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.

See also: my full list of posts about past Olympics

9 March 2012

1928 Summer Olympics Amsterdam: IX Olympiad

Nations 46 (+2)
Competitors 2883 (-206)
Sports 15 (-2)
Events 109 (-15)

28 July to 12 August 1928 hosted by Amsterdam, Netherlands

The Official poster for the Games (right) was designed by Jos Rivers, only 10,000 were made. However, the IOC failed to gain the copyright of this image and therefore ever since in their publications used a different poster (see below) that was first used in a German book about the games.

Since then the IOC have been more careful about the images and copyrights of their Games. As now the financial outcome of the Games were becoming important. As monitored by Los Angeles who had lost out to Amsterdam for 1928 but had secured the Games for 1932, there was US$183 million with receipts of US$1.165 million for a loss of US$18,000.

New in 1928

For the first time in the modern Olympics a flame was lit over the stadium for the duration of the Games, although the torch relay was still 8 years off.

The games themselves took on a 16 day programme of events rather than being spread out as previous games had been. This programme is largely the same as the one used today, with swimming dominating the first week and athletics the second with the other sports and new sports fitting into the 16 day schedule.

It was also the first time that the flag of Greece, followed by its team preceded all the competitors in the parade at the opening ceremony, noting the gratitude that Greece were was being the inspiration

New Olympic nations taking part for the first time in Amsterdam were Malta, Panama and Rhodesia (modern day Zimbabwe). Also after a 16 year absence Germany were welcomed back into the Olympic fold.

Seeing as yesterday was International Women's Day it is worth pointing out that Athletics and Gymnastics were finally opened up to female Olympians.

Halina Konapacka first women's athletics gold medalist
The women track and field events were limited to:

  • 100m (winner Betty Robinson USA)
  • 800m (Lina Radke GER)
  • 4x100m (Canada inc. silver and bronze 100m athletes)
  • High Jump (Ethel Catherwood CAN)
  • Discus throw (Halina Konapacka POL)
However, when several of the women in the 800m finished exhausted no running events of longer than 200m were to be run by women until the 1960 Games.

It was Halina Konapacka who would go into the history books as the as the first women's champion in athletics with a throw of 39.62 which beat her own world record before the games of 39.18. This was a whole 2.54m further than the silver medal athlete, Lillian Copeland of the USA, who would take both the gold and a new Olympic record four years later.

In the gymnastics the women were limited to an all around team event that was won by the Netherlands. Five of the 12 woman team were Jewish, four of whom Estella Agsteribbe, Anna Dresden-Polak, Judikje Simons and Helena Nordheim were killed in concentration camps during World War II. Agsteribbe at Auschwitz, the other three at Sobibór. Only Elka de Levie of the Jewish gymnasts in the team survived the war, though her marriage didn't.

Sadly they weren't to the the only Olympic team gold medalists from Amsterdam who would be killed by the Nazis in the war to come. The Hungarian sabre team lost János Garay, Attila Petschauer, who took gold in the saber (along with 1908 and 1912 sabre champion fellow Hungarian Oskar Gerde).

One of the great Olympic dynasties in team sport won their first gold in 1928. They dominated the tournament scoring 26 goals in their group with none against. Adding a 3-0 win in the final. Richard Allen pictured in his goal keeping leg defenders would concede one goal at the 1932 Games when he was off signing autographs in the games against the USA team, India did win 24-1 though. The following Olympics one further goal was scored against him, this is still a record of best performance by a goal keeper in Olympic history.

India would go on to win 6 consecutive gold medals in the field hockey but even in 1928 in the days of Empire they had a mixed racial team. Along with Allen, were Maurice Gateley, William Goodsir-Cullen, Leslie Hammond, George Marthins, Rex Norris, Michael Rocque and Frederic Seaman of European descent there was Dhyan Chand, Feroze Khan, Broome Pinneger, Ali Shaukat, Jaipal Singh, Sayed Yusuf and Kher Singh Gill from a variety of native races.

1928 water polo final Germany v Hungary
The other sporting dynasty that was to immerge to almost claim an event as its own was Hungary in the water polo. They only secured Silver in the Amsterdam pool, but there were to medal in ever Olympics water polo tournament from then until 1980, securing six golds, three silver and three bronze in the process.

Since 2000 there has been a revival in Hungarian water polo fortunes and they have secured the last three gold medals as well.

See also: my full list of past Olympics

2 March 2012

1924 Summer Olympics Paris: VIII Olympiad

Nations 44 (+15)
Competitors 3089 (+462)
Sports 17 (-5)
Events 126 (-28)

4 May - 27 July hosted by Paris, France

These were the final games to he held under the IOC Presidency of Baron Pierre de Coubertin how having held the role for 29 years stepped aside the year after the second games to come to his home city.

