From Behind the Wheel of a Lincoln Town Car: A volunteer’s view of the 1984 L.A. Olympics

Sandy Driscoll at L.A. Coliseum | Courtesy Sandry Driscoll

Sandy Driscoll at L.A. Coliseum | Courtesy Sandy Driscoll

With the Rio Olympics winding down, we asked Sandy Driscoll of Silver Lake to share her memories as a volunteer during the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.


On Friday, July 13, 1984, my journal entry reads: “In DTLA for the Big Picture – 18,000 people gathered for an Olympic welcoming photo. How thrilling! I just LOVE this city!!!”

As the Olympic torch made its way through L.A., anticipation for the games grew. Some were later sorry they had opted to leave town citing ‘too much smog and traffic’, but we who stayed were rewarded with an unforgettable Olympics. The air was sparkling clear, traffic flowed smoothly, and there was a palpable excitement everywhere.

As one of 28,742 ebullient volunteers, I was delighted to be assigned as a driver for foreign dignitaries. Headquartered in the Biltmore Hotel and driving new Lincoln Town Cars, we took honored guests to their desired destinations.

Employed as a reporter for McGraw-Hill, I had planned on volunteering for the Olympics part time, in the evenings. However, after just two nights of driving, I realized that never again would I have this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so I took two weeks vacation, and became a full-time driver for the next 16 days.

Courtesy Sandy Driscoll

Greg Louganis | Courtesy Sandy Driscoll

We were told not to expect to see any of the competitions. However, our thoughtful and delighted guests insisted that we enter the venues and sit with them! I not only got to see most of the high level competitions, but saw them from VIP seats. Being able to almost reach out and touch Greg Louganis at the USC Diving venue and sitting two rows behind Princess Anne at the equestrian finals was so memorable and exciting.

Each day was different and thrilling! Escorting dignitaries from Romania, Zimbabwe, Kuwait, Belize, Seychelles, Uruguay, Norway, Bahamas, Sierra Leone, Algeria, Switzerland, Korea, Italy, Sweden, the Congo, Morocco, Venezuela and Bahrain, to name a few, was not only fun but educational. For most, this was their first time in LA, so I felt honored to be their tour guide, showing off the Los Angeles I love.

Many Koreans wanted to see Koreatown, then in its infancy. I took Sweden’s Consul General to a Beverly Hills party for the king and queen of Sweden. Upon arrival, he gave me his own personal Olympic pin as a thank you!


Volunteer I.D. badge | Courtesy Sandy Driscoll

One afternoon was spent with a Moroccan delegate, visiting many flag stores in desperate search of a flag for the victory lap of Nawal-El Moutawakel, the first female Muslim Olympic champion. The Bahamian delegate wanted to visit friends in Baldwin Hills, while the Congo ambassador wanted to go to City Hall for a meeting with Mayor Tom Bradley. I transported four Belize delegates to a nightclub at Western and 39th Street.

I saw Carl Lewis win four gold medals, equaling Jesse Owens’ 1936 performance. The crowd roared and tears flowed.

To date, LA 1984 remains the only Olympics to make a profit ($225 million). The excess was used to create the LA84 foundation, which even today funds our current Olympians.

Hopeful for LA 2024, I will be first in line to volunteer again!

32-year-old souvenir coffee mug | Courtesy Sandy Driscoll

32-year-old souvenir coffee mug | Courtesy Sandy Driscoll

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  1. Kristin Sholl Olsen

    So proud of my wonderful Aunt Sandy! What a beautifully written piece about a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

  2. What a great story! I was there in 1984 at the Coliseum to see Carl Lewis and many other runners. My sister in law and I sat at the very top next to the flag poles.

  3. I drove the Boeing Company international guests through the smog and ridiculous traffic of the mess of the 1984 Olympics. Keep this crap out of Los Angeles in the future. To cap it off, I was standing with the other drivers at the closing ceremonies and the guy next to me was shot by a piece of work in that part of town. The Olympics are junk for the feeble minded, as seen in Rio.

  4. What amazing memories. Thank you for sharing, Sandy!

  5. Wonderful article! Sandy’s ebullient nature is still evident today. What a great representative for LA. Fingers crossed we get the Olympics in 2024 and Sandy can repeat her role.

  6. This was a such golden time for Los Angeles. I remember all of the blinking light pins. My parents arranged for two Parisians to stay in our guest room and our neighbors had a Italian couple at their house. We went to two soccer games and the energy was awesome. Thank you for sharing this story, Sandy! Also, my father worked for McGraw-Hill for some time before the Olympics!

  7. The best year in LA ever!

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