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Take a look back at LA when the 1984 Olympics came to town

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A lot has changed since then

Opening Ceremony of the 1984 Summer Olympics
Performers release hundreds of white balloons in the sky during the opening ceremony.
Photo by David Turnley/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

The Olympic Games are getting underway in Pyeongchang, and Los Angeles leaders are already looking ahead to 2028, when the city will host its third Summer Games.

But while local officials dream about the new transit lines and smooth sidewalks that they’ll be able to boast about 10 years from now, let’s take a look back to the last time Los Angeles hosted the games.

Only 34 years have passed since 1984, but the city has changed a lot during that time.

With a population of around 3.02 million, Los Angeles had just overtaken Chicago as the second-largest city in the nation. It had no rail system then (the Blue Line opened six years later), and its tallest building was the First Interstate Tower (aka Aon Center). The 710 freeway was known as State Route 7, and residents of unincorporated West Hollywood were campaigning to turn the neighborhood into its own city.

We’ve rounded up some photos that show what the city looked like when athletes from around the world (minus the USSR) descended upon Los Angeles in July of 1984.

OLY LEGACY – 7/28/1984 – Scene at the Coliseum in Los Angeles during opening ceremonies of the Olymp
Opening ceremonies.
Photo by Ken Hively/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Pershing Square, 1984
Pershing Square, seen here before its 1992 redesign, got a $1 million makeover to prepare it for the 1984 games.
Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library
Downtown LA skyline, 1984
The Downtown LA skyline was much less crowded in 1984, though a construction boom had already begun to transform the area.
Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library
Coliseum sculptures
Bronze sculptures by artist Robert Graham are unveiled at the Coliseum.
Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library
Olympic torch, 1984
O.J. Simpson carries the Olympic torch up the California Incline in Santa Monica.
Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library
Olympics parade, 1984
Mayor Tom Bradley rides a float during an Olympics parade through Downtown LA.
Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library
jetpack 1984 olympics
The wild opening ceremony featured, among other spectacles, a man named Bill Suitor flying around with a jetpack (yes, it was a real jetpack).
Tony Duffy, Getty Images
Olympic bus, 1984
Officials periodically closed off traffic on freeways to allow athletes to pass through—though it may not have been necessary. Congestion was surprisingly light during the games.
Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library
Coliseum, 1984 Olympics
Flags of the participating countries flying at the Coliseum.
Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library
Velodrome, 1984
A cycling velodrome was constructed at California State University Dominguez Hills. Today, the StubHub Center—where Los Angeles officials announced plans to host the 2028 games—stands on the site.
Steve Powell, Getty Images
pin vendor, 1984
A vendor sells collectible pins during the games.
Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library
Olympic Budweiser cans, 1984
People trade pins in front of giant inflatable beer cans on Figueroa Street.
Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library
Man wearing Olympic pins, 1984
If it’s not clear yet, people really got excited about pins in 1984.
Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library
Trash, 1984 Olympics
Trash piled up on Figueroa Street after the end of the games.
Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library
mural, 1984 games
Murals were installed around the city in advance of the games, including this one at Tujunga Wash in North Hollywood.
Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library