EDITORS — With the Tokyo Olympics postponed for a year because of the coronavirus pandemic, The Associated Press is looking back at the history of Summer Games. Lionel Richie, then just starting his solo career, spoke to the AP recently about his performance at the closing ceremony of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
Lionel Richie was just beginning his career away from the Commodores when he got word he was wanted for what would be the biggest solo gig of his life.
The Los Angeles Olympics were just a few months away and closing ceremony producer David L. Wolper had a problem. He wanted to put on an all-star singing finale to close out the games, but the stars weren’t cooperating.
Michael Jackson was out because he was a Pepsi spokesman and this was a Coca Cola Olympics. Frank Sinatra wasn’t available, and neither were other artists whose managers didn’t want them appearing in an ensemble act.
So it was left to Richie to bring the curtain down on the first Olympics in the United States in 52 years.
“Next thing I know is I’m on a football field out in the (San Fernando) valley somewhere rehearsing with all these people diving and dancing all over,” Richie recalled in a recent interview with The Associated Press. “I was just getting my feet wet after the Commodores. I think I had done a couple Vegas shows just to warm up, but nothing like this.”
The audience would be vast, so the song had to be good. Some 92,000 people had tickets to the LA Coliseum that night, and an estimated 2.6 billion more would tune into the closing ceremony on television.