Philip Barker ©insidethegames

As Donald Trump prepares for his inauguration as the 45th President of the United States, he might just have in mind another Ceremony seven years in the future.

It was significant that shortly after his election, he contacted International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach to demonstrate his support for the 2024 Los Angeles Olympic bid.

Ever since the Games were revived in 1896, they have coincided with the United States Presidential election year. Occupants of the White House have followed the Olympics with great interest, although it was not until 1984 that an incumbent US President opened the Games.

At the start of the 20th century, it was decided that the host city for 1904 would be American. IOC President Baron Pierre de Coubertin wrote to US President William McKinley to tell him "how necessary it was for him to act as patron to the Games and proclaim them open himself". 

Shortly afterwards, McKinley was assassinated and Theodore Roosevelt became American leader. He was a robust outdoors man known to all as "Teddy" and Coubertin was delighted. "He was a firm partisan, an invaluable friend to our cause and with his accession to the Presidency, the prospects of the third Olympiad improved immeasurably," he said.

Even so, "Teddy" did not open the 1904 Games in St Louis, although his daughter Alice watched some of the competitions.

The following year, the IOC presented Roosevelt their new Olympic diploma. In 1908, he enthusiastically welcomed the US team to his summer home at Sagamore Hill above Oyster Bay. "This is the top notcher," cried Roosevelt as he greeted marathon winner John Hayes. He told the other members of the team "it is the literal truth to say that this team performance has never been duplicated in the history of athletics".

Theodore Roosevelt did not open the 1904 Olympic Games in St Louis ©Getty Images
Theodore Roosevelt did not open the 1904 Olympic Games in St Louis ©Getty Images

Although the Games themselves did not return to the US until 1932, the Olympic Movement was not short of American influence. IOC founding member William Milligan Sloane was joined by the likes of William May Garland. Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) activist Elwood Brown had the ear of the IOC in the early 1920s.

The Americans were keen to host the Olympics and in the years following the First World War, Los Angeles was confirmed as host city for 1932. The same nation hosted both Summer and Winter Games where practicable, so the 1932 Winter Games were held in Lake Placid. President Herbert Hoover did not attend the opening. That duty fell to New York Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt. 

He told the assembled gathering: "I wish in these later days that the Olympic ideals of 2,800 years ago could have been carried out in one further part.

"In those days, it was the custom, no matter what war was in progress, to cease all obligations of armies during the period of the Games. Can those earlier ideals be revived throughout the world so we can contribute in larger measure?

"We are glad to welcome to this nation our sister nations as guests of the American people."

It was a much longer speech than the single sentence prescribed in the 1930 Olympic Charter. It would not be the last time an American deviated from the official words at an Olympic Ceremony.

Later that day his wife, Eleanor, took a ride on the bobsleigh run. She was piloted by Henry Homberger, destined to win a silver medal a few days later. Roosevelt was also a winner in 1932. By the year’s end, "FDR" had been elected President of the United States.

Vice-president Charles Curtis had deputised for Hoover at the Summer Games in Los Angeles. When he returned home, he took with him a specially struck IOC medal for the President.

By the time the next Games took place in Berlin, Roosevelt had almost completed his first term in the Oval Office. Much was made of a supposed snub of the great sprinter Jesse Owens by Adolf Hitler. In fact Owens was given the cold shoulder much closer to home. He did not receive an invitation to the White House until 1955, when President Dwight Eisenhower named him Ambassador for Sport. It was not the first time that Eisenhower had brushed shoulders with a great Olympic hero. In 1912, "Ike" had played football for the Army against Jim Thorpe.

Even so, he did not open the 1960 Winter Games in the Californian resort of Squaw Valley, even though an American was now IOC President. Avery Brundage invited his countryman, US vice president Richard Milhous Nixon, to do so. Another appearance in front of the cameras later that year showed a less confident Nixon. Many believe his performances in televised candidate debates were decisive in his defeat by John F. Kennedy.

Richard Nixon opened the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley ©Getty Images
Richard Nixon opened the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley ©Getty Images

When Detroit put their hands up for the 1968 Olympics, JFK signed the bidding documentation and took part in the promotional film shown to IOC members. "Should Detroit be selected as a result of your deliberations in Baden Baden, I want to assure you of the warmest and most cordial welcome," said Kennedy. "Detroit is the centre of a great sports community."

