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Olympics of 1932 - History

Olympics of 1932 - History

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Olympics of 1932

Place: Los Angeles Men Athletics
Event: 100m Winner: Eddie Tolan Country: USA
Event: 200m Winner: Eddie Tolan Country: USA
Event: 400m Winner: William Carr Country: USA
Event: 800m Winner: Thomas Hampson Country: GBR
Event: 1500m Winner: Luigi Beccali Country: ITA
Event: 5000m Winner: Laurie Lehtinen Country: FIN
Event: 10,000m Winner: Janusz Kusocinski Country: POL
Event: Marathon Winner: Juan Carlos Zabala Country: ARG
Event: 110m Hurdles Winner: George Saling Country: USA
Event: 400m Hurdles Winner: Robert Tisdall Country: IRL
Event: 3000m Steeplechase Winner: Volmari Isohollo Country: FIN
Event: 4x100m Relay Winner: USA
Event: 4x400m Relay Winner: USA
Event: 50km Walk Winner: Thomas Green Country: GBR
Event: High Jump Winner: Duncan McNaughton Country: CAN
Event: Pole Vault Winner: William Miller Country: USA
Event: Long Jump Winner: Edward Gordon Country: USA
Event: Triple Jump Winner: Chuhei Nambu Country: JAP
Event: Shotput Winner: Leo Sexton Country: USA
Event: Discus Winner: John Anderson Country: USA
Event: Hammer Winner: Patrick OÕ Callaghan Country: IRL
Event: Javelin Winner: Matti Jarvinen Country: FIN
Event: Decathlon Winner: James Aloysius Bausch Country: USA Women Athletics
Event: 100m Winner: Stanislawa Walasiewicz Country: POL
Event: 800m Hurdles Winner: Mildred Didriksen Country: USA
Event: 4x100Relay Winner: USA
Event: High Jump Winner: Jean Shiley Country: USA
Event: Discus Winner: Lillian Copeland Country: USA
Event: Javelin Winner: Mildred Didriksen Country: USA Men Swimming
Event: 100m Freestyle Winner: Yasuji Miyazaki Country: JAP
Event: 400m Freestyle Winner: Clarence Crabbe Country: USA
Event: 1500m Freestyle Winner: Kusuo Kitamura Country: JAP
Event: 100m Backstroke Winner: Masaji Kiyokawa Country: JAP
Event: 200m Breaststroke Winner: Yoshiyuki Tsuruta Country: JAP
Event: 4x200m Relay Winner: JAP
Event: Springboard Diving Winner: Michael Galitzen Country: USA
Event: High Diving Winner: Harold Smith Country: USA Water Polo Winner: Hungary Women's Swimming
Event: 100m Freestyle Winner: Helene Madison Country: USA
Event: 400m Freestyle Winner: Helene Madison Country: USA
Event: 200m Breaststroke Winner: Clare Dennis Country: AUS
Event: 100m Backstroke Winner: Eleanor Holm Country: USA
Event: 4x100m Freestyle Relay Winner: USA
Event: Springboard Diving Winner: Georgia Coleman Country: USA
Event: Platform Diving Winner: Dorothy Poynton Country: USA Men Gymnastics
Event: All-around Individual Competition Winner: Romeo Neri Country: ITA
Event: All-around Team Competition Winner: Italy
Event: Parallel Bars Winner: Romeo Neri Country: ITA
Event: Floor Exercises Winner: Istvan Pelle Country: HUN
Event: Long Horse Vault Winner: Savino Guglielmetti Country: ITA
Event: Sidehorse Winner: Istvan Pelle Country: HUN
Event: Horizontal Bar Winner: Dallas Bixler Country: USA
Event: Rings Winner: George Gulack Country: USA
Event: Rope Climbing Winner: Raymond Bass Country: USA
Event: Club Swinging Winner: George Roth Country: USA
Event: Tumbling Winner: Rowland Wolfe Country: USA Field Hockey Winner: India Boxing
Event: Flyweight Winner: Istvan Enekes Country: HUN
Event: Bantamweight Winner: Horace Gwynne Country: CAN
Event: Featherweight Winner: Carmelo Robledo Country: ARG
Event: Lightweight Winner: Lawrence Stevens Country: SAF
Event: Welterweight Winner: Edward Flynn Country: USA
Event: Middleweight Winner: Carmen Barth Country: USA
Event: Light Heavyweight Winner: David Carstens Country: SAF
Event: Heavyweight Winner: Santiago Lovell Country: ARG Greco Roman Wrestling
Event: Bantamweight Winner: Jakob Brendel Country: GER
Event: Featherweight Winner: Giovanni Gozzi Country: ITA
Event: Lightweight Winner: Erik Malmberg Country: SWE
Event: Welterweight Winner: Ivar Johansson Country: SWE
Event: Middleweight Winner: Valno Kokkinen Country: FIN
Event: Light Heavyweight Winner: Rudolf Svensson Country: SWE
Event: Heavyweight Winner: Carl Westergren Country: SWE Freestyle Wrestling
Event: Bantamweight Winner: Robert Pearce Country: USA
Event: Featherweight Winner: Hermanni Pihlajamaki Country: FIN
Event: Lightweight Winner: Charles Pacome Country: FRA
Event: Welterweight Winner: Jack Van Bebber Country: USA
Event: Middleweight Winner: Ivar Johansson Country: SWE
Event: Light Heavyweight Winner: Peter Mehringer Country: USA
Event: Heavyweight Winner: Johan Richthoff Country: SWE Men Fencing
Event: Foil Individual Winner: Gustavo Marzi Country: ITA
Event: Foil Team Winner: France
Event: Epee Individual Winner: Giancarlo Cornaggia-Medici Country: ITA
Event: Epee Team Winner: France
Event: Sabre Individual Winner: Gyorgy Piller Country: HUN
Event: Sabre Team Winner: Hungary Women Fencing
Event: Foil Individual Winner: Ellen Preis Country: AUT Modern Pentathlon Winner: Johan Oxenstierna Country: SWE Rowing
Event: Single Sculls Winner: Henry Pearce Country: AUS
Event: Double Sculls Winner: USA
Event: Coxless Pairs Winner: Great Britain
Event: Coxed Pairs Winner: USA
Event: Coxless Fours Winner: Great Britain
Event: Coxed Fours Winner: Germany
Event: Eights Winner: USA Yachting
Event: Finn Monotype Class Winner: Jacques Lebrun Country: FRA
Event: Star Class Winner: USA
Event: 6m Class Winner: Sweden
Event: 8m Class Winner: USA Cycling
Event: Road Racing Individual (100km) Winner: Attilio Pavesi Country: ITA
Event: Team Time Trial Winner: Itlay
Event: 1000m Time Trial Winner: Edgar Gray Country: AUS
Event: Sprint 1000m Winner: Jacobus Van Egmond Country: NETH
Event: 2000m Tandem Winner: France
Event: Team Pursuit (4000m) Winner: Italy Equestrian Sports
Event: 3 Day Event Individual Winner: Charles F. Pahud de Mortanges Country: NETH
Event: 3 Day Team Event Winner: USA
Event: Dressage Individual Winner: Xavier Lesage Country: FRA
Event: Dressage Team Winner: France
Event: Grand Prix Jumping Individual Winner: Takeichi Nishi Country: JAP Men Shooting
Event: Rapid Fire Pistol Winner: Renzo Morigi Country: ITA
Event: Small Bore Rifle, Prone Winner: Bertil Ronnmark Country: SWE

Top 10 Scandals in Summer Olympic History

The Summer Olympics is a celebratory venue where athletes from around the world come to compete against one another on equal footing, but the show isn't always pretty.

Numerous scandals with varying degrees of insensitivity and bad judgment sometimes stain the festivities, taking the focus away from the exceptional athletes and their accomplishments.

Hopefully this year's gala in London won't be subject to such juvenile behavior, but if history shows us anything, it's that we're bound to see at least one scandal this summer, too.

I'm not including violent scandals like the Munich Massacre on this list, nor will I include Marion Jones' fall from grace after the PED scandal rocked the sporting world in 2007.

For the purposes of this list I'm focusing only on the scandals that impacted the games while they were being played.

Here are the top 10 most egregious scandals to have plagued the Summer Olympics in modern history.

“1930s Super Girl” Babe Didrikson

1932 AP photo of Babe Didrikson vaulting high hurdle used as the model for the Sport Kings card above.

For this skill her sandlot associates nick-named her “Babe” after Babe Ruth, the immortal New York Yankee slugger who was then redefining baseball with his own home-run hitting. Young Mildred was also called “Bebe” at home by her mother.

But Babe Didrikson was much more than a good sandlot baseball player. In fact, when it came to athletics, there was little she couldn’t do. More on her career in a moment.

Mildred “Babe” Didrikson is shown at right on a 1933 Sports Kings chewing gum trading card, one of the few artistic renderings of her in action, in this case, jumping over a high hurdle.

The rendering is taken from a 1932 Associated Press photo shown later below.

Unfortunately, her name is incorrectly spelled on the trading card, using a “c” in her family name where none is needed.

Still, the Sports Kings card is quite rare and desirable among collectors. The Sport Kings series of trading cards was released by the Goudey Gum Co. of Boston, Massachusetts in 1933 and 1934. This particular series featured 48 athletes from a cross-section of sport, among them: swimmer Johnny Weissmuller, football star Red Grange, boxer Max Baer, hockey icon Howie Morenz, and baseball immortal Babe Ruth. Highly prized by modern sports card collectors, the original Sport Kings cards today are among the most popular sets of sports trading cards.

