Olympics and History of the Modern Games Switzerland and Netherlands 1928

About the Olympics and the modern games, account of the games in Switzerland and the Netherlands in 1928.


The 2nd Winter Olympics saw Norway win the championship again with 6 1/2 1sts in skiing, speed skating, and figure skating. Sonja Henie, who had made her 1st appearance (as Norwegian champion at the age of 10), in 1924, finishing last, had thereafter practiced ballet and skating 7 hours a day and won the world title in 1927 at 14. She took her 1st gold medal at the 1928 Olympics. Sonja transformed figure skating into an art, adapting Anna Pavlova's "Dying Swan" sequence from Swan Lake. After gold medal performances in the 1932 and 1936 Olympics, Sonja retired at the ripe age of 23 to become a professional and make many witless but popular movies. She became the 3rd-biggest box-office draw, behind Shirley Temple and Clark Gable, amassing more wealth than any sports figure has ever done--$47.5 million.


Some said the American track and field athletes were overcoached, overfed, and over-confident. Aboard the U.S.S. President Roosevelt, they quickly consumed their allotment of ice cream, some overindulged in a cracker-eating contest, and they dallied away time gambling on Monte Carlo nights. They used play money and when the ship docked, one fellow threw his poker winnings overboard; dockside youngsters, thinking this a new level of tourist extravagance, dove into the water to retrieve the "money."

Except for Percy Williams, a surprising 19-year-old from Vancouver, who won the dashes, the Americans were disappointing. Canadian men and women gave outstanding performances. The Finns, as usual, won all running events over 800-m., Nurmi defending his 10,000-m. title, again finishing ahead of Ritola. However, Willie beat Nurmi at 5,000-m. Some believed Paavo let Willie win, although the latter was strong at this distance and won by a good margin.

For the 1st time in Olympics' history, the U.S. lost the 400-m. hurdles. An Englishman, David George Cecil Brownlow, Lord Burghley, was the victor.

French athletes, refused entry to a practice field where the German team was working out, were outraged--especially when it almost was repeated by the belligerent gatekeeper the next day. Dutch authorities ironed things out just in time.

The marathon was won by an Algerian auto-factory worker, El Ouafi (or "Waffle" as he was to be called), a vegetarian who drank only water and milk. Ouafi was so far behind early in the race that officials thought he had lost his way. A Chilean won 2nd place and was so overjoyed he draped himself in a Chilean flag, then waltzed around the stadium.

Johnny Weissmuller won 2 more gold medals in swimming, Japan scored its 1st victory (hop-skip-and-jump), the University of California took rowing honors, and Uruguay won a 2nd straight soccer championship.

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