Area Photographer Recalls his '16 Days of Glory' at XXIII Olympiad

Opening Ceremoney of 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles Credits: Tom Salvas
Mary Lou Retton during 1984 Olympics when she won the all-around gymnastics gold medal for the USA in Los Angeles Credits: Tom Salvas
Tom Salvas manning the camera in the LA Coliseum in 1984
Bud Greenspan at the Coliseum during 1984 Summer Olympics Credits: Tom Salvas
Bud Greenspan with U.S. diver Greg Louganis Credits: Tom Salvas
Bud Greenspan interviews the U.S. men gymnastics team on the beach Credits: Tom Salvas
Tom Salvas photos adorn the video covers of "16 Days of Glory" Summer Olympic documentary Credits: Tom Salvas
Gymnastics competition in Pauley Pavilion Credits: Tom Salvas

CHATHAM, NJ - If it's a memorable photo from the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, there's a good chance Chatham's Tom Salvas was right there when it was taken.

That's because he was right there, snapping photos of the behind-the-scenes interviews conducted by Bud Greenspan in his documentary film "16 Days of Glory."

The memories have been rushing back to life for Salvas during the current Rio Olympics, where the USA women's gymnastics team has been a dominant success story, led by Simone Biles.

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Salvas has been digging out the old photos and he likes to think he was there when it started for U.S. women gymnasts. He witnessed and photographed Mary Lou Retton's all-around gold medal in the 84 Games, the first-ever gold medal for her country in the sport.

Salvas captured Retton's triumphant pose with his well-circulated Olympic photo, which was reproduced on posters and adorns the cover of the documentary "16 Days of Glory" produced by Bud Greenspan.

"Working with the legendary Bud Greenspan to cover his athlete interviews and directorial style was an opportunity many photographers wanted," Salvas said. "I was fortunate that Bud allowed me the access to document his unprecedented contribution to Olympic history.

"With the USA Gymnastics success at the Rio games, we're reminded of the excitement and accomplishments of our 1984 Mary Lou Retton taking the Women's All-Around Gold over the favored Romanian Ecaterina Szabo, a head-to-head battle that came down to Mary Lou's final two vaults for which she earned perfect 10's. Her triumphant
pose (taken by Salvas) is one of the enduring images from these games."

Salvas served as the still photographer for the Emmy-winning sports documentary, which was written, produced and directed by Greenspan. The film, "16 Days of Glory" is the official Olympic film of LA84.

"I followed Bud throughout the games as he interviewed athletes and gathered stories that captured the drama of those who, as he would write 'entered the arena and made the attempt' and thereby defined what was right with sport," Salvas said.

Some of the Americans who shone in the 1984 Olympics were: Mary Lou Retton, Carl Lewis, Edwin Moses, Greg Louganis and Rowdy Gaines. All were profiled by Greenspan in the film.

"Not only were the Los Angeles Games of 1984 thrilling, they were record breaking in a number of ways, and the success in planning and venue preparation from 1984 put LA in a good position to be selected as the host city for the 2024 games," Salvas said.

According to Salvas, Greenspan's film was the largest production of any official film of an Olympic Games before LA84 or since. Greenspan and his investors had a crew of more than 200 working to cover the 16 days of competition. 

"The film in two parts had its premiere at Lincoln Center in 1985," Salvas said. "My photos were displayed at the premiere in Avery Fisher Hall, on  posters, press releases and the Paramount Home Video release."


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