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Los Angeles 1932 - Overview

A Games to forget the depression

The 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles came at a time when the US and much of the world was still reeling from the Wall Street Crash that marked the beginning of a global economic depression back in 1929.

But the Californians pulled out all the stops to ensure a successful event. They renovated and enlarged the Coliseum stadium into a 105,000-seat venue for track and field, and they housed the athletes themselves in a temporary, 700-bungalow village on a golf course with panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean.

They also laid on a no-holds-barred, Hollywoodish opening ceremony with 3,000 singers, dancers and musicians.

Stars of the day Charlie Chaplin and Gary Cooper were part of the showbiz crowd.

While professionalism became the order of the day in terms of organization, the competitors themselves were still strictly constrained to amateur status and two great middle-distance runners, Finland's nine-time gold medalist Paavo Nurmi and Frenchman Jules Ladoumegue, were both blacklisted for having earned money from sport.

The records tumble

New records were set in the 100-meter dash, the 400, the 800, the 400 hurdles, the 4x100 relay, the 4x400 relay, the triple jump, the javelin and all six women's events.

Mildred "Babe" Didrikson emerged as the first great female Olympic star with wins in the 80-meter hurdles and the javelin and also a silver in the high jump.

The Texan was to later make her name as a top women's golfer, too.

Home star Eddie Tolan lifted a splendid sprint double with an impressive 10.3-second 100-meter sprint to go with his 200 gold.

Unsurprisingly, the US ended atop the medals table again, with 41 gold -- including 16 in track and field, four in the women's pool events and a staggering 12 out of a possible 12 in diving.

Another noteworthy performance was that of the Japanese swimmers, who left Los Angeles with five gold medals.

Copyright 2008 Agence France-Presse.

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