Babe Didrikson

Babe Didrikson was born in June 1914, at Port Authur, Texas. She was the sixth of seven children born to Ole and Hanna Marie Didrikson. Ole Didrikson was a ship’s carpenter who had sailed the world’s oceans many times before settling down. He encouraged his young daughter to partake in sports. As a child, among other things, she spent time jumping hedges, a skill later displayed in her track and field endeavors.

1932 AP photo of Babe Didrikson vaulting high hurdle used as the model for the Sport Kings card above.

“I can still remember how her muscles flowed when she walked.” Lytle explained. “She had a neuromuscular coordination that is very, very rare—not one of the 12,000 girls I coached after that possessed it….” Babe led her high school basketball team, and also began to play golf around that time. But she first came to national attention when she played for a Dallas-based, industrial league basketball team that won the national Amateur Athletic Union championship. In 1929, she was named an All-American basketball player. But then came track and field.

Between 1930 and 1932, at 16-to-18 years old, Didrikson compiled records in five different track and field events. In one remarkable display of her athletic abilities, she won a 1932 national amateur track meet for women, a team event, all by herself. On July 16, 1932, at the AAU track and field championships in Evanston, Illinois., Babe was the lone representative of Employers Casualty Insurance Company of Dallas, where she worked as a typist. At the Illinois meet, which was also the tryout for the Olympic games, she was competing against company teams of 12, 15, and 20 or more women.

Babe Didrikson, second from right, in the hurdles race at the 1932 Olympics. AP photo.

Babe Didrikson won gold in the javelin event at the 1932 Olympics with a record-setting throw of 143' 4".

Babe Didrikson, 2nd from left at tape in hurdles race, ahead of Evelyne Hall, for gold medal, 1932 Olympics.

Babe Didrikson with photographer at the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

According to one account, when Didrikson was introduced in Evanston, she ran onto the field by herself waving her arms wildly as the crowd gasped at the audacity of this “one-woman track team.” Still, Babe won five of the eight events she entered – shot put, baseball throw, long jump, javelin, and 80-meter hurdles. She tied for first in a sixth event, the high jump. In qualifying for three Olympic events, she amassed a total of 30 team points for Employers Casualty. In a single afternoon Didrikson had set four world records, taking first place overall in the meet and scoring more points than the next best finisher – an entire women’s athletic club – the Illinois Women’s Athletic Club, scored 22 points, with 22 athletes.

At the 1932 Olympic games in Los Angeles – which ran from July 30 to August 14th at the L.A. Coliseum – she qualified for five Olympic events, but women were then only allowed to compete in three. She won gold in the javelin, the first ever for a female in that event, making a throw of 143 feet 4 inches and setting a world record. She also took gold in in the 80-meter hurdles with a time of 11.7 seconds.

In the high jump, she won the silver medal behind Jean Smiley, though they each broke the world record. Babe, in fact, cleared the high-jump bar at a world-record height, and would have won that event too, except for her technique – clearing the bar headfirst– ruled ineligible (later known as the “Fosbury flop” and legal).

Newspapers of the day recognized Babe’s prodigious Olympic feats. One headline read: “Babe Gets Praise on Coast Is Called the Greatest Woman Athlete of the World.” Sportswriter Grantland Rice, after her Olympic Games performance, was quite the admirer: “She is an incredible human being. She is beyond all belief until you see her perform…” Rice believed she was in a category all her own, with few rivals. Associated Press would name her Woman Athlete of the Year in 1932 – a distinction she would win five more times. In the press she was also called “Wonder Girl” and “super athlete.”

Yet in 1932, the participation of women in the Olympics was a hotly debated topic. In fact, many then believed that competitive athletics was strictly for men only. Still, in the summer and fall of 1932, following the Olympics, Babe Didrikson became famous throughout the land.

On August 11, 1932, at her return home from the Olympics, she arrived on the mail plane. Coming into Dallas, a crowd of thousands awaited to greet her. At her reception in the city she was introduced by a local official as “the Jim Thorpe of modern women athletes.” The crowd cheered. One of her hometown newspapers in Beaumont, Texas, The Enterprise, marked the occasion with these headlines: “World-Famous Babe Is Given Tumultuous Dallas Welcome Amid Ticker Tape Showers—She Tells of Having Picture Taken With Clark Gable.”

At one point, Babe met Amelia Earhart, who was then doing some of her less known long-distance flights and wanted Babe to join her believing that Didrikson’s name might bring notice to those attempts. Didrikson remained earth-bond, however, and after the Olympics hysteria wore off, Babe faced a harder reality. She found there was little money in her athletic fame, especially for those in amateur athletics – and doubly so for women. And the country at the time was also mired in the Great Depression.

Babe Didrikson, 19, in photo by Lusha Nelson that appeared in the January 1933 issue of ‘Vanity Fair’ magazine.

Not long thereafter, she helped the Chrysler Corporation promote its Dodge cars. Welcomed in Detroit by Mayor Murphy, Babe appeared at the Detroit Auto show and worked at the Chrysler display booth chatting with visitors and signing autographs. Chrysler also lined up an advertising man to organize bookings for her. He arranged some stage appearance for Babe on the RKO vaudeville circuit, one of which was at the Palace Theater in Chicago, where “Babe Didrikson” had top billing on the marquee and was given the top star’s dressing room.

On stage, Babe traded opening jokes with a companion comedian, did a track-star type skit, and played a few tunes on a harmonica. Audiences loved her act, and fans lined up for blocks to see her, not only in Chicago, but later in Brooklyn and Manhattan in New York.

Although making good money on stage – as much as $2,500 a week in New York, then a small fortune – Babe wanted to be outdoors. After a week or so on the Vaudeville circuit, she cancelled her remaining bookings and decided to look for some way to use her athletic skills.

She then turned to performing at various competitive exhibitions – from billiards to a few appearances with a professional women’s basketball team. She would also master tennis, and became an accomplished diver, a good swimmer, and a graceful ballroom dancer. She also excelled at sewing, and reportedly made some of her own clothes. But in the press, after her athletic fame emerged, she began to be criticized for her manly ways. A 1932 Vanity Fair article, had called her a “muscle moll,” while other accounts cut even deeper.

By March 1933, however, she decided to take up golf, a sport she had dabbled in a few times and had played some in high school. But now she thought about golf more seriously, and went to California to take lessons from a young golf pro named Stan Kertes. She worked on developing her golf game for six months until she ran out of savings, then went back to her old $300-a month job at Employer’s Casualty in Dallas.

Young Babe Didrikson, 1930s.

By spring of 1934, it was on to baseball in Florida during spring training – where Babe would pitch an exhibition inning or two working with professional teams such as the Brooklyn Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Athletics, and other teams. In these contests, Babe was paid a certain amount of money per inning, as the teams were using her as a publicity stunt. But in these outings, Babe also met the famous players of that day, including Jimmie Fox, Dizzy Dean, and Babe Ruth — with whom she struck up a long standing friendship.

Babe Didrikson pitching for minor league New Orleans team in 1934. AP photo.

In 1934, Babe also made the next move in her athletic career: she entered the Texas Invitational Women’s Golf Tournament at Forth Worth. Babe didn’t win that tournament. But the following year, in the spring of 1935, she entered the Women’s Texas Amateur at the River Oaks Country Club in Houston, one of the state’s finer clubs. And it was here that she began to confront country club elitism. As Sports Illustrated writers William Oscar Johnson and Nancy Williamson would observe in 1975:

…Babe had to crack…Texas golf society. She had no pedigree, coming as she did from a dead-end neighborhood in Beaumont, no money and not much social grace. Her gold medals from the 1932 Olympics counted for little among the country-club set, and her fame had already faded. There was only her golf game, at that point strong but scarcely smooth. When she entered the Texas event, a member of the Texas Women’s Golf Association named Peggy Chandler declared, “We really don’t need any truck drivers’ daughters in our tournament.”

Babe Didrikson, in good golfing form, 1930s.

By 1937 she was getting the attention of male golfers for the drives she was making during an exhibition tour of the Southeast. And at the Pinehurst Golf Course in New York where she was practicing for an exhibition match in November 1937, one reporter noted that she “astounded the critical Pinehurst Galleries by hitting the ball 260 yards off the tee on the championship courses.”

In January 1938, she decided to make a try for men’s competitive golf, aiming for the Los Angeles Open, a men’s Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) tournament. This was a feat no other woman would attempt until Annika Sörenstam, Suzy Whaley, and Michelle Wie took up the challenge some 60 years later. In the 1938 L.A. tournament, Babe was teamed up with George Zaharias, a former professional wrestler who she would later marry. In the PGA tournament, meanwhile, she shot 81 and 84, and missed the cut.

George Zaharias & Babe Didrikson, Normandie Golf Club, St. Louis, late 1930s.

Babe won the Women’s Western Open in 1940, and after gaining back her amateur status in 1942, she won the 1946 U.S. Women’s Amateur and the 1947 British Ladies Amateur – the first American to do so. She also won the Women’s Western Open in 1944 and 1945.

In July 1944, Time magazine wrote that Babe had “popped back into the sports pages by winning a major golf tournament,” trouncing a 20-year-old college girl in the finals of the Women’s Western Open at Chicago. “As usual,” wrote Time, “Babe’s booming drives were seldom in the fairway, but her recoveries were so phenomenal that she had 14 one-putt greens in 31 holes.” By then, her husband, George Zaharias, who often accompanied her to her golf matches, was running a custom tailoring establishment in Beverly Hills, California next door to Babe’s women’s sport clothing store.

Babe Didrikson with trophy at the Miami Biltmore Country Club, Feb. 1, 1947 for winning the Helen Lee Doherty Women's Invitational Tournament. AP photo.

