What Happened at Los Angeles?
An Olympic Post Mortem
H. H. ROXBOROUGH
ONLY a few weeks ago, nearly 2,000 men and women, athletic ambassadors from thirty-nine nations, marched into the colossal Los Angeles Stadium and stood, with flags flying, while the Vice-President of the United States proclaimed the opening of the Tenth Olympiad of the Modem Era. Then, following a fanfare of trumpets, the lighting of the Olympic Torch, the salute of ten cannon, the singing of the huge choir, the hoisting of the Olympic flag and the liberating of many hundreds of pigeons, the great collection of athletes began its amazing record-smashing demonstrations.
Today this vast sports arena is deserted but interest in the results is still active. Sportsmen of all nations are still counting the cost, determining the causes of defeat, the reasons for victory, and either planning for a bigger and better Olympiad in 1936, or seriously enquiring if, after all, the games are really worth while.
What do Canadian sports leaders think of the games, now that they have had time to see them in perspective?
A Triumph of Organization
T TNQUESTIONABLY, the Californian Olympiad, in attendances, arrangements and athletic performances, was the most successful in all Olympic history. At Amsterdam the total admissions to all sports were about 663,000, with receipts approximating $570,000; while the Los Angeles guests approached 1,000,000 and the revenue was estimated at $2,000,000.
Apart altogether from the fact that Olympic, sport was one of the few enterprises that could more than triple its 1928 revenue in these hard times, the figures are also indicative of the thoroughness with which the United States officials planned, promoted and organized the games. In other Olympiads, the host city has been unable to accommodate the throngs of guests and adequately house the temperamental competitors. Los Angeles solved this problem by constructing an Olympic Village, containing a thousand artistically designed and suitably furnished cottages, together with a dining hall 1.200 feet long, with separate kitchens and rooms for each team, and setting it apart for the housing and feeding of the male athletes.
Not only were the requirements for sleep, food and training thus fulfilled, but the organizers also constructed a running track, built on a peat foundation, that has never been excelled, a track, incidentally, that had a good deal to do with the new records established.
The Olympic Village, the stadium track, the electrical timing devices, the recording of the finishes by motion nirture cameras, the enormous crowd« and the perfect
weather, will long be remembered by all who attended the games. But to the millions of sportsmen who followed the contests by press and picture, the Tenth Olympiad was chiefly notable for the high quality of the competition and for the frequency with which former world’s records were broken.
The Olympic track and field programme included six events for feminine competitors, and in every one the former record was broken. In most instances, it was smashed almost beyond recognition. Some of the times were phenomenal.
In the men’s events the performances were so amazing that not only were eighteen former Olympic records considerably . bettered, but on ten occasion^, the new • marks wrere the best ever made in all time.
Thus in twentyeight track and field events, records fell in • twenty-four. Nor were the superlative efforts confined to runners, jumpers and throwers, for the swimmers also entered wholeheartedly into the prevailing desire to give Father Time the worst licking ever received in athletic competition.
For instance, a Japan-
ese relay team competing in the 800 metres relay swim dipped thirty-six seconds from the former world’s record.
TN THE midst of all these achievements, facing the most formidable opposition in all Olympic history, what contribution did Canada’s representatives make?
To the casual observer, the
ixrformances of our 1932 team were mediocre. In field hockey. Greco-Roman wrestling, gymnastics, weight lifting, nxxlem pentathlon, water polo and equestrian sports -all vitally important games to the countries that are interested.in them Canada did not even participate.
The Dominion did send teams to compete in fencing, men’s and women’s swimming, and cycling. Our fencers were outclassed; the swimmers made but little impression against the "human fish” from Jajxin, United States, France and Hungary; the bicycle riders lacked experience and speed and in the sixty-two mile road race the first Canuck was in twenty-second place.
The sting of defeat of the Canadian lacrosse team in a three game series with Johns Hopkins University of United States was only eased by the thought that Canada did win the second game.
