and time; and contact details. 

The World Union of Olympic Cities’ team remains at your disposal for any further information and contact’s facilitation at info@olympiccities.org 

Additional resources can be found through the following links: