Olympic Games Los Angeles 1932: Sport amid Great Depression
The 10th Olympic Games returned to the United States in 1932 after spending 28 years in Europe. However, the fact that the Great Depression was affecting the host country and the rest of the world, meant a significant reduction in the number of participating countries and athletes.
The Games of the X Olympiad, as it is officially known, were held in Los Angeles from July 30 to August 14 with 1,334 athletes (126 women) competing from 37 countries in 117 events. In comparison, in the previous Games in Amsterdam in 1928, 2,883 athletes participated from 46 countries.
There were great technical advances. For example, the so-called “photo-finish” appeared for the first time as photographs were taken in line with the finish line to establish the winner in a race. Also, a three-tiered podium was used for the first time during the awards ceremonies.
The length of these Games was also a novelty. The competitions were carried out over 16 days for the first time in the 20th century. Since then, every Summer Olympics have taken place over a period of 15 to 18 days.
Despite the absence of many countries and the soccer tournament being cancelled due to lack of sufficient teams, the Games’ competitive level increased. This is shown in the fact that 18 world records were matched or broken. Also, around 100,000 people attended the Opening Ceremony, a record number at the time.
Mildred “Babe” Didrikson from the United States, set world records in all three events that she participated in, winning the javelin throw and the 80 meters hurdle and coming second in the high jump. She was only 18-years-old.
Didrikson could have won more medals as she had qualified for five events but, at the time, the IOC only allowed women to compete in three individual events in athletics. Read more
“Babe” Didrikson later in life