Detroit lost out to Mexico City. A few weeks later in Dallas, Kennedy was assassinated and vice president Lyndon Baines Johnson took office.

Johnson was duly elected the following year and followed the convention of greeting Olympic champions. In 1968, at a White House reception, he plucked a flower from a magnolia tree to present to ice skating gold medallist Peggy Fleming.

Later that year, Nixon did win a Presidential election. His first term came at a time of detente. An American table tennis team visited China, paving the way for what was known as "ping pong diplomacy".

The Soviet gymnastics team also made a big impact at the 1972 Munich Olympics. The following spring, they toured the US.

"The star of the team, Olga Korbut, captured the fancy of the American public during her televised performances," wrote White House aide Brent Scowcroft in a briefing before Nixon met Korbut and her team-mates.

"As I watched the Olympics on television I noticed that you all had the capability of always landing on your feet," joked Nixon. "That’s why your visit to Washington is particularly appropriate, because all of the politicians here try to land on their feet."

His awkward smile suggested that something was troubling him. A few months later came revelations of the Watergate break-in which engulfed his Presidency. Nixon did not land on his feet. He was impeached and forced from office.

Gerald Ford became President. He had been an outstanding college footballer and was offered professional contracts but decided instead on a political career.

In the Olympic year of 1976, Ford presented Owens with America’s highest civilian honour, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, almost 40 years after the snub by FDR. "Giants like Jesse Owens show us why politics will never defeat the Olympic spirit," said Ford. "His character, his achievements, have continued to inspire Americans as they did the whole world in 1936."

The election of Jimmy Carter that autumn had serious consequences for the Olympic Movement. The 1980 Games were to be held in Moscow. Carter was not well disposed towards the Soviet regime but preparations seemed to be running smoothly. Then, in December 1979, Soviet tanks rolled into Afghanistan. By this time, Carter's Presidency was under fire. A month before, American hostages had been taken captive at the US Embassy in Tehran.

He was determined to respond to this latest crisis in robust fashion.

"I've sent a message to the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) spelling out my own position: that unless the Soviets withdraw their troops in a month from Afghanistan, that the Olympic Games be moved from Moscow to an alternate site or multiple sites, or postponed or cancelled," he said.

Ronald Reagan became the first incumbent President to open an Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 1984 ©Getty Images
Ronald Reagan became the first incumbent President to open an Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 1984 ©Getty Images

In a twist of fate, the 1980 Winter Games were to be held at Lake Placid. Carter dispatched secretary of state Cyrus Vance to address the IOC session.

"The world faces a serious threat to peace which raises an issue of fundamental importance to the Olympic Movement," said Vance. "The preferable course would be to transfer the Games from Moscow to another site or multiple sites this summer. Clearly there are practical difficulties but these could be overcome. We will oppose the participation of an American team in any Olympic Games in the capital of an invading nation."

Vance’s speech enraged IOC President Lord Killanin who branded it "outrageously political".

Carter chose not to attend the Opening Ceremony of the actual Games. "At the last moment I was informed that he had delegated his authority to vice president Walter Mondale," recalled Killanin bitterly.

Mondale returned later in the week to witness the momentous "miracle on ice" when the US defied the odds to win ice hockey gold. Carter's daughter Amy was also in the crowd. Conveniently, they had beaten the USSR en-route.

The President lost no time in calling coach Herb Brooks to invite the team to the White House. He described the win as "one of the most breathtaking upsets not only in Olympic history but the entire history of sport". 

In the months that followed, the boycott campaign increased. Carter sent Muhammad Ali as his special envoy to African nations to rally support and Mondale addressed USOC to apply further pressure. They voted against sending a US Olympic team to Moscow. Canada, Japan and West Germany were among prominent nations which also stayed away. Despite the efforts of the White House, 80 nations did take part, including Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain. "In this country, Magna Carta rules, not Jimmy Carter," observed veteran British parliamentarian Denis Howell.

There was one last Presidential barb aimed towards Moscow. As the 1984 Games were to be in Los Angeles, Olympic protocol called for the Stars and Stripes to be flown at the Closing Ceremony. The White House objected. Instead, the red, yellow and green city flag of Los Angeles was raised to the strains of the Olympic anthem.

That November, Carter lost the Presidential election. His successor was a one-time sports announcer and 1940s screen idol. Ronald Reagan had starred as gridiron star George Gipp in a film which told the story of legendary football coach Knute Rockne. "Do it for the Gipper" became an election slogan.