By 1947, she had once hit a golf ball over 400 yards and was averaging 240 yards on her drives. Asked how in the world a woman could possibly drive a golf ball 250 yards down the fairway, Babe explained, “You’ve got to loosen your girdle and let it rip.”

In addition to her power off the tee, she was also known for having soft touch around the greens. She was also a favorite among fans in the gallery, gaining cheers for her play and laughter for her jokes and banter.

In 1948 and 1950s, she won the Women’s Open. In 1950, along with Patty Berg, she founded the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA). Few professional tournaments then existed for women, so Babe and several other women golfers set about establishing the LPGA to introduce more paying tournaments. Gradually, with sponsorship monies from sporting goods companies, the women’s tour increased its purses and credibility, with a growing number of women able to eke out a living in golf.

Ben Hogan and Babe Didrikson Zaharias congratulate each other after their respective victories in the World Championship Golf Tourney at Tam O' Shanter Country Club, near Chicago, IL, August 12, 1951. AP photo.

Later, in 1950, she was named AP’s Woman Athlete of the First Half of the Twentieth Century. In 1951, she won the Tampa Open and was also the leading money-winner that year.

In 1952 she took another major with a Titleholders victory, but illness prevented her from playing a full schedule in 1952-53.

Then in 1953, still at the top of her game, she was diagnosed with cancer, and for a time it was thought she might give up the game. She had surgery in April 1953.

Babe Didrikson in action during U.S. Women's Open Championship of 1954, which she would win. Photo: AP/Sports Illustrated.

Babe was on a mission by this time to give encouragement to others who were battling cancer. She used her celebrity to get the message out. She appeared as a guest on ABC’s TV show, The Comeback Story, explaining her attempts to battle colon cancer. But Babe had not been told the full extent of her own cancer, as she had believed she would beat the disease. Still, she became a spokesperson for fighting the disease, helping the American Cancer Society. In late 1955, however, her cancer reappeared and she was hospitalized again. With her, in the corner of the room, were her golf clubs, as they had been during her previous hospital stays.

Saturday Evening Post of June 25, 1955, with cover inset (upper r.) announcing excerpt of Babe Didrikson’s book, “This Life I’ve Led.”

Didrikson continued to crusade against cancer, and spoke openly about her illness in an era when most public figures preferred to keep their medical troubles private. She battled her cancer to the end, but succumbed to the disease in September 1956. She was 45 years old.

Eisenhower’s Praise. On the morning she died in a Galveston, Texas hospital, President Dwight D. Eisenhower began his news conference in Washington with this salute: “She was a woman who, in her athletic career, certainly won the admiration of every person in the United States, all sports people all over the world, and in her gallant fight against cancer, she put up one of the kind of fights that inspire us all.”

President Eisenhower getting golf tips from Babe Didrikson at the White House, April 1, 1954, as the president uses the American Cancer Society’s "Sword of Hope" for a substitute golf club. Babe had presented the Sword to the president after he opened the 1954 Cancer Crusade, then lighting a huge "Sword of Hope" in New York's Times Square by remote control. AP photo.

Charles McGrath, the editor of the New York Times Book Review, wrote in 1996: “She broke the mold of what a lady golfer was supposed to be. The ideal in the 20s and 30s was Joyce Wethered, a willowy Englishwoman with a picture-book swing that produced elegant shots but not especially long ones. [Didrikson] developed a grooved athletic swing reminiscent of Lee Trevino’s, and she was so strong off the tee that a fellow Texan, the great golfer Byron Nelson, once said that he knew of only eight men who could outdrive her.”

Mildred Babe Didrikson Zaharias, in any case, had an impressive athletic career, stretching from her All-American basketball designation in the early 1930s and her record-setting Olympic achievements of 1932, to a prolific amateur and professional golf career that ran into the mid-1950s.

Totaling both her amateur and professional competitive golf victories, Babe won some 82 tournaments. Associated Press named her “Female Athlete of the Year” in 1932, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1950, and 1954.

“Babe, The Money Machine”

As Babe Didrikson rose to fame – both following her 1932 Olympics’ performance and during her golf career through the mid-1950s – she became something of a hot property for business and product endorsements. For some of the promotions, exhibitions, and advertising in which she engaged, Babe appears to have been a willing participant. But in other respects, those around her and those profiting from her – including her husband, George Zaharias her business manager, Fred Corcoran and the emerging professional women’s golf circuit – all commanded her attention, and in her later years, drove her into quite a frenetic pace of activity.

Babe Didrikson offering an endorsement for Wheaties at the bottom of a 1935 magazine ad.

This 1950s Timex watch ad touted Babe’s golf stardom and her domestic/homemaker side.

During the latter stages of her golf career it was estimated she was earning more than $100,000 a year for exhibitions, endorsements, and other activities connected with sports. Sometimes, Babe would hype the amount of money she was getting paid for various events or contracts, as she did once for a movie deal for a series of instructional golf films, saying she would be paid $300,000, which was untrue, but widely reported nonetheless, helping to inflate her value. She also authored instructional golf articles occasionally and at least one book, Championship Gold. And in 1952, she also had a bit part in the Spencer Tracy / Katharine Hepburn film, Pat and Mike.

1930s: Goldsmith & Sons sales literature touting "Babe Didrikson Coordinated Golf Equipment."

More promotional material from Goldsmith & Sons, displaying Babe's news clips, while touting “the powerful, sales-producing publicity surrounding Babe Didrikson. ”

Babe Didrikson posing with two of her golf trophies in the 1950s.

In 1975, a TV biography about her life and times titled Babe, starred Susan Clark as Babe and Alex Karras as George Zaharias. A number of books have also been written about her life and athletic career, a few of which are mentioned or pictured below in “Sources.”

Babe Didrikson Zaharias, late 1940s.

Babe was also, according to various profiles, more of a self-promoter than was generally known, prone to boasting and exaggerating her feats – although some say this could be confused with her sense of humor taken the wrong way. Still, she could be an “in your face” competitor, sometimes compared in her boasting to a later practitioner of that art, Muhammad Ali. Sports Illustrated writers William O. Johnson and Nancy Williamson noted her braggadocio at the 1932 Olympics using that comparison:

…She was producing her own myth in Los Angeles. The remarkable thing about Babe was that, like Ali, her body was able to accomplish the fantastic tasks her big mouth set for it. She put incredible pressure on herself by bragging. She was a wing walker, a daredevil who risked humiliation every time she went into an event in that Olympics. Her own teammates wanted her to be beaten, as the just reward for her bullying…

On the golf circuit too, especially in her younger years, she is reported to have shown up at the clubhouse exclaiming to competitors: “The Babe’s here! Who is going to finish second?” But more often than not, Babe found a way to win. Yet her considerable talents were augmented by lots of practice, to which she would readily admit. The formula for success is simple, she would say: “practice and concentration, then more practice and concentration.” Dutiful practice was the key, as she advised – “in any case, practice more than you play.” In her early days, she was known to hit golf balls for hours on end, until her hands bled or had to be taped.

Aug. 4, 1950: Babe Didrikson Zaharias, displaying her playful side, urging the golf ball toward the cup on the 18th green during the All American Women’s Open at Chicago’s Tam O’Shanter Club. Photo, Ed Maloney /AP.

But Babe Didrikson above all, was a determined soul a person who persevered through tough times as a female athlete. Following her phenomenal Olympic rise, she rode something of a “fame-to-bust” roller coaster, also confronted by judgmental societal attitudes and personal digs from the press. She managed, however, to keep herself afloat economically during a Great Depression using her athletic skills in a variety of exhibitions until she found her golf calling. And once there, after dealing with some country club elitism and prejudice, she proceeded to change and enliven the game for the better, while in later years, opening doors for and encouraging younger female golfers who followed. And all the while, among her most steadfast supporters, was her hometown of Beaumont, Texas, where today the Babe Didrikson Zaharais Museum is found alongside the Babe Didrikson Zaharais Park.

For other stories at this website on notable women and their careers see, for example: “Power in The Pen,” about Rachel Carson and her book, Silent Spring “Dinah Shore & Chevrolet,” about the famous 1950s singer and TV star who also promoted Chevrolet automobiles, and, “The Flying Flapper,” about the fearless aviatrix, Elinor Smith, who set many flying records in the 1920s-1930s. See also the topics page, “Noteworthy Ladies,” which offers additional story choices on women who have made their mark in various fields. More sports stories can be found at the Annals of Sport category page. Thanks for visiting – and if you like what you find here, please make a donation to help support the research and writing at this website. Thank you. – Jack Doyle

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Date Posted: 17 April 2013
Last Update: 15 March 2018
Comments to: [email protected]

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “1930s Super Girl, Babe Didrikson,”
PopHistoryDig.com, April 17, 2013.

Sources, Links & Additional Information

1932, Chicago: Babe Didrikson dressing up.

Babe Didrikson was also a very capable swimmer & diver, turning in competitive times and scores in various meets during the 1930s. Lamar University archives.

Babe Didrikson’s earlier autobiography was reissued in the 1970s at the time of “Babe,” the CBS-TV special – “from the director of ‘Brian’s Song’,” says cover blurb of TV special.

Babe Zaharias Park is adjacent to the Babe Didrikson Museum in Beaumont, TX.

“Clips Record in Hurdles Miss Didrikson Lowers National Mark in Meet at Dallas,” New York Times, Sunday, June 28, 1931, Sports, p. S-2.

Associated Press, “Five First Places to Miss Didrikson Dallas Girl Scores 30 Points to Win A.A.U. Championship for Her Team at Evanston,” New York Times, Sunday, July 17, 1932, Sports, p. S-1.