In the women’s track and field division there were 9ix events, in four of which we were represented, but we failed to capture a single title, even though at Amsterdam Canadian girls had won the Olympic honors.
Similarly in the men’s track and field competitions. In six events the efforts of our native sons at home were so poor that no entries were submitted; in only three competitions other than relays did Canadians progress to the final six. "Hank” Ciernan, who was expected to win the 50,000 metre walk, collapsed at twenty miles; Bert Pearson, selected by experts to earn places in the two sprints, was eliminated in the semi-finals; Percy Williams, the hero of the Ninth Olympiad, never approached his 1928 form. In the nineteen track and field events in which Canada was represented by men or women, only one first place was obtained, and even that victory was shorn of some of its glory by the fact that the winner had been a United States student athlete for the past two years.
Thus, apparently Canada’s expedition to the Tenth Olympiad was something of a "flop;” our Olympic ore seemed low grade. But our surface achievements were quite deceiving, for if we dig a little it is possible to find real wealth in ability and achievement.
True, not one of our sprinters entered the final six in either of the two short races; but we must not forget that after the lengthy list of 100-metres starters had been reduced to twelve, three of that select dozen were Canadians. In the 200 metres dash, two of the last
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twelve also carried the red maple leaf on their jerseys.
Then, consider the Dominion’s showing in the 400, 800 and 1,500 metres races. In the shortest race of the three, Alex Wilson, erstwhile Montrealer, completed his course in the fastest time ever made by a native son —he even slashed 3/10 seconds from the former world’s record—and yet he placed only third to those two superb quartermilers, Carr and Eastman, sensational performers who come only once in a decade.
In the 800 metres race our performances were still more noteworthy, for in this stem event both Alex Wilson and Phil Edwards ran the distance faster than any previous Canadian runner, again finished in times unsurpassed in all former record-making com]ietitions, and yet placed only second and third to another Britisher, Hampson, who naturally established a new world’s mark.
And still the high standard continued. In the 1,500 metres race. Phil Edwards repeated his earlier performances, started fast and maintained his startling pace so long that he again broke an Olympic record, covering the distance in time that even the notable Nurmi had never equalled—and yet once more he was denied first place.
Recall that for thirty-six years the United States had never been defeated in an Olympic running high jump contest. But Duncan McNaughton. a Canadian-born youth, cleared 6 feet 5% inches and thus secured a first place for his native land. True, United States writers may claim that McNaughton’s skill was perfected in their country, hut they cannot deny that the persistence and courage that enabled him to battle for three hours to win a title, and the spirit that inspired him to jump nearly two inches higher than his best previous performance, were inherited characteristics not implanted during his comparatively brief United States residency.
T T IS true that Canadian women failed to
win a single first place. But that simple statement tells only half the story, for it
doesn’t reveal that the girls from the Dominion broke three former Olympic records in four events and yet failed to win a championship. Miss Hilda Strike, for instance, bettered the best previous mark in the 100 metres race and only failed by inches to catch the flying Polish girl, Stella Walsh. Miss Eva Dawes high jumped beyond the altitude attained by Miss Catherwood at Amsterdam and still was beaten by one jumper and a “diver” from United States. The Canadian girls’ relay team had sufficient speed to win first place, but faulty baton passing compelled them to take a narrow second honor, even though they, too, clipped nearly a second from a former world’s mark.
So if the results of Canada's Olympic track and field team seem just ordinary, it is an antidote to our disappointment to remember that our youths and maidens broke former Olympic or world’s records in seven performances.
Similarly in the marine sports. Canadians showed flashes of real brilliance. In one of the diving competitions, Miss Doris Ogilvie earned fifth place; while, in the men’s diving contest Alfie Phillips gained fourth honors.
In the rowing events further distinctions came to Canadians. It would be unfair to claim the glory that belongs to Australia in the triumph of Bobby Pearce in the single sculls, but we can freely enjoy the satisfaction derived from the third place attained by DeMille and Pratt from Vancouver in the double sculls event, and the truly sensational showing of the Hamilton Leander crew when they fought to secure a dose third honor in what has been described as the most titanic struggle in the history of rowing eights.
