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Backgrounder: Olympic Games Los Angeles 1932: Sport amid Great Depression

MEXICO CITY, July 14 (Xinhua) -- The 10th Olympic Games returned to the United States in 1932 after spending 28 years in Europe. However, the fact that the Great Depression was affecting the host country and the rest of the world, meant a significant reduction in the number of participating countries and athletes.

The Games of the X Olympiad, as it is officially known, were held in Los Angeles from July 30 to August 14 with 1,334 athletes (126 women) competing from 37 countries in 117 events. In comparison, in the previous Games in Amsterdam in 1928, 2,883 athletes participated from 46 countries.

The International Olympics Committee (IOC) had to provide economic support for the athletes as well as food and transport.

This situation provoked controversy because Finland's legendary "flying man," Paavo Nurmi, nine times gold-medallist, was not allowed to take part in his fourth Games as he was considered to be a professional athlete since he had been paid to attend a competition in Germany. At the time, this was prohibited by the IOC.

In this edition there were great technical advances. For example, the so-called "photo-finish" appeared for the first time as photographs were taken in line with the finish line to establish the winner in a race. Also a three-tiered podium was used for the first time during the awards ceremonies.

The length of these Games was also a novelty. The competitions were carried out over 16 days for the first time in the 20th century. Since then, every Summer Olympics have taken place over a period of 15 to 18 days.

Despite the absence of many countries and the soccer tournament being cancelled due to lack of sufficient teams, the Games' competitive level increased. This is shown in the fact that 18 world records were matched or broken. Also, around 100,000 people attended the Opening Ceremony, a record number at the time.

Mildred "Babe" Didrikson from the United States, set world records in all three events that she participated in, winning the javelin throw and the 80 meters hurdle and coming second in the high jump. She was only 18-years-old.

Didrikson could have won more medals as she had qualified for five events but, at the time, the IOC only allowed women to compete in three individual events in athletics.

Ivar Johansson from Sweden, a policeman, won golds in both Greco-Roman wrestling and freestyle wresting.

U.S. swimmer Helene Madison easily won the 100 meters freestyle, lowering the Olympic record by more than four seconds. Four days later, she was also part of the winning team in the 4x100 meters freestyle relay, breaking the previous women's relay world record by 9.6 seconds. The next day, Madison won her third gold in the 400 meters freestyle race, beating her fellow countrywoman Leonore Kight by just a tenth of a second.

One of the most evident signs of Olympic spirit and playing nice during these Games was when British fencer Judy Guinness pointed out to the officials at the end of the match that they had not noticed two touches scored against her by her final opponent, Ellen Preis of Austria. This cost her the gold medal but she was applauded for her honesty.



U.S. 41 32 30 103

Italy 12 12 12 36

France 10 5 4 19

Sweden 9 5 9 23

Japan 7 7 4 18

Hungary 6 4 5 15

Finland 5 8 12 25

UK 4 7 5 16

Germany 3 12 5 20

Australia 3 1 1 5

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