As the 1984 Games approached, Reagan took centre stage. In a ceremony at the White House, he received Torchbearer Kurt Thomas, a world champion gymnast who had missed out on the 1980 Olympics because of the boycott.

A few weeks later, the Presidential cavalcade rolled into the Memorial Coliseum. Reagan became the first incumbent American President to open an Olympic Games. His aides had unsuccessfully lobbied for a longer speech. Reagan was restricted to the traditional words. This was just as well, for he somehow delivered them in the wrong order.

George W.Bush opened the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City ©Getty Images
George W.Bush opened the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City ©Getty Images

"Celebrating the 23rd Olympiad of the modern era, I declare open the Olympic Games of Los Angeles," he said. 

Before he left the stadium, Reagan told American television network ABC: "The history of the Olympics is tied to peace. Any head of state should feel honoured to participate in the opening of the Games.

"You saw this great American crowd and their response to the visiting athletes of other countries, I just thought looking down there at all those wonderful young people representing 140 countries, I bet if we turned some of the problems of international relations over to them, maybe the would solve them before tomorrow."

The Games returned to America again in 1996 as the centenary of the modern Olympics was celebrated in Atlanta. President Bill Clinton opened them and watched as Ali lit the cauldron.

"I will never forget it, by then we knew each other," said Clinton, 20 years later at a memorial service for Ali. "I had some sense of what he was living with. I was still weeping like a baby seeing his hand shake and his legs shake and knowing by god, he was going to make those last few steps no matter what it took, the flame would be lit, the fight would be won, the spirit would be affirmed."

Barack Obama's election installed a passionate basketball fan in the White House. He played whenever he could, and regularly welcomed sporting teams to the White House. When Chicago bid for 2016, Obama flew to Copenhagen to address the IOC Session.

"I come here as a passionate supporter of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, as a strong believer in the Movement it represents," he said. "With hard work and discipline and dedication, we can make it if we try. That is not just the American dream, that is the Olympic spirit. It’s the essence of the Olympic spirit that is why we see so much of ourselves in these Games, that’s why we want them in Chicago."

Despite Obama’s efforts, Chicago were soon eliminated from the race and Rio duly staged the 2016 Games. When they were over, Obama hosted a reception for Olympians and Paralympians and introduced two remarkable guests, Tommie Smith and John Carlos. Both had given Black Power salutes at the 1968 Olympics. "Their powerful silent protest at the 1968 Games was controversial but it woke folks up and created greater opportunity for those that followed," said Obama.

No American city has so far hosted a Summer Olympics in the new millennium, but they staged the first Winter Games of the 21st century. In the wake of the September 11 attacks, President George W. Bush added the words "on behalf of a proud and grateful nation" to his opening declaration at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City. It did not pass unnoticed. At the Sochi 2014 Games, IOC President Thomas Bach described it as a breach of the Olympic charter.

Could Donald Trump open an Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 2024? ©Getty Images
Could Donald Trump open an Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 2024? ©Getty Images

In Rio last summer, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti pondered the impact of Trump's election rhetoric. Trump had called for a wall to be built on the Mexican border and suggested restricting Muslim entry to the US. "They would say can we go to a country like that where we've heard things we've taken offence to?," Garcetti said. 

Relations have softened since the election. LA 2024 even praised Trump’s "longstanding support of the Olympic Movement in the United States". USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun anticipates " a good dialogue". 

The US President-elect is no stranger to the sporting world. As a young man he played baseball at the New York Military Academy. In the late 1980s, he was the backer of a road cycling race modestly titled the "Tour de Trump". Intended to rival the Tour de France, it covered 837 miles over 10 stages, starting in Albany with a finish in Atlantic City. 

Trump's sponsorship ended in 1990 but the race itself continued for a further five years. Much later, Trump mocked US secretary of state John Kerry for falling off a bicycle. 

Trump has been involved in pro-football, and his hotels have staged boxing world title fights, but his greatest passion is golf. He claims to be a three handicap and owns 17 courses worldwide. The US Senior PGA tournament will be held at his Washington course this May and the US Women's Open is due to take place at the Trump National Bedminster in July. There have been calls for this to be withdrawn following Trump's derogatory comments about women during the election campaign.

It would need two further elections to go his way if he is to open the 2024 Games in Los Angeles. First the IOC would have to choose Los Angeles over Budapest and Paris, and Trump must win another four year term in 2020.