There were also the second Olympic Games to be held in France that year, the inaugural Winter Olympics had finished in the Alpine resort of Chamonix just 3 months before the opening of the Summer Games. There were officially at the time just a winter week of the Summer Olympiad though when a second week of winter sports became part of the programme in 1928 they were to be recognised as the first Winter Olympics. But the Winter Games are a different story and one I may tell in the lead up to Sochi and the XXII Winter Olympiad in February 2014.

This is Paris in the Summer of 1924, the Olympics of Chariots of Fire.

Citius, Altius, Fortius

The motto translated as "Faster, Higher, Stronger" was first used in the 1924 Games. It had previously been used by a French sporting Federation one of whose members was Baron Pierre de Coubertin. It exemplifies the major aspects of most of the sports still in Olympics movement. Archery and Shooting present then and from the start not really fitting any of the three, but how does one add most accurate.

Olympic Village

The Games were now increasing to involve over 3,000 athletes never mind the officials and team coaches etc for them all. In past Games Olympians had had to book space in hotels along with anyone else who wanted to be at the Games. But in 1924 a new innovation came to the Olympics a specific village of accommodation to house the athletes and officials.

As you can see from the picture the accommodation then was rather basic looking cabins. But there were built close to the stadium and were the first to be termed Olympic Village. It wasn't replicated in 1928 but has been at every Games since 1932.

New Nations

The newly independent Ireland were amongst the new teams taking part. So the taking part under protest and protests of the previous three Olympiads were now a thing of the past. They were not to medal in their debut, having had 'Irish' medalists in the past the closest they came to a medal was in the boxing, the event that they still have over half their medals in.

It was in the Semi Final of the Welterwight contest that the Referee Stopped the Contest to protest the Irish boxer Patrick Dwyer from the Argentine Hector Mendez, but he was unable to take to the ring the following day for the Bronze medal match which went to Douglas Lewis from Canada on a walk over.

Also present for the first time were Ecuador, Haiti, Lithuania, Philippines, Mexico and Uruguay. Latvia and Poland had both made their debuts at Chamonix in the Winter Games and sent teams to the summer as well. Poland would take a silver in the men's team pursuit cycling and a bronze in the individual show jumping, and Haiti would take bronze in the team rifle shooting.

Sports some goodbyes, some familiarity and some champions

Rugby made its last appearance in the Olympics as a full 15 a side event. It will be returning in Rio 2016 as a Sevens event. Polo was also making one of its occasional visits to the game, its fourth out of five. Tennis was also to make its last appearance from the early Games roster until it returned as a full Olympic sport in 1988.

However, there was standardisation of two disciplines. From this games onwards the length of the Marathon was set to the 26 miles 385 years that first was run at the 1908 Games in London. Also the Olympic measurements for a swimming pools were set to the now familiar 50m. In the past swimming had taken place in pools of whatever length was available or in open water in lakes or the sea.

Liddell being carried aloft
Of course because of Chariots of Fire everyone knows that Harold Abrams won the 100m and Eric Liddell won the 400m. But did you know that they both contested one final together. In the 200m both qualified along with 4 Americans Jackson Scholz and Charles Paddock who were also featured in the film as losers to Abrams took gold and silver. But it was Liddell in bronze with Abrams behind in 6th. All three of the sprint disciplines were won in Olympic Records, Liddell's being a world record and Abrams running equal to the existing Olympic record of 10.6 secs in his QF, SF and Final.

But aside from the sprint guys who made the story of the Oscar winning film who else did well in Paris.

Well talking of films there was a future star fo screen and jungle doing rather well in that 50m pool. He took gold in both the 100m and 400m Freestyle as well as helping the USA to 4x200m freestyle gold. He would take a further two golds four years later but he also appeared in the USA water polo team which took the bronze medal. Eight years later and of course the sound of Johnny Weissmuller's Tarzan yell would first be heard on the silver screen. But then he was just a 20 year old American swimmer burn in what was at the time the Austria-Hungary Empire in what is now Romania in the town of Timişoara famous for being the seed bed of that countries revolution.

In the fencing there was a Frenchman, Roger Ducret, competing in his second Games. Having won bronze in the individual foil he went on to gold in his home games, adding to it the team foil and épée golds as well as silvers in the individual épée and sabre. He wasn't on the roster for the French team in the sabre the only men's event that the hosts failed to medal at in the fencing.

See also: My full list of past Olympics