History of the Olympics

Actor and Olympic Swimmer Johnny Weissmuller
John Springer Collection/Getty Images

For a while, ​it seemed as if no one was going to attend the 1932 Olympic Games. Six months before the Games were to begin, not a single country had responded to the official invitations. Then they started to trickle in. The world was mired in the Great Depression which made the expense of traveling to California seem nearly as insurmountable as the distance.

Neither had many of the spectator tickets been sold and it seemed that the Memorial Coliseum, which had been expanded to 105,000 seats for the occasion, would be relatively empty. Then, a few Hollywood stars (including Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, Marlene Dietrich, and Mary Pickford) offered to entertain the crowd and ticket sales picked up.

Los Angeles had constructed the very first Olympic Village for the Games. The Olympic Village consisted of 321 acres in Baldwin Hills and offered 550 two-bedroom portable bungalows for the male athletes, a hospital, post office, library, and a large number of eating establishments to feed the athletes. The female athletes were housed in the Chapman Park Hotel downtown, which offered more luxuries than the bungalows. The 1932 Olympic Games also debuted the first photo-finish cameras as well as the victory platform.

There were two minor incidents worth reporting. Finnish Paavo Nurmi, who had been one of the Olympic heroes in the past several Olympic Games, was considered to have turned professional, thus was not allowed to compete. While mounted on the victory platform, Italian Luigi Beccali, winner of the gold medal in the 1,500-meter race, gave the Fascist salute. Mildred "Babe" Didrikson made history at the 1932 Olympic Games. Babe won the gold medal for both the 80-meter hurdles (new world record) and the javelin (new world record) ​and won silver in the high jump. Babe later became a very successful professional golfer.

Approximately 1,300 athletes participated, representing 37 countries.

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Rosenberg, Jennifer. "History of the Olympics." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/1932-olympics-in-los-angeles-1779598. Rosenberg, Jennifer. (2023, April 5). History of the Olympics. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/1932-olympics-in-los-angeles-1779598 Rosenberg, Jennifer. "History of the Olympics." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/1932-olympics-in-los-angeles-1779598 (accessed June 7, 2023).