POSTED: September 12th 2017

BRENDA DURAN: L.A.'s Olympic traditions

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum will once again be a centerpiece of the 2028 Games © LA 2028
The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum will once again be a centerpiece of the 2028 Games © LA 2028

A view of the 1932 Games @ LA 2028
A view of the 1932 Games @ LA 2028

The Staples Center dressed up for the IOC Evaluation tour this year © LA 2028
The Staples Center dressed up for the IOC Evaluation tour this year © LA 2028

BRENDA DURAN (USA) / Sports Features Communications 

(SFC) Los Angeles' Olympic story goes back 85 years.

While the city has twice played host to the games, forever leaving its mark on the world's premier sporting phenomenon, the Olympics have also left their mark on the L.A. region.

When Los Angeles was preparing for the 1932 Summer Olympics, the country was in the midst of the Great Depression, so the city leaders pledged not to build any new venues. Instead, existing locations, such as Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and local golf courses, parks and roadways, were home to the athletic competitions.

Those games saw some historic moments, even though many countries couldn't or weren't willing to send their athletes to the Olympics during tough economic times.

An Olympic Village and a victory podium were used for the first time in 1932. The United States, with home field advantage, was the top medal winner at 103, including 41 gold.

That was made possible by athletes such as the legendary Mildred "Babe" Didrickson, who made her debut on a national stage winning gold medals in the javelin throw and high hurdles and a silver in the high jump. She went on to become the best female golfer of her time and today is still considered by many to be the best female athlete in U.S. history.

Also at those games, 14-year-old Japanese swimmer Kusuo Kitamura became the youngest male athlete ever to win an Olympic gold medal.

Still, when the podiums had cleared and the torch extinguished, the Summer Games weren't forgotten. L.A.'s 10th Street was renamed Olympic Boulevard, for example, while a much greater purpose was served - helping to bolster Los Angeles' standing as a world-class city.

By the time the Olympics returned to Los Angeles for the 1984 Summer Games, much had changed in the much more urban and sprawling city, but many things remained the same.

The economic climate wasn't so dire, though the United States had just come out of a recession, but the global political climate had been upturned in the aftermath of World War II.

With the West and the Soviet Bloc in a Cold War standoff, again a good portion of the world's athletes didn't attend the games - this time intentionally as an act of pro-communist political defiance.

Even so, 140 national Olympic committees took part in the event, which set a record, according to the official Olympics website.

Much like in 1932, the 1984 Olympics largely used existing venues, but as the city had grown in the half century since the last time it played host to the games, far more options were available. The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was used for the second time, while facilities at local universities including USC and UCLA, new convention centers in Long Beach and Anaheim, Dodger Stadium and other venues in Los Angeles County and neighboring Orange County played a role.

Once again, Los Angeles saw some firsts and notable moments, including archer Neroli Fairhall of New Zealand becoming the first paraplegic athlete to take part in a medal event by using a wheelchair. The first Olympic women's marathon also took place, with American Joan Benoit winning to the applause of a home country crowd. Other new events that made their debut included rhythmic gymnastics, synchronised swimming and the women's cycling road race.

American runner Carl Lewis equaled the milestone set by Jesse Owens in the 1936 Berlin Games, winning gold medals in the same four track and field events.

When Los Angeles plays host to the Olympics again in 2024 or 2028, at least four decades since the last time, some of the same venues utilized in past Olympics will be used again, while a slew of new ones, some that are still being built today, will also play a role. 

But which Olympic records and milestones will be achieved at the next L.A. Games remains to be seen.

**BRENDA DURAN has Over 10 years of documented success in writing within media and communication for leading publications, including: The North County Times, The Denver Post, PEOPLE, The Long Beach Press-Telegram, Us Weekly and Long Beach Magazine. Winner of more than a dozen national and regional writing awards for feature stories and breaking news. Expertise in strategic communications, social media and marketing.


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