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Los Angeles 1932 - Overview

A Games to forget the depression

The 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles came at a time when the US and much of the world was still reeling from the 'Wall Street Crash' that marked the beginning of a global economic depression back in 1929.

But the Californians pulled out all the stops to ensure a successful event. They rennovated and enlarged the Coliseum stadium into a 105,000 seater venue for the athletics and housed the athletes themselves in a temporary 700 bungalo village on a golf course with panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean.

They also laid on a no-holds-barred Hollywoodesque opening ceremony with 3,000 singers, dancers and musicians.

Stars of the day Charlie Chaplin and Gary Cooper were part of the showbiz crowd.

While professionalism became the order of the day in terms of organisation the competitors themselves were still strictly constrained to the amateur status and two great middle distance runners, Finland's nine-time gold medallist Paavo Nurmi and Frenchman Jules Ladoumegue were both blacklisted for having earned money from sport.

The records tumble

New records were set in 100m, 400m, 800m, the 400m hurdles, the 4x100 relay, the 4x400m, the triple jump, the javelin and in all six women's events.

Mildred "Babe" Didrikson emerged as the first great female Olympic star with wins in the 80m hurdles and the javelin and also a silver in the high-jump.

The Texan was to later make her name as a top women's golfer too.

Home star Eddie Tolan lifted a splendid sprint double with an impressive 10.3 sec 100m sprint to go with his 200m gold.

Unsurprisingly the US ended atop the medals table again with 41 gold including 16 in athletics, four in the women's pool events and a staggering 12 out of a possible 12 in diving.

Another noteworthy performance was that of the Japanese swimmers who left Los Angeles with five gold medals.

Copyright 2008 Agence France-Presse.

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