How you can keep the Olympic spirit alive after the 2016 Games

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The 2016 Olympic Games are over, but they once again provided inspiration to viewers around the world.

"I was inspired as an African-American woman who runs a youth sports foundation to see African-American women perform so well," LA84 Foundation President and CEO Renata Simril told KPCC. "Winning is evidence of a lot of hard work, perseverance, overcoming obstacles, but for those watching, it felt magical."

The LA84 Foundation was started with surplus money from L.A.'s 1984 Olympic Games, and they've used that money to fund youth sports throughout Southern California.

"What we do is we try to inspire the next generation of Olympic athletes in underserved communities to really engage in sports," Simril said. "While it's not our goal or our mission to develop Olympic athletes, we've done that too. About 12 Olympic athletes have come through our program, most notably Venus and Serena Williams."

The Olympic Flame burns outside the LA84 Foundation Sports library. The flame is a symbol of peace between the people of the world.
The Olympic Flame burns outside the LA84 Foundation Sports library. The flame is a symbol of peace between the people of the world. Andres Aguila/KPCC

Simril offered ways to support the Olympics between games:

  • Donate to the LA84 Foundation, the United States Olympic Committee and/or to any of the U.S.'s national governing bodies of the various Olympic sports
  • Watch the new Olympic Channel, which will be showing Olympics coverage as well as events like world championships in Olympic sports; also, watch Olympic sports on TV, since advertisers love ratings and that advertising money helps the Olympics
  • Use NBC's "Gold Map," which shows both kids and adults can get involved in different sports near where you live
  • Call LA84, and they can connect you with local resources

Supporting Olympic athletes in an expensive business, with the U.S. Olympic Committee being one of the only ones that receives no federal government support, Simril said.

"When you think about the cost that it takes a Michael Phelps to become an elite athlete — the coaching, the training, the workouts, the travel. He can't... he's a professional Olympic athlete representing the country," Simril said.

Some of that Olympic inspiration may make its way back to L.A. with the city in contention for the 2024 games. Simril hopes they return to the city, 40 years after the city's last games.

"L.A. is Olympic-ready. I mean, we're ready to go," Simril said. "The largest cost of an Olympic Games is the athletes' village. It's already been public that UCLA will house the Olympic Village, so the investment that UCLA has made in some world-class, state-of-the-art dorm facilities and cafeteria facilities serves that purpose."

She added that L.A. has also already dealt with many of the other costs and has a number of sports facilities available — plus some new ones on the way thanks to teams like the Rams and the L.A. Football Club. The city also had a lot of success this year — according to the Atlantic, if L.A. were a country, it would have the ninth highest medal count in the world.

L.A. has shown that it supports sports, Simril said, pointing out that 83,000 people just showed up for a Rams preseason game. She said she expects people will come out, especially for the more popular sports like track and field, swimming, basketball and beach volleyball.

Even while those sports may grab the headlines, Simril said she knows there's a lot of excitement out there for nontraditional sports, which LA84 also helps promote.

"My 9-year-old is very excited that karate is now an Olympic sport. Because we used to joke around with him and say, 'You've got to take a sport.' He says, 'I do play a sport, mommy! I take karate!' I'm like, 'Karate's not even an Olympic sport.' Now he says, 'See mommy? It's a sport!'"

Simril said she plans to go to Japan for the 2020 games — and her son wants to see the karate. If L.A.'s Olympic committee succeeds, he may have the chance to see it again four years later.

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