The Peculiar 1932 Olympics
On this day 88 years ago, France announced it could not afford to send a team to the 1932 LA Olympics. The 1932 Olympics was notable for taking place at the same time as the Great Depression. The Great Depression lasted from 1929-1939 and is considered the worst economic downturn in history of the industrialized world. Due to the worldwide financial crisis, multiple nations elected to not send teams because they did not have the money for it. Though the US sent a team, President Herbert Hoover did not attend the games, becoming the second American president ever, to not attend the Olympic games. Despite the low participation of the 1932 Olympics, there were still some great events to note.
This Olympics had a lot of firsts. An Olympic village was built for the first time ever to house the female and male athletes. Furthermore, this Olympics utilized a victory podium for the medalists for the first time. Both the Olympic village and victory podium would become staples for later Olympics. Colombia also made its debut at the Olympics in LA, and the Republic of China returned to the Olympics for the first time since 1924.
The Americans dominated on the track and field scene, winning 11 gold medals. The standout at the 1932 games was Babe Didrikson, who won all five of her events at Olympic trials for track and field. However, at the Olympics, women were only allowed to participate in three events. Nonetheless, Didrikson won two golds and a silver medal in the 80-meter hurdle, javelin, and high jump. She excelled in other sports too, such as baseball, basketball, and golf. She would later go on to turn professional in golf and win 10 LPGA major championships.
In the pool, the Japanese and Americans were two teams that especially shined. On the men’s side, the Japanese team which was mostly comprised of teenagers, won five of the six events. Kitamura Kusuo won the gold in the mile as a 14 year old, making him the youngest male swimmer to win gold. On the women’s side, the American team took four of the five events. Helene Madison doubled up and won both the 100 and 400 meter freestyle.
Another athlete of note is Takeichi Nichi who would secure Japan’s first and only equestrian gold medal to date in the show jumping individual event with his horse, Uranus. Nishi continued to leave his mark in history when he would later be stationed at the island of Iwo Jima in 1945 during WWII. He was a tank unit commander and died in action defending it against the Americans. His role in the battle would result in him being featured as an important character in Clint Eastwood’s film ‘Letters from Iwo Jima’.
In field hockey, only three nations took part. This included the Americans, Japanese, and India. The Americans would lose to India and Japan 1-24 and 2-9 respectively. Despite losing to all the other teams, the Americans still took home a bronze medal.