The inaugural L.A. Watts Summer Games were held in 1968 at Locke High School. Originally called the Watts Summer Olympics, the Games were modeled after the Olympic Games by Bill Sims and fellow members of the Los Angeles Junior Chamber of Commerce.
Founded in the spring of 1968 by the Los Angeles Junior Chamber of Commerce, the L.A. Watts Summer Games were the City’s solution to the civil unrest which resulted from the 1965 Watts Rebellion. Unifying the youth, the community and the City, the birth of The Games was one of the most positive outcomes of the L.A. Watts Rebellion, and signified a rebirth of civic spirit.
The success of the first games, which involved 150 athletes competing in three events, provided a much-needed opportunity for young people of various ethnic, economic and geographic backgrounds to interact with one another in the positive context of sports. William Sims and fellow members from the Los Angeles Junior Chamber of Commerce modeled the event after the Olympic Games, which to date now have over 300,000 alumni.
Fifty years later, cities across the globe are struggling in the face of devastating financial stress, political neglect and yet there is unrest between citizens and local authorities. The Watts story has never been more relatable than it is today. Together we can revive communities and find common ground through positive interaction.
Learn more about the history and evolution of The Games:
- The County of Los Angeles provides L.A. Watts Summer Games history and highlights activities from 1969 – 2011: L.A. Watts Summer Games 2011
- Watts Summer Games historical Los Angeles Times articles spanning early 1980s through 2013: Watts Summer Games L.A. Times Articles