listography (1)

Rafer Johnson

Rafer Johnson's Los Angeles


Los Angeles Magazine

Rafer Johnson is one of the greatest athletes in U.S. history. Johnson was the USA team captain, flag bearer and Decathlon Gold Medalist at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome. Among his many accolades, Johnson was named the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year in 1958, and won the 1960 James E. Sullivan Award as the top amateur athlete in America, breaking that award's color barrier. In 1974, Johnson was inducted into the National Track & Field Hall of Fame. Johnson was selected to light the Olympic Cauldron at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to open the 1984 Summer Olympic Games. In 1998, he was named one of ESPN's 100 Greatest North American Athletes of the 20th Century. In 2006, the NCAA named the former UCLA Bruin as one of the 100 Most Influential Student Athletes of the past 100 years.

Rafer Johnson, along with a small group of volunteers, founded Special Olympics California in 1969 by conducting a competition at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for 900 individuals with intellectual disabilities. As Los Angeles welcomes thousands of athletes and visitors to the Special Olympics World Games, Johnson shares some of his favorite places in L.A.