By Gary Hall Jr.
Oscar Delgado is director of partnerships and development with the LA84 Foundation, the 1984 Olympic Games legacy organization and an integral part of L.A.’s winning bid to host the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The International Olympic Committee plans to contribute $160 million to the L.A. Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games to help increase participation and access to youth sports programs.
I first met Oscar on the pool deck, surrounded by smiling children, at the LA84 Foundation’s Summer Splash Program a few years back.
Gary Hall: After 10 years with the Dodgers Organization, you joined the LA84 Foundation. Why?
Oscar Delgado: The Dodgers Organization is a global brand. I am forever grateful to the many people that guided me those 10 years. I am now part of the living legacy of the Olympics in the city I love. In a former life I was a springboard and platform diver and competed in two World Cups. I strove to become an Olympian but came up short … But now I am a member of a team that is part of the Olympic family. In addition, I get to work with 11 L.A. professional sports teams along with university and minor league teams.
GH: Tell us about LA84 supporting the summer aquatics program.
OD: Since 1986, the LA84 Foundation Summer Splash Program has provided basic instruction and competitive opportunities in four aquatic sports: swimming, diving, water polo and synchronized swimming. More than 15,000 L.A. County youngsters, ages 7-17, benefit … each year. The program culminates each summer with a competitive festival in all four sports, which is a lot of fun!
GH: Can you describe a case of a young person having a positive experience through LA84-supported aquatics programming?
OD: Me. I was able to start diving because I participated in an LA84 Foundation aquatics program when I was 8 years old. Because of this, I traveled this country, traveled the world and was able to attend the University of Wyoming and Indiana University.
GH: Oscar, what does L.A. hosting the 2028 Olympic Games mean to you, the LA84 Foundation and youth sports in Southern California?
OD: It means an entire new generation of youth will be inspired on so many levels. The 1932 Olympic Games was a physical transformation while the 1984 Games brought a financial transformation to the Olympic movement and left this enduring youth development legacy. I believe LA2028 will bring a community transformation where L.A. neighborhoods showcase a sense of pride and highlight why the greater Los Angeles area is so special.
GH: What is the greatest societal impact you see through programming like that provided by LA84 and the Santa Ynez Valley Aquatics Complex?
OD: Former LA84 President and Olympian Anita DeFrantz said, “Play is a human right.” I believe that. Sport and play prepare children for life! The lessons a child can learn such as goal setting, the benefits of exercise, teamwork, grit, and “failing forward” make them into great adults that give back to their community. Our country needs leaders. Sport is a strong avenue to guide those individuals to becoming leaders.
GH: Not only providing life skills but also lifesaving skills.
OD: Yes, there are more than 3,500 unintentional drownings in this country every year. One in five of those are children under the age of 14. The leading cause of accidental death among children five and under is drowning.
GH: What is the greatest challenge in providing youth sport programming?
OD: Many people do not realize there is a crisis at this very moment with youth sports: the equity gap that is growing in sports in this country. The pay-to-play model has grown to where it is a luxury for kids to play. In addition, recess and physical education are being cut in too many schools. The only way to solve these challenges is by community stakeholders pooling resources and collaborating.
GH: What is the most meaningful personal reward from what you do?
OD: Being a part of a team that operates as a compass in youth development by using sport as a hook. Whenever I see the LA84 Foundation logo at a sports site or see the foundation mentioned in a story like this, it brings a smile to my face because I know we are helping children. Children are the one universal precious commodity that humans all over this planet agree is important. They are innocent, honest and love people for how they are, not who they are.
Gary Hall Jr., a 10-time Olympic swimming medalist, is now executive director and 2018-19 capital campaign chairperson for the $11.2 million, multi-use Santa Ynez Valley Community Aquatics and Sports Science Complex that is expected to be finished in June 2019. For more information log onto www.syvaquatics.org