Reg. Dixon, too, upheld the traditional skill of Canadian skippers when he sailed into fifth place in the races for monotype yachts.
In the two contact sports, wrestling and boxing, still further honors came to Canada. In the 147-pound section of the grapplers’ contests. Danny McDonald, a rugged, determined Toronto lad, was only once defeated
and earned the silver medal awarded to second place finalists.
Then, on the last day, “Lefty” Gwynne, a battling, two-fisted Canuck, proved his fighting qualities as he punched his way to Olympic title and world supremacy in the amateur bantamweight division.
Prospects For 1936
CANADA therefore has considerable cause for satisfaction in the performance of its 1932 Olympic Team. But the stars in Los Angeles are not likely to repeat four years hence in Berlin. Williams and Ball, for Olympic purposes, are through. Wilson and Edwards have already competed in two Olympiads and cannot be expected to retain international form over an eight-year competitive stretch. In ten Olympiads no high jumper ever won twice, and it is beyond probability that McNaughton will repeat his 1932 victory. Where, then, are the potential champions who will continue to keep the Canadian flag flying on Olympic mastheads?
Recent experiences have proved that schoolboys cannot compete successfully with seasoned campaigners. Therefore, Canada’s 1936 squad will not contain many lads who are today in their early teens, but the stars at Berlin may include the present older lads— Portland, Pearson, Shaver, Moore, Stoddard.
Jack Portland, nineteen-year-old Collingwood lad, cleared 6 feet 4 inches at the Canadian Olympic Trials and gave the impression he could have gone higher. During the next four years this youth should add two or three inches to his present record, and thus become a successor to McNaughton’s throne in the kingdom of high leapers.
Another potential champion is Bert Pearson. Today, at eighteen years of age, he is already the Canadian title holder in both sprints. In the Olympic Trials he bettered the former record by one-fifth second, and, with a few years of development and experience, it is by no means improbable that Pearson may duplicate the triumphs of Percy Williams.
In the middle distances, Canada has two splendid prospects for Berlin Olympiad in Fred Shaver and Earl Moore. Both are Hamilton lads—strong, courageous, heady runners, already capable of showing their heels to the most select schoolboy halfmilers and milers in the world.
Stoddard is a schoolboy pole vaulter, a product of Goderich Collegiate, and is now a consistent performer at twelve feet. He, too, needs the extra years to bring his talent to fruition.
Ravensdale in the hurdles, Cudworth and Burnside in the marathon, Ciernan again in the distance walk, are also desirable prospects who are not “washed up” and should reach the peak about the time of the Eleventh Olympiad.
But where are the candidates for the running broad jump and hop, step and jump, and the four weight events? The answer probably is found in the fact that jumpers and throwers must practise constantly and alone. They are deprived of the companionship associated with running; they compete in events that crowds do not enjoy watching and they do not, therefore, receive mob inspiration; they simply fight against a heartless yardstick. Canadians do not desire to make the sacrifices necessary to success in such events, and our international prestige suffers.
This condition has not always existed, for the weight champions of a former generation included Knox of Orillia, Gray of Toronto, Gill of Coldwater, Desmarteau from Montreal, and Walsh of Woodstock. Canadians have the necessary physique, strength and agility, and need only the inspiration and coaching to make the Dominion as formidable in the field as on the track.
A Permanent Coach Needed
BUT regardless of latent ability, no successes can be expected without a better system of discovery and development.
Canadian athletes just seem to grow up and present themselves. Instead, there should be a constant search for raw material; the establishment of an annual training camp for the further instruction of the most gifted performers; an earlier selection of the Olympic Team; the selection of a permanent coach who would begin his work four years ahead instead of three weeks.
When Tom Longboat sprang from the seclusion of an Indian Reserve to the prominence of a world’s champion distance runner, sport in Canada received a tremendous inspiration. The most helpful influence that could now be exerted would be the discovery of a comparatively unknown Hercules who could bring back to the Dominion an international title in a field event.
