Friday 16 March 2012

1932 Summer Olympics Los Angeles: X Olympiad

The 1932 Games were held in the middle of the Great Depression. No country bid to host the Games but they were awarded to the runners up to Amsterdam the city of Los Angeles. Because of the economic situation many nations who had attended in 1928 cound not afford to send teams or as many competitors in 1932 reflected in the stats below.

Nations 37 (-9)
Competitors 1332 (-1551)
Sports 14 (-1)
Events 117 (+12)

Despite the reduction in nations there were two debutante nations Columbia and China. The most populous nation in the world made their Olympic debut with just one athlete Liu Changchun in the 100m and 200m on the track. He came last in both his heats and failed to progress.

There was an innovation in the 1932 Games that seems almost like one of those how did they survive before moments to us today. There was the introduction of the medal podium (seen here with the women's hurdles medalists) as you can see in the picture it was very roughly finished and you can see the individual planks of wood and indeed the grain of the wood that make it up.

The Los Angeles Memorial Stadium had been in existence since 1923 but was renamed the Olympic Stadium during 1932. Although not built specifically for the Olympics it is the only stadium to have hosted the Olympics twice. It is also the only Olympic Stadium that has also hosted World Series Finals and the Superbowl, fittingly American Football was a demonstration sport.

10th Street through the city was renamed Olympic Boulevard in honour of the Tenth Games a name it still bears today.

Female champion who took on the men

One of the darlings of the games was Babe Didrikson who took gold in the 80m hurdles (see above) and the javelin. She had also tied with a world record leap of compatriot Jean Shiley in the High Jump but in the jump off for gold her technique was deemed illegal those denying her triple gold. In the year prior to the Olympics she had led a team to victory in the Amateur Athletic Union Basketball tournament.

However, it was post the Games that she found her true sport. In 1935 she took up golf but was very soon denied amateur status. So in 1938 she competed in the Los Angeles Open and men's PGA event. Something that no other woman would attempt to emulate for over 60 years. In 1945 she took part in three PGA tournaments against the men and made the cut in all three (a feat that no other woman has achieved). In 1948, after competing successfully for many years on the LPGA she attempted to qualify for the US Open but was rejected by the USGA who said that the tournament was only for men. She was an Olympian who went on to be one of the champions for women's sport by taking on the men at their own game in their events.

There's something about Stella

The winner of the womens 100m was Stanisława Walasiewicz of Polan had a different impact on gender sports. Prior to the games she had been running the USA under the name Stella Walsh but just two days before she was meant to take her Oath of Citizenship she decided against it so she could compete for her native Poland in the Games. Upon her death in 1980, long after she won the gold in 100m and narrowly failed to retain it in 1936 she was found to have ambiguous genetalia that meant she could not be identified as either biologically male or female. Detailed investigations also show that she possessed both and XX (female) and an XY (male) pair of chromosones. She is thus the first intersex Olympic winner, though some controversy still remains as to whether her achievements and records should be expunged from the records.

Olympians to losses of war

Last week I mentioned some of the Dutch and Hungarian champions who were to lose their lives in the war that was to come. In 1932 there were others. One was the winner of the Individual Show Jumping and he would fall in one of the iconic battles of the Pacific campaign at Iwo Jima. His name was Takeichi Nishi a first lieutenant  in the Japanese Army.

 In 1930 he found what was to be his favourite horse in Italy, the army wouldn't pay for it so Uranus was bought from his own personal funds. They showed together around the European circuit before heading to the Olympics in 1932. It has been Japan's only equestrian medal to date.

He also competed in 1936 in Berlin but fell from Uranus mid round, before returning to military service in a Japanese army that was cutting back on cavalry and heading into tanks. It was while he was  in command of the 26th Tank Regiment under the Ogasawara Corps that he was died on the 21 March 1945. Though the American's appealed for him to surrender as the world could not face losing Baron Nishi (the title coming through his father) the showjumper, appeals he with Japanese determination refused to respond to.

Endre Kabos was another Jewish Hungarian Sabre fencer who took gold in the 1932 Team event, and repeated that along with the individual gold in 1936. He underwent five months in a forced labour camp under the Nazis before escaping and joining the Hungarian underground.  he is believed to have been defending the Magrit Bridge in November 1944 when he died.

Still with fencing Poland won only one bronze medal at these Olympics in the team Foil. Many of that team fought in the Polish army, all but one survived. The fallen was Leszek Władysław Lubicz-Nycz who had served in the Polish army since 1918, but on 22 Spetember 1939 was killed in Action near Warsaw during the September Campaign, as Germany invaded Poland. He was therefore one of the victims of World War II in its opening month.

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