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Sebastian Coe back in LA feeling nostalgic

Sebastian Coe walked onto the track at the University of Southern California and memories of winning his second straight gold medal in the 1,500 at the Los Angeles Olympics came flooding back.

"It was quite emotional," he said Friday after speaking at the opening session of the International Olympic Committee's Conference on Women and Sport. "It was like as though it was yesterday."

Actually, it was nearly 28 years ago that Coe became the only person to win successive Olympic titles in the 1,500, winning his second gold on a hot July day in an Olympic-record time.

Coe actually competed at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, a couple miles south of the USC campus he visited Thursday to meet with some U.S. swimmers who hope to compete in this summer's London Games.

"I find it more evocative going back to USC," he said, citing his long friendship with USC track coach Ron Allice.

This time, Coe didn't sneak into the Coliseum like he did in 2000, when he was in town and hopped over a locked fence to check out the vast empty stadium. The running track he won on is long gone, having been overtaken in favor of more seating for USC's football games.

On the day of the 1,500 in 1984, Coe ducked into an older building near the track to warm up in the cool indoor air.

"I stumbled into a room and I just sort of lapped around there and all of a sudden all these rhythmic gymnasts came in," he said. "There was this bizarre scene of me warming up for one of the biggest races in my life and all these 16-year-old girls with ribbons and balls going around.

"It's funny what I remember."

As chairman of the organizing committee for the London Olympics, Coe is in a position to create a memorable experience for a new generation of athletes. He successfully fought to preserve a scaled-down Olympic Stadium after the games end, and helped land the 2017 world track and field championships for the venue.

"We've nailed the legacy there," he said.

"Anybody winning in London this year, I know they will now be able to come back in 20, 30 years' time with their kids or grandchildren and say, 'Hey that's the stadium I won in.'"

Having gotten into the Coliseum on his own in 2000, Coe walked around and found the Wall of Honor. He spotted his name and that of close friend and fellow Brit Daley Thompson, the Olympic decathlon champion in 1980 and '84.

"I just remember having such a nice time here," he said. "I've got friends that I made during the games here that I'm still in touch with who I met working in the village. It was a fabulous games to be at."

Coe recalled the city's famously clogged freeways were nearly empty during the games, as were the yellow school buses used to transport the athletes to their venues.

"I remember sitting on with sort of one or two people," he said. "I felt I was in sort of a Norman Rockwell world, those yellow buses with sort of (David) Hockney-esque skies everywhere, which is the one thing I really noticed here."

Coe hopes athletes and visitors to the London Olympics leave his hometown having made their own memories.

"I just want people to leave London seeing the city that I'm very proud of," he said.