The Olympic Committee desires to operate along these lines, and its failure to date to do so can be attributed to the disinterest of Federal Governments which failed to supply adequate funds.
Why place the financial responsibility on the Government? Surely the reasons are obvious.
Olympic Games are not operated for individual profit; their purpose is to create international goodwill. Athletes who participate are inspired by the thought that they must give their best because by their performance a nation is being judged. The flying of the Canadian flag from the Olympic standard is not an individual affair; it is a tribute to the achievement of the Canadian people. The victories of Percy Williams in 1928 had a publicity value that advertisers could not have obtained for a million dollars; the victory of Duncan McNaughton on the first day of the Los Angeles Olympiad spread the glory and name of Canada on front page headlines around the world.
Yet the contribution from the Canadian Government, when divided into four annual payments, was not much more than the cost of a good garden party, or the expense of a railroad official to a European convention, or the price necessary to send a couple of resolution-approving delegates to an International Conference.
A Toronto editorial was recently headed “Puny Olympic Titles Cost Canada $15,000.” Such a statement betrays an ignorance of the purposes of the games, for while the desire to win is natural and commendable, the objective of Olympic founders is to use sport to foster better understandings and promote international peace. And it does. Don’t let sensational newsmongers fool you in regard to that argument.
True, the boxing and wrestling decisions are too frequently subjects of dispute; the Brazilian polo team may become disgruntled and attack a Hungarian referee; some patriots may magnify the achievements of their national heroes. But these deplorable situations are eclipsed by the many demonstrations of good will and sportsmanship.
Here are but a few recent examples. Never in Olympic history had United States lost the pole-vaulting title. At Los Angeles the bar had reached an altitude of fourteen feet, and only one United States competitor and a Japanese contender remained in the struggle. National pride might well have prevailed and the applause might have been bestowed upon the efforts of the native son. But, instead, the sympathetic cheers of the 75,000 spectators were directed more generally toward the Nipponese vaulter than toward his American rival.
In the final of the 110 metres hurdles race, the track judges awarded the first three places to United States runners. Later, Gustavus Kirby, one of the United States officials, viewed the motion picture of the finish and was so sure that Finlay (England) had won third place from Keller of his own country that he prevailed upon the judges to alter their former decision and award the honor to the Briton.
During the start in the first monotype sailing race, Reg. Dixon, Canadian representative, was fouled by a South African skipper and compelled to lose so much time that he was the last to cross the starting line. The foul was quite apparent, but Dixon refused to protest and told the officials to forget the incident.
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Frankie Genovese had engaged in a torrid three-round fight against the champion of Argentine. The battle was close, but after the Canadian had received the decision, his South American rival carried the conqueror around the ring and even bestowed a kiss of good will.
In the women’s high jump competition after Miss Dawes of Canada had jumped 5 feet 3 inches, the judges disqualified Miss “Babe” Didrickson of United States for illegal jumping. 'Hie Texas leaper had been “diving” for some time and should have been disqualified at the five feet height; thus second place would have been attained by Miss Daw’es. Canadian officials were requested to protest, but they preferred gracefully to accept the judges’ decision rather than disturb the prevailing harmony.
This furthering of international good will is evidenced not only in competition but also
on social occasions. During the Winter Olympiad at Lake Placid, the Swedish and Canadian delegations were involved in a skating controversy and the whole world heard about it.
A couple of weeks later the Sw’edish team of skiers and skaters visited Toronto and, at a civic luncheon. Count Clarence Van Rosen, the Swedish protester, spoke so highly of British sport tradition that one could almost see the links of international friendships being welded more strongly.
Notwithstanding some evidence to the contrary, Olympic Games are breeders of good will; they are insurance against international flares; they encourage sport by presenting an objective to the athletes; they tend to promote a spirit of sportsmanship among men and nations; they are worth perpetuating.