“Babe Didrikson Is Honor Guest at Luncheon,” Beaumont Enterprise, August 17, 1932.

“Sport: Golfer Didrikson,” Time, Monday, May 6, 1935.

“Babe at 30,” Time, Monday, July 3, 1944.

“Mrs. Zaharias Ousts Miss Casey In Denver Golf Tourney,” New York Times, Friday, July 12, 1946, Sports, p. 23.

“Whatta Woman,” Time, Monday, March 10, 1947.

Gene Farmer, “What A Babe!, Texas Tomboy is First U.S. Woman To Win British Golf Championship,” Life, Jun 23, 1947, pp. 87-90.

“Mrs. Zaharias Advances Defeats Mrs. Reidel in Texas Open – Gets 6 under Par 69,” New York Times, Wednesday, October 13, 1948, Sports, p. 34.

Associated Press, “Mrs. Zaharias’ Course-Record 70 Leads Field at Tam O’Shanter Star 2 Strokes Under Men’s Par in First Round…,” New York Times, Friday, August 4, 1950, Sports, p. 16.

Babe Zaharias, “This Life I’ve Led,” part 2, Saturday Evening Post, July 2, 1955 part 3, Saturday Evening Post, July 9, 1955 part 4, Saturday Evening Post, July 16, 1955 and, part 5, Saturday Evening Post, July 23, 1955.

Babe Didrikson Zaharias, This Life I’ve Led, New York: A.S. Barnes & Co., 1955.

Babe Didrikson Zaharias, This Life I’ve Led – My Autobiography, Internet Archive.

Jimmy Jemail, “The Question: Is Babe Didrikson The Greatest All-Round Athlete Of All Time?,” Sports Illustrated, June 6, 1955.

Joan Flynn Dreyspool, “Subject: Babe and George Zaharias,” Sports Illustrated, May 14, 1956.

Obituary, “Babe Zaharias Dies Athlete Had Cancer,” New York Times, September 28, 1956.

Paul Gallico, “Farewell To The Babe,” Sports Illustrated, October 8, 1956.

George Zaharias, “The Babe and I,” Look, 1957.

Theresa M. Wells, “Greatness for Mildred Didriksen Indicated In 1923 Clippings,” Sun-Enterprise (Beaumont, TX), April 27, 1969, p. 18.

William Oscar Johnson and Nancy Williamson, “Babe,” Sports Illustrated, October 6, 1975.

William Oscar Johnson and Nancy Williamson, “Babe Part 2,” Sports Illustrated, October 13, 1975.

William Oscar Johnson and Nancy Williamson, “Babe,” Sports Illustrated, October 20, 1975

William O. Johnson and Nancy P. Williamson, Whatta-Gal!: The Babe Didrikson Story, Little Brown & Co., 1977.

“Mildred Didrikson Zaharias,” Encyclopedia of World Biography.

Susan E. Cayleff, “The ‘Texas Tomboy’ – The Life and Legend of Babe Didrikson Zaharias,” OAH Magazine of History, Organization of American Historians, Summer 1992.

Charles McGrath, “Babe Zaharias: Most Valuable Player,” New York Times Magazine, 1996.

Susan E. Cayleff, Babe: The Life and Legend of Babe Didrikson, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1996, 368pp.

Thad Johnson with Louis Didrikson, The Incredible Babe: Her Ultimate Story, Lake Charles, Louisiana: Andrus Printing and Copy Center, Inc., 1996.

Russell Freedman, Babe Didrikson Zaharias: The Making of a Champion, New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1999, 192pp.

Paula Hunt, “Babe Didrikson Zaharias – Top 100 Women Athletes,” Sports Illustrated, 2000.

Randall Mell, “Legacy Of Babe: 50 Years Ago She Won Third And Final Open, Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, FL), June 29, 2004.

Sonja Garza, “The Life of Babe Didrikson Zaharias,” BeaumontEnterprise.com (with photo gallery), Friday, June 17, 2011.

Don Van Natta, Jr., “Babe Didrikson Zaharias’s Legacy Fades,” New York Times, June 25, 2011.

The Promiscuous Reader, “A Good Ol’ Gal From Beaumont, Texas,” This is So Gay/Blogspot, Sunday, February 6, 2011.

Rick Burton, “Searching for Sports’ First Female Pitchman,” New York Times, January 1, 2011.

Memories of the 1932 Olympics: A Page in Japanese American History

Nisshoki ga
Sutadiamu no men masuto ni agatta
Ima dewa yume de nakunatta.
Kakkoku tokutenhyo ni
Nihon wa gungun nobotte yuki.
Rosanjerusu no aozora ni
Sanran to, jitsuni sanran to
Hirugaette iru
Nisshoki no ikuhon.
Kangeki no kiwami de, mi wa furueru.
Kanki no namida ga mazu otsuru.
Yushowa yushowo gekisan suru.

The flag of the rising sun
Went up the main mast.
It is no longer a dream.
On the scoreboards for each nation
Japan&rsquos points are rising fast.
Gloriously, truly gloriously
Several Japanese flags are fluttering
Against Los Angeles&rsquo blue sky.
My body shakes with emotion.
Tears of joy well up in my eyes.
Victories extol victories.

Sayoko Ishiawa, &ldquoHirugaeru Nisshoki,&rdquo Rafu Shimpo, August 11, 1932


How many people today still remember the 1932 Olympics? Probably not very many, after almost seven decades have passed and as many other exciting and controversial Olympic Games have taken place since then. In the modern Olympics&rsquo century-long history, the Xth Games, held in Los Angeles, are remembered as an unexpected success despite the worldwide economic depression that seemed to foredoom the event, it was blessed with excellent weather, record-breaking athletic performances, huge crowds, and large revenues.

It was also a noteworthy milestone in Japanese American history. Although the Games are mostly forgotten and rarely mentioned today, the event had a very special meaning for the prewar Japanese American community. For Issei and Nisei, the 1932 Olympics realized their dreams of seeing Japan win athletic fame on American soil their hopes for Japan&rsquos Nisshoki (sun flag) and national anthem were fulfilled right before their eyes. Any Los Angeles Nisei who can remember it today will tell you stories about the joy, excitement, and pride they felt that summer, but many Issei and Nisei witnesses to this special event passed away without sharing their memories.

Artifacts at the Japanese American National Museum, stories in Japanese American newspapers such as The Rafu Shimpo and Kashu Mainichi, and other historical materials allow us to trace the meaning of the 1932 Olympics as an important part of Japanese American history. Through this aspect of a particular ethnic group&rsquos history of Los Angeles history is also revealed: how a minority immigrant group helped make the Olympics a success. It is also a part of Japanese history, in which Japan&rsquos athletic achievements could not have been possible without the support from Issei and Nisei in Southern California.

Japan and the Olympics

The 1932 Games were the first where an Asian nation&rsquos athletes did well against their Western counterparts. Among the 39 countries participating, Japan ranked fifth with 31 points, which was a significant improvement over its Olympic debut two decades earlier. Japan sent two runners to the VIth Games in Stockholm in 1912, but neither could complete their races because of fatigue. The VIIth games were canceled because of World War I, but when the Olympics resumed in 1920, Japan sent larger groups of athletes each time (15 to Antwerp, 19 to Paris, and 43 to the Amsterdam Games), resulting in ever-increasing scores. In the 1928 Amsterdam Games, Japan won two gold medals (Mikio Oda in the men&rsquos hop-step-jump and Yoshiyuki Tsuruta in the men&rsquos 200-meter breaststroke) and one silver (Kinue Hitomi in the women&rsquos 800 meter track-and-field event). In the final rankings, Japan&rsquos athletes placed eighth.

Japan sent a delegation of about 200 to the Los Angeles Olympics this number included 142 athletes and was headed by Dr. Seichi Kishi. Among the 2,000 athletes from all over the world who participated, Japan&rsquos was the second largest group. The United States, as the host country, had the largest delegation by far with more than 500 competitors.

Japanese athletes competed well, especially in track-and-field, swimming, and equestrian events. The world-record holder in the broad jump, Chuhei Nambu, finished third in the event, but he won first place in the hop-step-jump, and Kenkichi Oshima came in third. In the pole vault, competition for the gold medal was fierce between Shuhei Nishida and American William Miller although Nishida finished second with a vault of 14 feet, he broke the previous Olympic record as well as his own personal best. In the marathon, Seiichiro Tsuda and Onbai Kin took fifth and sixth places. Japan&rsquos track-and-field team ranked fifth in the overall standings. Japan&rsquos women&rsquos track-and-field team did not do well, but its captain, Misako Shimpo, was fourth in the javelin throw.

Japan&rsquos swimming teams, especially the men&rsquos, set several new records, thus proving themselves to be number one in the world. In the 100-meter freestyle, Yasuji Miyazaki, Tatsugo Kawaishi, and Naruo Takahashi won first, second, and fifth respectively. Masaji Kiyokawa, Toshio Irie, and Kentaro Kawazu swept the top three positions in the 100-meter backstroke, their victories provided Japanese spectators with the rare and wonderful sight of three Nisshoki at the winners&rsquo flag stands. In the 200-meter breaststroke, Tsuruta retained his gold medal, and he was accompanied by Reizo Koike in second place. In the 1,500-meter freestyle, Kazuo Kitamura and Shozo Makino won first and second places. Japan also won third, fourth, and fifth places in the 400-meter freestyle, as well as first place in the 800-meter relay. On the women&rsquos team, Hideko Maehata won second place in the 200-meter breaststroke, missing gold by just one-tenth of a second.

