It’s an even-numbered year and the world’s best athletes have descended upon Rio de Janeiro for displays of superhuman strength, agility, and speed. And for those stuck here in Los Angeles, watching the Olympics on TV, LA Metro is offering a chance to come face to face with the heroes of years past.
In an ambitious promotional event, the transit agency is bringing gold medalists to Metro stations throughout the Olympic Games. The athletes will apparently be available to meet fans and (presumably) pose for an endless series of selfies for hour-and-a-half blocks from August 8 through August 12 and from August 15 through August 19 (a meet and greet with boxer Paul Gonzales at the El Monte bus station already went down August 5).
The promotion appears to be part of Metro’s massive goodwill campaign as the agency tries to convince voters to sign off on a half-cent sales tax increase that would fund a legion of new transit projects. It remains to be seen whether the Olympic icons will sway voters one way or the other, but Metro has certainly assembled an A-list cast. Here’s the full list of athletes:
Shirley Babashoff: The winner of eight Olympic medals, Babashoff anchored the gold medal winning U.S. team in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay in 1976. She’ll be waiting for riders at Union Station August 8.
John Naber: Naber led all U.S. athletes at the 1976 games in Montreal with four gold medals—setting a world record time in each race he won. Riders will have two chances to meet Naber; he’ll be at the Sierra Madre Villa station August 9 and the Culver City station August 10.
Julianne McNamara: The first female American gymnast to win an individual gold medal, McNamara was one of the stars of the 1984 games, when Los Angeles last hosted. Find her at the North Hollywood station August 11.
Brenda Villa: Villa is fresh off a gold medal in water polo at the 2012 games in London. She’ll be at the Atlantic Station August 12.
Rafer Johnson: A gold medalist in the decathlon at the 1960 Rome games, Johnson is also one of the most interesting people ever. He went on to a successful career in acting and sports broadcasting, lit the Olympic torch in 1984, and wrestled Sirhan Sirhan to the ground moments after he shot Bobby Kennedy. Look for him at the Chatsworth Station August 15.
Valerie Brisco: Another Olympic great from the 1984 games, Brisco won three gold medals that year in the 200, 400, and 4x400 meter sprints. She’ll be greeting fans at the 7th Street/Metro Center station August 16.
Lisa Fernandez: Softball pitcher Lisa Fernandez helped Team USA win three gold medals in a row at the 1996, 2000, and 2004 Olympics. During the latter games, she set a new record for batting average. Meet her at the Downtown Long Beach station August 17.
Bryan Clay: Another decathlete, Clay won the gold medal at the Beijing games in 2008 (he also won the silver in 2004) with the largest margin of victory since 1972. Track him down at the Azusa Pacific University/Citrus College station (Clay is an APU graduate).
Mark Spitz: The legend himself. Spitz’s seven gold medals at the 1972 games in Munich was an Olympic record untouched until 2008, when spoilsport Michael Phelps came away with one more. You’ll find Spitz close to the beach, of course, at the newly-opened Downtown Santa Monica station.
All athletes will be hanging out from 4:30 to 6 p.m. on their scheduled days.
- Go Metro, meet an Olympic gold medalist [The Source]
- Mapped: the sites of LA's Olympic bid [Curbed LA]
- Awesome map shows what Metro’s November ballot measure would bring [Curbed LA]