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Cleaning up for the Olympics, 1984-style

August 5, 2008 |  5:29 pm

China has cleaned up its streets just for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but so did Los Angeles in 1984Before we get too entirely riled up about China rousting its beggars, pickpockets and, most recently, its petitioners from the streets of Beijing in an attempt to pretty up the city's image for the Olympics, let's take a quiz. When does this headline date from?

"City Polishing Its Image For Olympic Visitors"

If you guessed 1984, you are a smart reader who looked at the title to this blogpost. The Los Angeles Times story from July 21, 1984, about preparations for our own Summer Games, starts out like this:

"Los Angeles police have added 30 horse-mounted officers downtown and stepped up their stopping nd questioning of Skid Row homeless in an effort to clean up the city in time for the Olympics....Many of the homeless--most often drunks, the mentally ill or others down on their luck--have apparently relocated to other downtown areas to escape the police pressure."

It goes on to quote a police captain saying, memorably, "We're trying to sanitize the area."

Certainly, nothing on the same scale as Beijing is attempting. But among our memories of the tremendously successful Summer Games, let's not forget to include a sliver of embarrassment about the people we tried to sweep aside.

*Photo:  TEH ENG KOON / AFP / Getty Images

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