The youngest member of Japan&rsquos equestrian team, 31-year-old Takeichi Nishi, added another gold medal to Japan&rsquos total on the day of the closing ceremony. The Lieutenant Baron&rsquos individual victory in the Prix des Nations marked Japan&rsquos first in any equestrian event.

Issei, Nisei, and the Olympics

The Nikkei community around the world enthusiastically helped finance Japan&rsquos participation in the 1932 Olympics they were determined not to let the difficult economic situation engendered by the Depression prevent Japanese athletes from reaching Los Angeles. The Southern California Japanese American community was especially eager to support Japanese athletes. They contributed monetary donations, facilitated the athlete&rsquos accommodations and practice sessions, and entertained them with great enthusiasm. Upon their arrival&mdashsome came as early as May&mdashJapanese athletes were greeted by the national anthem and community members holding Japanese flags, and the warm welcomes and enthusiastic cheers continued until their departure from Los Angeles. One newspaper reported that even young Nisei children who learned of Japan&rsquos lack of funds solicited help &ldquoto send their big brothers and sisters to compete on the world stage.&rdquo Some support groups went so far as to raise funds to rent a pool so that the Japanese swimming team could practice.

Such assistance from the local Japanese community was essential for the Japanese team&rsquos success. Although the United States was certainly suffering from the effects of the Great Depression, Japan was far worse off, its economic situation especially aggravated by the weak yen in the early 1930s. By then, the Japanese immigrant community in Los Angeles was a significant entity: among the 138,000 Japanese (foreign- and US born) living in the United States, 35,000 resided in the Los Angeles area, and Little Tokyo was a bustling ethnic center where Japanese food and services were available.

Various kenjinkai (prefectural associations), merchant organizations, Japanese-language schools, and other Japanese organizations were in operation, and many actively contributed to the campaign to ensure Japan&rsquos participation in the Xth Olympics. Two Issei organizations, the Central Japanese Association and the Los Angeles Japanese Association, created a Nihon Senshu Koen Kai (Support Association for Japanese Athletes) in conjunction with the Los Angeles Japanese Consulate and Dai Nippon Taiiku Kyokai (the representative of the Japanese teams). The Koen Kai raised the then-huge sum of $7,215.24 to help subsidize the Japanese delegates&rsquo expenses.

The local Japanese American community created a slogan and accompanying logo for the Xth Olympics: &ldquoNihon wo kataseyo&rdquo (Make Japan Win). The graphic symbol showed the Japanese and U.S. flags and the five Olympic rings, symbolizing the community&rsquos hope for Japan-U.S. friendship and world peace.

In a sense, Japanese American enthusiasm for the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics was a reflection of the harsh history of the community&rsquos exclusion in the United States. After passage of the 1924 Immigration Act, new Japanese immigration was terminated. While Issei were declared ineligible to citizenship, American-born Nisei were considered &ldquounassimilable&rdquo both generations had to struggle with the question of how to be accepted in American society. The Issei were particularly concerned about the future of the ever-increasing Nisei population that was about to surpass theirs in number. The Issei hoped that success in the Olympics would show Japan&rsquos excellence to Nisei and thus boost their ethnic pride.

The Japanese American community was swept up by Olympic fever. Issei and Nisei crowded in and around the stadium, poolsides, the marathon course, or wherever Japanese athletes were competing. According to Mikio Oda&rsquos memoirs, large crowds at practice sites made the athletes nervous&mdashand the spectators were eventually barred&mdashbecause they cheered heatedly as if they were watching real games. Little Tokyo thronged with people wanting to hear live broadcasts of the Games by the Kashu Mainichi or see the billboard where updates on the Japanese team&rsquos results were posted. When a Japanese athlete seemed likely to win an event, local Japanese occupied many of the seats at the venue, making it look like a &ldquoJapan Day.&rdquo It is estimated that Japanese Americans as a whole spent $100,000 on tickets. Several thousand Japanese Americans attended the closing ceremony to see Japan&rsquos 12 swimming victories and the equestrian victory honored with the raising of the Japanese flag on the pole. While those inside the stadium watched and cried tears of joy, many others without tickets stood outside the stadium just to listen to the Japanese national anthem. The Los Angeles Japanese Chamber of Commerce&rsquos report in October 1932 declared the Xth Olympics a wonderful event, adding: &ldquoEven though the Olympic torch is extinguished, the Games&rsquo impressions deeply engraved in people&rsquos memory will stay for a long time.&rdquo

Heroes and Heroines

The 1932 Olympics enhanced the fame of older athletes such as Mikio Oda, Chuhei Nambu, Yoshiyuki Tsuruta, and Takeichi Nishi, while new stars such as Shuhei Nishida, Yasuji Miyazaki, Masaji Kiyokawa, and Hideko Maehata emerged. The Japanese American community treated these Japanese athletes as warmly and generously as if they had been great dignitaries. The heroes and heroines of land and water were invited to numerous receptions and parties, given gifts, asked for autographs, and always received enthusiastic attention. Although the medal winners were honored most highly, lavish hospitality was extended regardless of performance. Prefectural affiliations, for example, meant a great deal. Mitsue Ishizu of Hiroshima, who did not place in the discus-throw event, was nonetheless called a champion and received gifts that included a diamond ring.

Collecting autographs became a fad at the Olympics: athletes exchanged autographs to deepen their friendship, while fans looked for every opportunity to obtain signatures. Many waited at the entrance to the Olympic Village&mdashwhich were surrounded by barbed wire and restricted to Olympic athletes and officials&mdashto grab competitors. The Museum has an example of the autograph mania in its collection, a small book that contains the autographs of several Japanese athletes.

On the last day of the Games, a farewell dinner-dance and banquet was held for the Japanese team and Japanese American community members and leaders at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, under the joint auspices of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Los Angeles, the Southern California Japanese Association, and the Japanese Consulate. Hundreds of invitations were sent out, and Japanese American newspapers announced that both the younger and older generations were welcome. Approximately 400 came to celebrate the Japanese team&rsquos athletic feats and to deepen their friendship with the Japanese visitors.

The hall was decorated with U.S. and Japanese flags, lanterns, and a banner that read &ldquoJapan, First Place, Hop Step Jump.&rdquo Huge flags of both countries hung prominently, side by side, as if to express the hopeful sentiments that kept appearing in Japanese American newspapers: that Japanese athletes&rsquo performances would help convince Americans of Japan&rsquos positive qualities as a fair, peace-oriented, and respectable country, and that the Olympics would improve U.S.&ndashJapan relations as well as the status of Issei and Nisei in the United States.

The dance brought young Nisei and Japanese athletes closer together despite the language barriers. Approximately 120 to 130 couples danced, and Nisei women flocked around male athletes, according to an Issei journalist, leaving Nisei men jealous. Sophisticated Baron Nishi, the equestrian medalist, was a popular figure. Mrs. Yaeko Nakamura remembers how she and other women dragged male athletes onto the dance floor because they were so shy.

Farewell was hard. Two days after the banquet and dance, a large group of Japanese athletes departed from San Pedro aboard the Shunyo Maru 5,000 Japanese Americans came to bid them an emotional farewell, many of them beautifully dressed young Nisei women who had come to say good-bye to their favorite athletes. Even after the competitors left Los Angeles, the Japanese American community continued to celebrate the excitement of the Games and to cherish the memories of their heroes and heroines through movies, albums, pictures, postcards, and other commemorative goods. Happy memories and the feeling that they had been a part of Japan&rsquos big international event&mdashand its success&mdashlingered on.

Distant Dreams of a Tokyo Olympics

The community&rsquos discussion of the Olympics lasted long after the event partly because of the prospect that the XIIth Olympics would be held in Tokyo in 1940. Coming on the heels of the very successful Los Angeles Games, Japan&rsquos candidacy was naturally a topic of great interest. Many believed that the awarding of the Olympics to Tokyo would validate Japan&rsquos entry into the ranks of the world&rsquos leading nations and would also increase the chance of Japanese athletic victories. When the tension filled 1936 Berlin Games foreshadowed world war and the Tokyo Games were subsequently canceled, it became difficult for the community to maintain the happy spirit of the Los Angeles Games.

The rest is history, of course. World War II shattered any hope for U.S.&ndashJapan amity, and it became clear that athletic feats celebrated during the Los Angeles Olympics neither prevented the war nor built any permanent friendship between the two countries. Baron Nishi, who had many friends in the United States, died at Iwo Jima. The war tore apart the lives of people in both countries who had once rejoiced over international friendships, and they were forces to make difficult choices.

In the postwar era, the Olympics again became a cornerstone of Japan&rsquos International fame and again the efforts were aided by members of the Japanese community. When the dream of a Tokyo Olympics was resurrected, Japan was still in the process of rebuilding its war-shattered economy. By then, Nisei had established themselves in many fields of endeavor in the United States, and as members of a wealthy nation they were able to help Japan achieve its dream. Los Angeles Nisei businessman Fred I. Wada was in charge of Japan&rsquos international campaign seeking the nomination, and he played a crucial role in its victory. The head of Japan&rsquos Tokyo Olympic swimming team was Masaji Kiyokawa, the gold medalist in the backstroke in 1932. With the support from the Japanese American community, Kiyokawa and his fellow citizens led the first Olympic Games to be held in Asia to enormous success in 1964.

The Olympics are more than an athletic competition. The quadrennial international spectacle provides extraordinary drama that reflects the wider world. The story of the Southern California Japanese American community, the Japanese team, and the Xth Olympic reflects the prewar history of the Japanese immigrant community&rsquos struggle against exclusion, as well as their pride and success. The tragedy of war and internment has tarnished the happiness and excitement of the summer of 1932, but joyful moments still shine as we &ldquore-collect&rdquo the pieces of long-forgotten engravings in Issei and Nisei hearts.

