Los Angeles 1932

Games History

The Los Angeles Games of 1932 featured less nations and almost half as many athletes as the previous Games in Amsterdam. This was due mostly to the Great Depression, with the cost of travel and the logistics of distance proving difficult for many teams. Still, more than 1400 athletes from 37 nations competed at the Games. This was only the second time the Games had been held outside of Europe, following on from the St Louis 1904 Olympics. Los Angeles, home of Hollywood and the emerging film industry, would put on a much better show. 

The United States were the dominant team, their 41 gold medals more than treble that of the second nation on the medal tally, Italy, which won 12 gold medals. The host nation was led by sprinter Eddie Tolan, who won gold in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay. In the pool, Japan was the leading nation. American Buster Crabbe won the 400m freestyle gold and would later become the Olympics’ second Tarzan, playing the jungle hero in movies.

The Indian men’s hockey team, one of the great dynasties in Olympic history, hit their straps in Los Angeles, setting an Olympic record by belting the US 24-1 in their match. Another great dynasty, the Hungarian men’s sabre team, won its second successive gold medal. They would not lose an Olympic match until 1964.

The first true women’s star of the Olympics also emerged in Los Angeles. Mildred ‘Babe’ Didrikson was a sharp-witted, confident and vastly talented American who won gold medals in the javelin and 80m hurdles and a silver medal in the high jump. She remains the only athlete in Olympic history with individual medals in running, jumping and throwing events.  

One of the important innovations of 1932 was the building of an Olympic ‘village’ to host teams during the Games. Also of interest was the Olympic debut of China. The world’s most populous nation had a single competitor in 1932.