The 1984, Summer Olympic Games was a turning point. With this event, which took place in Los Angeles in the summer of 1984, the Olympics took a new, more commercialized turn — these Games marked the beginning of the modern sponsorshop age. While the Games had had sponsorships before (even as far back as 1908), these Games were so profitable for L.A. Olympic Committee that there was a surplus of over 200 million dollars after the event was over — which has continued to be used to support children's athletics programs for decades afterwards. In 1984, there were 34 official sponsors, 64 companies had "supplier" rights, and 65 companies were licensees. The incredibly-detailed post-1984 Olympic Games report gives a breakdown for everything about these particular Games you ever needed to know — it runs thousands of pages.
The 1984 torch relay was sponsored by AT&T, and was the very first to charge runners to participate, with fees of around $3K per kilometer (both decisions made by the L.A. Olympic Committee). But all $11 million raised by the relay went to kids' athletics charities. The relay was meant to be egalitarian, and any runner who could raise the money—through bake sales or grassroots fundraising—could run, and did. Children, moms, firemen, amateur-class runners, even Bruce Jenner and O.J. Simpson: more than 6,000 individuals carried the torch across 33 states on a 15,000-kilometer route. (The exact route can be found in Volume 1, Part 3 of the 1984 Olympic Report). The torch relay was organized by AT&T's PR agency, Burson-Marsteller, and was staffed primarily by volunteers from the Telephone Pioneers organization.
AT&T's involvement in the Olympics dates back to the Los Angeles Summer Games in 1932, when a Bell Labs engineer, at the bequest of the head of the U.S. Olympic Committee, designed the "photo-finish"-type camera, which took simultaneous photos of the finish line and of a clock. The camera was precise to the hundredth of a second, and was used to determine a particularly close track-and-field race during the 1932 Games. The company has been involved in sponsorships of the U.S. Olympic Team and the Games since 1984, in various capacities. Check out AT&T's Team USA site.
Footage Courtesy of AT&T Archives and History Center, Warren, NJ