Espy, Richard. The Politics of the Olympic Games (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979)

Guttmann, Allen, The Olympics: A History of the Modern Games (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1992)

Kieran, John and Arthur Daley, The Story of the Olympic Games: 776 B.C. to 1972, rev. ed. (1957: Philadelphia and New York: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1973)

Niiya, Brian, Ed., Japanese American History: An A-Z Reference from 1858 to the Present (New York: Facts-on-File, 1993)

Oda, Mikio. Orinpikku monogatari (Olympic Stories) (Tokyo: Asahi Shimbun, 1948)

Takasugi, Ryo. Sokokue Astuki Kokoro Wo (Tokyo: Kodansha, 1992)

Teikoku Komin Kyoiku Kyokai, Dai 10-kai Orinpikku daishashincho (Tokyo: Teikoku Komin Kyoiku Kyokai, 1932)

*This article was originally published in More Than a Game: Sport in the Japanese American Community (2000).

Role in the 1932 Games

This successful and exclusive club played an enormous role in bringing the 1932 games to the small village of Lake Placid. For the first decade the grounds were just used as a summer getaway, but at the end of the 1904 season Melvil Dewey kept it open for ten or so members, who skated on Mirror Lake and skied on the Club&rsquos golf course (Manchester, 10). Dewey's push to make the Club a winter destination fueled a major growth of winter sports not only in Lake Placid but also in the whole of the United States.

(Club members getting ready to ski, winter 1904-05)

Godfrey Dewey, Melvil&rsquos son, is credited with spear heading the efforts to bring the Olympics to the Adirondacks and it is safe to say that without the Club and its members the Games couldn&rsquot have taken place. George Lattimer, the compiler of the Offical reports for the 1932 Winter Games, asserts that &ldquo&hellipthe history of the Games in reality goes back to that day, over a quarter of a century ago, when organized enjoyment of the sports of snow and ice and cold began where the highest peaks of the Adirondack mountains cast their shadows on the village by the two lakes&rdquo (7).

Click here to view The Lake Placid Club's current website (it is now owned by Crowne Royal and run as a resort)

Click here to read about the extensive history of The Lake Placid Club (1890-2002)

Lake Placid, 1932

His father Melvil Dewey was the inventor of the Dewey Decimal System, still used to systematize library books. He also invented a system of simplified spelling. and the Lake Placid Club—in that order. Melvil established club in 1895 as a locale of genteel hiking, tennis, swimming and golf, set some three hundred miles north of New York City and half that far from the Canadian border. In 1905, in a daring move for the time, Melvil kept the club open all winter, laying in a supply of toboggans, sleds, snowshoes, and skis. He broke even during his first snow season and thus the Lake Placid Club became the first continuously operating winter resort in the U.S., a title it still holds.

By the time Godfrey took over management of the club in the 1920s, it was recognized as the leading ski center of the East. This was due in part to the constant round of New York celebrities who had skied there: bandleader Rudy Vallee, singer Kate Smith, Broadway dancer Marilyn Miller, among others But it was no Chamonix, no St. Moritz. It had no big hotels, no casinos, no nightlife, only a large rambling club building in faux frontier style known as “adirondack,” which featured posts and beams more or less as cut from the stump, peeled, and roughly trimmed. In addition to rooms in the club, there was a group of large cottages built in the same mode.

The idea of putting an Olympics on at a rustic famiy cottage colony in the Adirondack wilds was staggering in its pretensions. The Club had catered to a restricted list of guests who had sufficient money to spend on expensive family vacations, and who also did not mind strict rules. There was no smoking, no ostentatious dress and no “rekles skiing,” as spelled out in Dewey’s simplified manner. (The onsite ski club founded by Melvil was officially the “Lake Placid Sno Birds.”) Definitely a family resort, Lake Placid also hosted—for the entertainment of its guests—a series of college ski circuit events from the 1920s onward. The club had good college ski jump at Intervale. For guests, it had some cross country trails and a decent outdoor skating rink. There were also political connections to the ski establishment, particularly with Fred Harris who had founded the collegiate circuit (after having founded the Dartmouth Outing Club). And with Harry Wade Hicks, the secretary of the Lake Placid Club who was also secretary of the college circuit and president of the U.S. Eastern Ski Association. That and a million dollars, Godfrey figured, would give him an Olympics.

Looking ahead, Godfrey managed in 1928 to insert his right-hand man, Harry Wade Hicks. into the job of manager of the 1928 U.S. team at St. Moritz. Godfrey and Harry had gone around the events at the Second Winter Games events lobbying the members of the four-year-old FIS and the 32-year-old International Olympic Committee. In an IOC executive session, Swedish delegate Col. Holmquist declared that in his opinion, although there were ski organizations in the United States and Canada, neither “had the necessary competence to organize ski events.” But for some reason, the IOC as a whole seemed to welcome the idea of an American venue. Perhaps delegates sensed that the alternative was tan endless round of hotel-centered resorts within the 400-mile radius of the Continent’s high Alps, an outcome that would not match the intended international character of the Olympic organization as a whole. The IOC decision was due in 1929 at Lausanne, its headquarters.

“Godfrey Deway,” wrote U.S Academic ski historian John Allen, in his 1994 Olympic Perspectives (from which much of the background material for this section of the article was taken),” was in most ways unsuited for the job of managing a world event but he had an outstanding characteristic which often times played against him but which in the final analysis was responsible for the 1932 Winter Games being Godfrey Dewey’s Olympics: a meddling stubbornness to see things through his own way. He changed the artist’s designs on the medals, he dealt with the minutiae of bureaucracy… he chose Bjorn Billion already under his thumb as Club instructor to make the rounds of Europe. These were matters he dealt with just as if he were at the Lake Placid Club.” One of his more egregious mistakes was to have Lake Placid Club secretary Harry Wade Hicks lay out the Olympic cross country courses, whose design and execution would be widely criticized.

Godfrey’s stubbornness had some formidable initial barriers to assail. One of them was persuading then-New York Governor Franklin Roosevelt to fund the quarter-million dollar construction of the bobsled run. Then there was convincing the International Olympic Committee that Lake Placid would build a Cresta sled run Godfrey had no intention of funding at all. Then there was the matter of winning over the ski nations in the FIS, the group responsible for sanctioning the ski events, who mostly thought of American skiing as being a backwoods kind of thing, (which it was). Oh, and one other thing. First of all, Godfrey had to block the competing Olympic bid from Yosemite, California.

That bid was headed by William May Garland, president of the California X Olympiad Association. Trying to head him off at the pass, Godfrey wrote Garland a long letter in which he pointed out that the Yosemite winter sport development had a much shorter pedigree than Lake Placid’s, that Yosemite had never held a National Ski Association or USEASA-sanctioned tournament. Godfrey was reluctant, he wrote Garland, “to be placed in the position of urging our superior facilities and long experience in winter sports against the express desire of California.” (which of course was exactly what Godfrey had been doing all along). Godfrey suggested Garland simply withdraw Yosemite’s bid, but Garland replied grimly, “Let the best man win.”

In April 1929 at Lausanne, Godfrey insisted that Yosemite show the IOC a film making much of Yosemite's natural beauties. He thereby proved that 1) by comparison, Lake Placid was a sophisticated winter sports center, and 2) Yosemite was not much more than a heavily forested, high mountain valley. The IOC delegates opted for Lake Placid.

To put it kindly, Lake Placid did not have nearly the facilities that had already been in place for holding the Chamonix and St. Moritz Games. Lake Placid was the first case of an Olympic infrastructure built expressly to harbor an oncoming Games. It was the first trial of the idea that “if they come, we will build it.” (This is the exact reverse of course of the famed Field of Dreams mantra, “If we build it, they will come.”)

Therefore the cost of the III Winter Olympics reached an astonishing $1 million ($9 million today). It was astonishing not only relative to the much smaller costs of hosting the two previous Olympics but in particular because the Great Wall Street Crash of 1929 had newly precipitated what was going to become the Great Depression. But it can be assumed that most of the club’s conservative middle class members had kept their exposure to Wall Street moderate because the club was able to start things off by raising $200,000 in bonds issued by the adjacent town of North Elba. They were sold to well-to-do members and Lake Placid citizens whose pride or businesses would be sent sky high by a Lake Placid Olympics. When American Olympic Association member Carl Messelt pointed out that the bonds would be irredeemable after the Games were over, since the town treasury would be exhausted, he was ignored. North Elba raised another $150,000 with a second bond issue.

As one initiative, Godfrey sent Fred Harris to the 1930 FIS Congress in Oslo, representing the National Ski Association and USEASA. The FIS was in charge of ski events, so Harris circulated the profiles of the Intervale jumping hill and two course plans for the 50 km cross country among the delegates, who seemed content with that. But they objected to the proposed $10 ($90 today) entrance fee on the grounds that Lake Placid, being so near New York, would be in line to make a killing. That was not the Olympic idea. Still, though the FIS could still pull the rug out from under, Harris left the meeting with the feeling that come decision-time, the Europeans would support Lake Placid.

On the home front, Godfrey was battling the American Olympic Association whose newly-established president, Avery Brundage, was for the first time fitting on his fright mask as the once and future scourge of the Winter Games. Brundage weighed in during January 1931 with the pronouncement that the Lake Placid efforts were “doomed to failure” and made it plain that Godfrey Dewey could expect no help from him. Brundage published an AOA fund-raising brochure under the signature of U.S. President Herbert Hoover in which the Lake Placid Winter Olympics went unmentioned. Godfrey countered with his own fund raising brochure with letter signed by President Hoover in July 1931. Brundage was furious not only because his own fund-raising was being spiked but because Godfrey defrayed the cost of the brochure by carrying advertising. So un-Olympic.

