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As the athletes of all nations marched past during the opening ceremonies of the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, Carlos Velarde, who was in the stadium with his wife Alice, got a lump in his throat and tears in his eyes. “That really made a great impression,” the Los Angeles-based State Bar Court judge recalls, “particularly since my parents were from Mexico and it being [the country's] first Olympics. “I had a movie camera on,” he says, “and when I see that [film] I see it shaking because it was so emotional for me.” Velarde would become so enraptured by the games that he would go on to attend four more summer Olympics — Montreal in 1976; Los Angeles in 1984; Barcelona, Spain, in 1992; and Atlanta in 1996 — as well as the 1988 winter games in Calgary, Alberta. And he and his wife are already booked for the Sydney Olympics that begin Friday. “We’ll be attending the opening ceremonies,” Velarde says, “and all of the evening track and field events … and also a couple of sessions of the women’s gymnastics, women’s tennis, weightlifting and men’s soccer.” Velarde, 70, and his wife, 66, are definite Olympic fanatics. Over the years, they’ve collected enough memorabilia to pack their house — enough, in fact, to enable them to host an on-site Olympics memorabilia display during the Atlanta games. “I started, like many others, collecting pins,” Velarde says. But he quickly graduated to larger items, culminating in his pride and joy — 32 original Olympic torches. “I selected the torches,” Velarde says, “because I thought they were the ultimate for collecting items from the Olympics.” Mexico City wasn’t Velarde’s first Olympics, though. That honor goes to the 1932 Los Angeles games, which he attended at age 3 with his father. “I still have some recollection of the Los Angeles Coliseum and the flags around the stadium and runners coming out of the tunnel,” he says. Velarde, who has decided not to seek reappointment to the State Bar Court, has had his share of Olympic shocks and disappointments too. He and his wife were close enough to hear the bomb blast at Atlanta’s Olympic Park in 1996 and to see the flashing lights of the ambulances and police cars. In addition, the couple had tickets and reservations for the 1980 Moscow games, but that trip was eliminated by the United States-led boycott over the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. One of his favorite Olympic memories came in Mexico City, when he watched Bob Beamon set the long jump record of 29 feet, 2-1/2 inches, then was on hand 23 years later as Mike Powell broke that record — with a jump of 29 feet, 41/2 inches — at the 1991 track and field world championships in Tokyo. “That was one of the highlights,” Velarde says, “to be there when it was originally set and to be present when it was broken.” Velarde has even carried the Olympic torch himself, for a mile through Los Angeles for the Atlanta games. But that run had a humorous twist. “I was right in front of the UCLA campus, and they had these UCLA cheerleaders and mascots and a band,” he says. “I found that kind of ironic because I graduated from the [University of Southern California] Law School, and I’m a USC rooter.”

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