Jay Bilas ran into problems he couldn’t have foreseen at 1984 Olympics | #emailsecurity


USC’s connection to Los Angeles and the L.A. Coliseum means that Olympic season is a special time of year. This is the first Olympic Games Trojans Wire will cover, so we’re reflecting on the 1984 L.A. Games. College basketball analyst Jay Bilas was hacked during those Olympics.

Jon Wertheim, in an excerpt from his new book “Glory Days,” weaves some reflections from a former USC student into an anecdote involving Bilas. The emergence of brand-new technologies at the 1984 Summer Olympics created industry-changing innovations and improvements… but it also led to unforeseen problems which many of us can still relate to on social media and other high-tech platforms today. This was before Twitter, and this was before the internet, but what emerged at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles was a precursor to our modern instant-communications landscape.

Here’s Wertheim:

Mark Houska, then a USC student on summer break, was a volunteer for the basketball events held at The Forum, where there were a half dozen terminals near the media seating. He recalls them going unused. You were going to leave your work area to check in at a computer terminal during the day? So you could get messages from someone you already worked with?

One of the television production assistants working for ABC Sports, Jay Bilas, an L.A. native, had finished his sophomore season at Duke. Given his interest in media—and given that he was the starting forward on his school’s basketball team—he was a natural for the position. Bilas was not, however, tech-savvy. During the training session for electronic messaging, Bilas casually shared his password with spirited colleagues. Later that day, female production assistants were surprised to receive strikingly personal messages from “Jay Bilas.”

When they weren’t hacking one another’s accounts, the production assistants gradually took to this instant electronic communication. They realized that they could send one another short messages, arrange meetup times and gossip, without worrying about remembering phone numbers or getting busy signals.

The few Olympic volunteers and media members who took the time to use these accounts realized another benefit. As the Games were unfolding, it was fun to send messages back and forth, firing off staccato burst observations, issuing predictions and making offhand remarks and cracking snarky jokes. In retrospect, they were using email to have a second-screen experience.

What is fascinating upon reading Wertheim’s book excerpt on Jay Bilas is that while this explosion of technology was occurring in the realms of communications and electronics, those 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles were very cost effective.

Older Angelenos know why this was the case, but younger Los Angeles residents who might not know the larger story of the 1984 Olympics need to realize that L.A. had an advantage other Olympic cities lacked: built-in infrastructure.

Los Angeles had hosted the 1932 Olympics. The Coliseum was built for THOSE Olympic Games, not for 1984. The venerable stadium was, however, conveniently in place for 1984, as were lots of other venues for various sports in and around the city.

The Pac-12’s (then, the Pac-10’s) rich history in Olympic sports — USC being at the forefront along with the other California-based schools in the conference — meant that there were readily-available facilities for water polo and swimming and diving, among various other sports. Beijing in 2008 and Rio in 2016 — along with other recent Olympic cities — had to scramble to build brand-new facilities on a tight schedule just in time for the Games. Those Olympic projects were accompanied by massive disruption of city infrastructure and a waste of facilities, given that continuous year-round use of those facilities isn’t as easily arrived at.

Los Angeles, 37 years ago, had no such problem. Pac-10 competitions would continue to be held at the Olympic venues, just as they were held at those various sites before the 1984 Games. This enabled the organizing committee and its chair, Peter Ueberroth, to focus on technological investment and logistics, operating one of the smoothest, most profitable, and most genuinely successful Olympics of all time.

Jay Bilas would agree with that, even though he got hacked.



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