In the meantime, Governor Roosevelt did appropriate $125,000 in New York State funds for the construction of the bobsled run. Next Godfrey lobbied for $400,00 to construct an indoor rink for the skating and hockey events. But Governor Roosevelt was dubious about the benefit to the general public of a building that would only be in official use for one week before reverting to Lake Placid. It took two more years to convince Roosevelt. On February 9th, 1933, with the Games exactly a year off, the governor signed an appropriation for $375,000. One factor in Roosevelt’s thinking was obviously that in his intended run against Hoover in the 1932 elections for the U. S. presidency, an Olympics would provide a guaranteed platform before a fine array of U.S. press and news film people. (News reels provided the equivalent of TV with news shorts that played before the main movie at all theaters throughout the United States).

Thus the skating events were secure, the bobsled events were all set and the nordic ski events had been provided for. The alpine events were ignored. Although downhill and slalom had been accepted as legitimate by the FIS, which had run its first alpine championships in 1931 at Mürren, Switzerland, Godfrey was anything but anxious to spend scarce resources on building downhill courses—which he hadn't promised anyway.

Seventeen nations, including the U.S., sent a total of 447 skiers, sledders and skaters to the third Winter Olympics. Approximately a fifth of these were U.S. competitors. The rest came overland and by boat.

Naturally, it was a horrible snow year.

The weather was the warmest on record. The upper reaches of the nearby Hudson River, which had reliably frozen solid every year during the 146 years for which weather records had been kept, did not freeze during the 147th year in the winter of 1932. A major thaw hit two weeks before the Games, with temperatures rising from below zero to 50 degrees in 24 hours, ruining the bobsled and cross country courses, the jumps, and the ice, and the training schedules of skiers, sledders and skaters alike.

The weather moderated tons of snow were dug out of the woods and put onto the courses. Miraculous feats of organization and endurance testified to Godfrey's ability to get things done. George Carroll quoted Godfrey (in the February 1960 Ski) as saying, “ It was a case of never-say-die. We simply refused to admit defeat. Everyone, our own Olympic staff, the International Committee, village, town and state officials labored day and night.”

The bob run was repaired (the bobsled event was actually allowed to run a week after the Olympics to reach a conclusion). Resurfaced skating ovals grew solid. On February 4, 1932 Governor Roosevelt declared the Third Winter Games open and called for world peace. (The Japanese had already opened the preliminaries of World War II by invading Chinese Manchuria.) U.S. skater Jack Shea took the Olympic pledge on behalf of all the competitors.

Two non-skiing events were of interest to the future of skiing. Billy Fiske, the 1928 gold bobsled medalist, won again at the Lake Placid bobsled run and became a national hero. Having learned about skiing at two Olympics, he became a skier himself. In 1936, he was one of three men to finance the first high alpine ski accommodations in the U.S., the Highland Bavarian Lodge outside Aspen. Every name skier from Dartmouth’s ski god Otto Schniebs on down came to stay long weeks at Highland Bavarian and publish thereafter illustrated accounts. Fiske’s effort had a wondrous effect in advertising the mountain beauty of the setting of what would become U.S. skiing’s first mega-resort.

In skating, Norway's Sonja Henie came in head and shoulders over the competition, scoring her second Olympic gold (her first was at St. Moritz). She would win again at the Fourth Olympics. Launched from her Olympic platform, she would go on to movie career during which she would star in the most famous ski film of all time, Sun Valley Serenade. Even though her skiing in the film was done by doubles, and though she never actually went to Sun Valley (her parts were shot on the studio stage), Henna’s glamour added up to an enormous boost, almost as much as the 1932 Olympics themselves, to recreational skiing in the U.S.

In the 18-kilometer, Norway's Johan Grottumsbraaten, double gold medallist in the 1928 Games, was beaten by two Swedes, Sven Utterstrom and Axel Vikstrom, who had a secret weapon: a diet of brown beans, oatmeal, salt herring and Knackebrod, especially prepared by the Swedish team's traveling cook. Ollie Zetterstram, the first American finisher in the 15km, placed 23rd. The next day, in the combined jump event, Grottumsbraaten scored high enough to win the Nordic Combined gold.

The 50-km event proved to be one of the most contentious. The snow finally came with a vengeance: the season's first blizzard broke upon Lake Placid on the day of the race. The course had been laid out to double back on itself, a design that so angered some of the coaches that three hours were spent in arguing the point back and forth while the blizzard got worse. When the race finally came off, the high-seeded starters had to break track through the soft, new-fallen snow, were all soundly beaten by relative unknowns who started late and had the advantage of a more solidly packed track. The winner was Vaino Likkanen of Finland, who started in 23rd place.

Next to photogenic Sonja Henie in the figure-skating event, the press paid most attention to the exotic entry: Japan. The Japanese were not only copying the military ways of the West with a vengeance but entering the world athletic contests, unfortunately sometimes two faces of a single nationalist coin. Time, in reporting on the Games in its usual lack of comprehension of winter sports at the time, printed Norwegian jumper Birger Ruud's name as “Birger Rudd,” and superskater Sonja Henie's as “Sonja Henje.”

Even more benightedly, Time stated that one of the features of the Games was "the amazing incompetence of the Japanese…The Japanese fancy skaters, who had studied this sport in books, found it hard to keep their footing…two Japanese skiers were injured by turning somersaults off the ski jump, and another who fell down in front of the schoolhouse, amused Lake Placid children by his inability to get up."

The Japanese, contrary to Time's version, were neither wholly incompetent or lacking innovation or courage. During the 50-km, a Japanese assistant coach set up a portable wind-up record player at the most difficult part of the course, a steep ravine. Every time a Japanese skier came by, the coach wound up his machine and blasted out the Japanese national anthem, which so galvanized each Japanese competitor that he scaled the ravine's uphill side at a roaring clip.

The top Japanese jumper, Gaio Adachi, spun into the grandstand in a training jump on the Intervale hill, was injured and had to be hospitalized. Nevertheless, Adachi got up from his hospital bed to post jumps of 196 and 215 feet and placed eighth, foreshadowing the mistake of underestimating the Japanese, which cost us dearly a dozen years later in World War II. More benignly, the Japanese will to win also foreshadowed the Sapporo Olympics of 1972 in which Japanese jumpers swept all three special jump medals.

The amazing heroics of the Japanese aside, Norway dominated the jumping by sweeping the special jump with Birger Ruud getting a silver, the first of a clutch of Olympic medals. The USA’s Casper Oimen came in fifth, the highest score in an Olympic event for the U.S. to date. And then Norway got third in the 50-km as well to make it seven medals in three of the four nordic events.

Norwegians were so fanatic about maintaining the Games a shrine to pure amateurism wouldn't even let the Lake Placid ski pro, Erling Strom, tend the jump hill during the Games. They felt equally strongly that the sanctity of the original aim of the Games, competition of individual against individual, was violated by the country-vs-country slant of U.S. news reportage. The Norwegians' anger was not even the least bit mollified when New York Sun columnist Edwin B. Dooley reminded readers that approximately 90 American entries in all events, including skating, figure skating, and bobsled, had "a combined point total only a few [points] more than…a handful of Norwegians."

Over 80,000 tickets were sold for the third Winter Games. Among the attendees were the requisite celebrities including the world’s most famous radio newscaster, Lowell Thomas, reporting from location, and Admiral Richard Byrd, scouting among the cross-country competitors for rugged specimens who might be persuaded to come on Byrd's next polar expedition. Press coverage was much better and more widespread than had been anticipated. Some of it was a bit hyperbolic because the main hangout of the good old boys among reporters was in the basement bar of a local inn where newsmen took and held nearly all the seats. Columnist Westbrook Pegler called it “the Cellar Athletic Club.” Wrote George Carroll, “Some of the most dramatic stories of the week were filed by reporters who got no closer to the bobrun or the ski jump.”

The Olympics recruited one of the sports’ staunchest and most effective advocates. “It was the Olympics at Lake Placid that really sold me on skiing.” Writing under his own byline in the February 1960 Ski Life, Lowell admitted that he had gotten hooked after Erling Strom had given him his first ski lesson during the 1932 Olympics. Lowell’s subsequent radio broadcasts from ski resorts like Mt. Tremblant and Aspen, where he had gone to ski, were the kind of exposure publicity agents dream about. Lowell’s nightly audiences registered in the tens of millions and he was usually at a resort for a week or more.

Lake Placid’s post-Olympic notices were mixed. The one from the Technical Committee of the FIS was less than laudatory, commenting somewhat acidly on Godfrey’s tendency to maintain tight control by using only trusted aides. “Too big a burden was undoubtedly placed on two few men’s shoulders and those did not manager to perform all that was up to them. They also lacked skilled helpers possessing knowledge and initiative. The arrangements for the skiing contests must be termed unsatisfactory due to the fact that management was not entrusted to experts.”

But IOC president Count de Ballait-Latour in his official report congratulated Godfrey, saying he was “more than pleased at the plans made for staging the Games in Lake Placid, facilities for the conduct of sports and other arrangements. ” He noted “the exceptional manner in which this obligation was discharged, a great task masterfully handled.”

The closing ceremonies were presided over by New York City Major Jimmy Walker, who could never pass up a party anywhere, even in the snow. The crowds cheered Walker as they had cheered Roosevelt, and cheered winners and losers the whole ten days. The general public tone, in spite of the wet weather, was one of excitement and general self-congratulation that a small American mountain town in splendid natural surroundings had been readied successfully for such a gigantic international event. The 1932 event was unique. For the first time it was apparent that what big St. Moritz could, little Lake Placid could also do: the proof was there. And the world paid attention.

