By the time the Olympics Games returned to Paris after 24 years, its international appeal had radically increased. The number of participating countries went from 29 in Antwerp 1920 to 44 in 1928, and athletes were joined by around a thousand journalists from across the globe.
Paris saw the introduction of an Olympic village for competitors as well as a closing ceremony and the Olympic motto ‘Citius, Altius, Fortius’ (Faster, Higher, Stronger). In sporting terms, the top performers were Finland’s middle distance runners, the so-called ‘Flying Finns’.
Among them was Paavo Nurmi (see video) who added five golds to the three he picked up in 1920. On July 10 he won the 1,500 metres before returning to the track less than an hour later to take victory in the 5,000 metres.
American swimmer Johnny Weissmuller, who three golds, caught the eye of many observers, among them film producers who later gave him the lead role in Tarzan of the Apes. The performances of British runners Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell in Paris Games of 1924 (see video) went on to provide the inspiration for the 1981 film Chariots of Fire.
The Olympic flame was lit for the first time at the Amsterdam Games in 1928, where the tradition of Greece leading the parade of nations and the host country ending it also began. Also for the first time, women were allowed to compete in athletics and gymnastics (won by the Dutch, see video), meaning the number of female participants more than doubled compared to four years earlier.
On the track, Canada’s Percy Williams (see photo) took gold in the 100 and 200 metre sprints. Asian countries also got their hands on gold medals for the first time; India’s men won the field hockey event and would not relinquish their Olympic title for another 28 years.
LOSANGELES 1932 The Games provide relief from the Depression
The Great Depression meant that for many athletes, travelling to California to compete in the Games was unaffordable. Fewer than half of those who took part in Amsterdam would be at the event in Los Angeles, which saw the duration of the Olympics shortened from several months to 16 days as it remains today.
But the crowds turned out en masse: more than 100,000 were there to see the opening ceremony (see video). Japan’s athletes performed particularly well, winning most of the available mens’ swimming golds as well as the country’s first and to this day only Olympic title in equestrianism. For the first time at the Olympics, winners received their medals from a podium while the flags of their countries were raised behind them.