This is a big day for the LA Memorial Coliseum -- July 30. It's the day of its big debut in Los Angeles, back in 1932, for the 1932 Olympic Summer Games, known then as simply GAMES OF THE X OLYMPIAD. The TENTH Olympics of the modern era.
Did you know Olympic Boulevard, up until then, was known simply as Tenth Street in Los Angeles? It was renamed in honor of the games. (Get it? The 10th Olympic games .. Tenth street?) Wikipedia also says it was also the first time there was an "Olympic Village," for just the male athletes, and it was in Baldwin Hills. Part of that village, according to a website called Baldwin Hills Park, is now part of the Los Angeles Police Academy.
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According to the website, the Olympic Committee used the shooting range at the LA Police Revolver and Athletic club for the pistol and rifle competitions, and when the games were over, the Department was given one of the dormitory buildings at the Olympic Village. Off duty officers dismantled it and moved it to Elysian Park, where it's now part of the present Academy restaurant and Cafe.
The women stayed at the Chapman Park Hotel on Wilshire. It was torn down in 1969 to make way for the Equitable Plaza office building that stands there now.
Check out their picture; do they look like they're lounging athletes?? (Click on the picture for a larger view.)
This was all happening at the peak of the Great Depression. That's one of the reasons for the Olympic Village -- a local history website notes "The Olympic Village was first instituted at the 1932 Olympics to counteract the effects of the Great Depression and to provide an affordable and convenient place for athletes and officials to eat and be housed."
And interestingly, it was the first of the ten modern Olympic games to turn a profit. The Los Angeles Times estimated it at around a million dollars. Another website notes, "interestingly, the next Olympics to turn a profit would be the 1984 Summer Olympics, again held in Los Angeles. The '84 Games were the first privately financed Olympics; but for the '32 Games, the voters of California actually approved an Olympic bond of 1 million dollars, unfathomable today.
"It was at the LA 1932 Games that the 3-step platform was introduced for the medal ceremonies, with the playing of the gold medalist's national anthem and the raising of the national flags of the winners. Also, it was at these Games that the medals ceremonies were done following the conclusion of the event. Prior to 1932, all of the medals were handed to the athletes during the closing ceremony; and since the previous summer Games lasted for several months, some athletes went home after the conclusion of their events, so they wouldn't even be present to receive their medals during the closing ceremony."
How cool is that? There are a ton of pictures on this site called "skyscraperpage.com" that are fun to look at, and imagine how different things are today than they were so many years ago.
In fact, because of the Depression, not a single country had responded to the official invitations to the games, according to about.com. My favorite part of the story:
"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."
It's always Hollywood, isn't it? In the end 1,332 athletes (only 126 of them women) participated, representing 37 countries. It was half as many as had participated in 1928, but the crowd set records with more than 100,000 attending the Opening Ceremony.
Check out this old film on YouTube -- it makes reference to 1912 gold medalist Jim Thorpe who was so broke from the Depression that he couldn't afford tickets, so US Vice President Charles Curtis invited him to watch the games in his private box.
The official Web Site of the US Olympic Committee says:
"Hollywood stars committed to providing entertainment and helped ignite spectator interest, and the Opening Ceremony set a record with over 100,000 people in attendance. Perhaps most impressive achievement of the organizing committee--particularly given the global economic climate--was that the 1932 Games garnered a profit of $1 million, a feat that would not be repeated for 52 years until the 1984 Games, also hosted by Los Angeles.
"In the face of great challenges leading up to 1932, the city of Los Angeles staged a successful Games that brought the nation--and the world--together."
Let's remember this and try to remind the International Olympic Committee next time LA's bid comes up. Chicago already aced us out as the US city for 2012; they're up against Madrid, Rio, and Tokyo...with the winner to be announced October 2, 2009.