History of the Olympic Games


Site: Los Angeles, California (USA)
Dates: July 30 - August 14
Nations: 37
Total Athletes: 1,408
Sports: 14

Los Angeles had nine years to prepare for these Games. Voted as host in 1923, Los Angeles had already build a stoic Colosseum that could be expanded to hold over 105,000 fans. LA was able to whether the 1929 stock market disaster with a 1928 passage of the California Olympiad Bond Act, that provided financing through a government guarantee and loans.

LA proved to be a wonderful host for the games, developing an Olympic Village that overlooked the Pacific Ocean. The games also marked the first time male athletes housed together in the Baldwin Hills of LA. However, this created quite a stir as foes were called to co-habitat with one another leaving training secrets in jeopardy. Participation was more than half less than what had appeared in Amsterdam. Even IOC members stayed away for the most part.

One key addition implements by Los Angeles was the "photo finish" camera to eliminate any controversial decisions made by referees or officials of each event. It paid dividends immediately, when a review of the film awarded the winner of a 100-meter track event to Eddie Tolan, after the scoreboard had tabbed his teammate Ralph Metcalfe the winner.

Another innovation was the awarding of medals to athletes at the end of their particular event, rather than at the closing ceremonies. The athlete, as is the case even today, would stand atop a podium to receive their medal. The only time that did not occur was for those athletes that won events at distant venues. In that case, those athletes were given their medals at the close of the Games.

Another innovation was the juggling of the alphabet for each country so that rival or hostile countries would not have to enter behind one another. As a positive, China made its first foray into the Games.

One of the most disappointing aspects of the Games was the expulsion of the great Finn, Paavo Nurmi, the winner of 12 medals, nine of which were gold. Apparently, the IOC had uncovered that Nurmi had padded his expense account while racing that spring in Europe and ruled on the eve of the Games, that he would be disqualified.

Vice President Charles Curtis opened what would become one of the best Olympics in history.

In track and field, all events registered world records but one, the long jump. Japanese men dominated swimming events, winning all but one gold medal. The only non-Japanese winner was American Buster Crabbe. Crabbe won the 400-meter freestyle and would later go on to notoriety in screen and film as a Hollywood actor.

Another athlete to gain greatness at these Games was a woman, Mildred "Babe" Didriksen, who won gold medals in the hurdles and javelin and a silver medal in the high jump despite tying Jean Shiley at a new world record height of 5 feet, 5 1/4 inches. In a subsequent jump-off, Didriksen's style was ruled illegal, although the jump became legal the next year.

Unlike other Games, spectator appearance was genuinely impressive, treating foreigners with respect as U.S. guests.

Berlin 1936
The last of 3000 runners that carried the Olympic torch from Olympia, Greece, arrives in the Lustgarten in Berlin to light the Olympic Flame and start the 11th Summer Olympic Games.
(Courtesy of: Corbis-Bettmann)
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