Learn More

  • For additional panoramic photographs of the 1932 Olympics and of other sporting events, search the collection Panoramic Photographs using terms such as Los Angeles Olympics, sports, swimming, or rowing.
  • Learn more about previous Olympic Games through newspaper coverage in the historic American newspapers database, Chronicling America. Start with Olympics Topics in Chronicling America to view some sample articles as well as suggestions for creating search strategies to find additional articles.
  • Read the Library of Congress Blog post, Trending: Olympic Games which compares media coverage of the Olympics over time.
  • Search the Prints and Photographs collections using the subject Olympics to see photographs and posters of the Olympics through the years.
  • Search Today in History on names of athletes or athletic events to find more features on sports. Examples include pages on the World Series, Jim Thorpe, Althea Gibson, Kathy Whitworth, and Jackie Robinson.
  • Search on radio in the Horydczak Collection to see photos of a variety of early radio models.
  • Visit Team USA External, the official site of the U.S. Olympic Committee, and the official Web site of the International Olympic Committee External.

Venues [ edit | edit source ]

The following venues hosted events at the 1932 games<ref>http://boundless.uoregon.edu/cdm4/document.php?CISOROOT=/uo-athletics&CISOPTR=596&REC=4</ref><ref>http://www.la84foundation.org/6oic/OfficialReports/1932/1932s.pdf</ref>:

  • Exposition Park (known as Olympic Park for the Games) - equestrian
      - athletics, American football, lacrosse, equestrian (eventing, jumping) field hockey, gymnastics, opening and closing ceremonies (capacity: 105,000) - diving, modern pentathlon (swimming), swimming, water polo (capacity: 10,000)
  • 160th Regiment State Armory - fencing, modern pentathlon (fencing) (capacity: 1,800)
  • Museum of History, Science, and Art - art events

  • When the Olympics Gave Out Medals for Art

    At the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, American Walter Winans took the podium and waved proudly to the crowd. He had already won two Olympic medals—a gold for sharpshooting at the 1908 London Games, as well as a silver for the same event in 1912—but the gold he won at Stockholm wasn’t for shooting, or running, or anything particularly athletic at all. It was instead awarded for a small piece of bronze he had cast earlier that year: a 20-inch-tall horse pulling a small chariot. For his work, An American Trotter, Winans won the first ever Olympic gold medal for sculpture.

    For the first four decades of competition, the Olympics awarded official medals for painting, sculpture, architecture, literature and music, alongside those for the athletic competitions. From 1912 to 1952, juries awarded a total of 151 medals to original works in the fine arts inspired by athletic endeavors. Now, on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the first artistic competition, even Olympics fanatics are unaware that arts, along with athletics, were a part of the modern Games nearly from the start.

    “Everyone that I’ve ever spoken to about it has been surprised,” says Richard Stanton, author of The Forgotten Olympic Art Competitions. “I first found out about it reading a history book, when I came across a little comment about Olympic art competitions, and I just said, ‘what competitions?’” Propelled by curiosity, he wrote the first—and still the only—English-language book ever published on the subject.

    To learn about the overlooked topic, Stanton had to dig through crumbling boxes of often-illegible files from the International Olympic Committee archives in Switzerland—many of which hadn’t seen the light of day since they were packed away decades ago. He discovered that the story went all the way back to the Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the IOC and the modern Games, who saw art competitions as integral to his vision of the Olympics. “He was raised and educated classically, and he was particularly impressed with the idea of what it meant to be a true Olympian—someone who was not only athletic, but skilled in music and literature,” Stanton says. “He felt that in order to recreate the events in modern times, it would be incomplete to not include some aspect of the arts.”

    At the turn of the century, as the baron struggled to build the modern Olympics from scratch, he was unable to convince overextended local organizers of the first few Games in Athens, St. Louis and Paris that arts competitions were necessary. But he remained adamant. “There is only one difference between our Olympiads and plain sporting championships, and it is precisely the contests of art as they existed in the Olympiads of Ancient Greece, where sport exhibitions walked in equality with artistic exhibitions,” he declared.

    Finally, in time for the 1912 Stockholm Games, he was able to secure a place for the arts. Submissions were solicited in the categories of architecture, music, painting, sculpture and literature, with a caveat—every work had to be somehow inspired by the concept of sport. Some 33 (mostly European) artists submitted works, and a gold medal was awarded in each category. In addition to Winans’ chariot, other winners included a modern stadium building plan (architecture), an “Olympic Triumphal March” (music), friezes depicting winter sports (painting) and Ode to Sport (literature).  The baron himself was among the winners. Fearing that the competitions wouldn’t draw enough entrants, he penned the winning ode under the pseudonyms George Hohrod and Martin Eschbach, leaving the medal jury unaware of the true author.

    The bronze medals awarded during the 1924 Olympic art competitions in Paris in the "Sculpture" category. (Collection: Olympic Museum Lausanne) Jean Jacoby's Corner, left, and Rugby. At the 1928 Olympic Art Competitions in Amsterdam, Jacoby won a gold medal for Rugby. (Collection: Olympic Museum Lausanne) Walter Winans An American Trotter won the gold medal in the "Sculpture" category at the first Olympic Art Competitions in 1912 in Stockholm. (Collection: Idrottsmuseet i Malmö) Anniversary of the Reintroduction of the Olympic Games, 1914, Edouard Elzingre. (Collection: Norbert Mueller) Carlo Pellegrini's series of winter sport graphic artworks won an Olympic gold medal. (Collection: Deutsches Sport & Olympia Museum, Cologne) The original program of the presentation of prizes in May 1911 in the Court of Honor of the Sorbonne in Paris. (Collection: Norbert Mueller) A letter from Pierre de Coubertin that aimed to motivate the IOC Art Congress in 1906 to artistically enhance sports festivals and inspire them to hold music and literature competitions in association with sporting events. (Collection: Carl and Liselott Diem-Archiv) Ode to Sport won the gold medal in "Literature" at the first Olympic Art Competitions in 1912. (Collection: Deutsches Sport & Olympia Museum, Cologne)

    Over the next few decades, as the Olympics exploded into a premier international event, the fine arts competitions remained an overlooked sideshow. To satisfy the sport-inspired requirement, many paintings and sculptures were dramatic depictions of wrestling or boxing matches the majority of the architecture plans were for stadiums and arenas. The format of the competitions was inconsistent and occasionally chaotic: a category might garner a silver medal, but no gold, or the jury might be so disappointed in the submissions that it awarded no medals at all. At the 1928 Amsterdam Games, the literature category was split into lyric, dramatic and epic subcategories, then reunited as one for 1932, and then split again in 1936.

    Many art world insiders viewed the competitions with distrust. “Some people were enthusiastic about it, but quite a few were standoffish,” Stanton says. “They didn't want to have to compete, because it might damage their own reputations.” The fact that the events had been initiated by art outsiders, rather than artists, musicians or writers—and the fact that all entries had to be sport-themed—also led many of the most prominent potential entrants to decide the competitions were not worth their time.

    Still, local audiences enjoyed the artworks—during the 1932 Games, nearly 400,000 people visited the Los Angeles Museum of History, Science and Art to see the works entered—and some big names did enter the competitions. John Russell Pope, the architect of the Jefferson Memorial, won a silver at the 1932 Los Angeles Games for his design of the Payne Whitney Gymnasium, constructed at Yale University. Italian sculptor Rembrandt Bugatti, American illustrator Percy Crosby, Irish author Oliver St. John Gogarty and Dutch painter Isaac Israëls were other prominent entrants.

    In 1940 and 1944, the Olympics were put on hold as nearly all participating countries became embroiled in the violence and destruction of World War II. When they returned, the art competitions faced a bigger problem: the new IOC president’s obsession with absolute amateurism. “American Avery Brundage became the president of the IOC, and he was a rigid supporter of amateur athletics,” Stanton says. “He wanted the Olympics to be completely pure, not to be swayed by the weight of money.” Because artists inherently rely on selling their work for their livelihood—and because winning an Olympic medal could theoretically serve as a sort of advertisement for the quality of an artist’s work—Brundage took aim at the art competitions, insisting they represented an unwelcome incursion of professionalism. Although Brundage himself had once entered a piece of literature in the 1932 Games’ competitions and earned an honorable mention, he stridently led a campaign against the arts following the� Games.

    After heated debate, it was eventually decided that the art competitions would be scrapped. They were replaced by a noncompetitive exhibition to occur during the Games, which eventually became known as the Cultural Olympiad. John Copley of Britain won one of the final medals awarded, a silver in 1948 for his engraving, Polo Players. He was 73 years old at the time, and would be the oldest medalist in Olympic history if his victory still counted. The 151 medals that had been awarded were officially stricken from the Olympic record, though, and currently do not count toward countries’ current medal counts.

    Still, half a century later, the concept behind the art competitions lingers. Starting in 2004, the IOC has held an official Sport and Art Contest leading up to each summer Games. For the 2012 contest, entrants sent sculptures and graphic works on the theme of “Sport and the Olympic values of excellence, friendship and respect.” Though no medals are at stake, winners will receive cash prizes, and the best works will be selected and displayed in London during the Games. Somewhere, the Baron Pierre de Coubertin might be smiling.

    About Joseph Stromberg

    Joseph Stromberg was previously a digital reporter for Smithsonian.

    Watch the video: Οι Ολυμπιακοί Αγώνες στην Αρχαία Ολυμπία (May 2022).