The new patriotism and commercial energy of the nation conjoined in July and August during an extraordinary event: The Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. There was a kind of magic about the Games, a brilliance of performance and the setting, as if not only the athletes but the place itself and the weather, blue and golden, all rose to the occassion... The Games also frequently achieved something close to perfection: Athletes utterly inhabiting the instant of the act--driving chariots of fire

The Games had an even more remarkable dimension: They worked, and worked almost flawlessly...

The Los Angeles Olympics became a spectacular dramatization of a renascent American entrepreneurial energy and optimism. The driving force behind them was Peter Victor Ueberroth. For his supreme skill in making the Games work, and work brilliantly, Ueberroth is TIME's Man of the Year.

Ueberroth, 47, masterminded a triumph that involved four-fifths of the nations of the globe. The bottom line, in terms of both money and morale, was more than impressive. Traditionally, the Olympics have lost money. In 1976 Montreal was left with a $1 billion debt, and Canadian taxpayers are still paying off the loss. This year, for the first time, the Games received almost no governmental funds and ended with an unimaginable surplus of $215 million and the sum could reach $250 million by June. To do this Ueberroth mustered a force of 72,000, about half of them volunteers... The Games became one of the greatest athletic spectacles in history

Some 2.5 billion people, more than half of the earth's population, watched the Los Angeles Games. Not since Neil Armstrong's walk on the moon has America had such an opportunity to lift its best face to the world. Ueberroth arranged the showing. He took over the stage of the global village, the earth intricately interconnected, and he spectacularly presented the U.S. upon it. If such success represented a political manupulation of the Games, blame not American leaders but the irrepressible high spirits of Ueberroth's free enterprise.

Ueberroth was, among other things, preternaturally lucky... The Games went off as peacefully as an Edwardian field day.

The success of the Games was Ueberroth's, and America's... The American Games all light and air and flashing motion (the essence of freedom dramatized)...

Before Los Angeles, commentators predicted the death of the Olympics as a form: too political, too nationalistic... But the Games transcended that partnership. Part of the charm of an Olympics is that we are for those days represented by bright eager, muscular youth, intensely alive. They become us, they embody us. Their acts become ours. From this identification flows a sense of pride and possibility and renewal.

Ueberroth presided over the Games in a spirit that reflected much of the new American style. He and his team, including LAOOC Executive Vice President Harry Usher and Hollywood Producer David Wolper, worked with imagination and brutal self-interest.