The Modern Olympic Games
The Olympic Games in the 20th century
THE GAMES BENEFIT FROM THE DEVELOPMENT OF TRANSPORT Depending on the location of the host city, athletes are obliged to travel greater or lesser distances. For the 1904 Games in St Louis and the 1932 Games in Los Angeles, in the USA, the number of participants was much lower because many athletes were unable to make such a long journey. The majority of host cities prior to World War II were European, and the athletes who took part in the Games were mostly Westerners.
In 1956, the Games took place on the Australian continent. For the first time, most of the 3178 competitors travelled by plane to Melbourne. This novel development, which was possible thanks to the growth of air transport, quickly became essential to the organisation of the Olympic Games.
A LONG VOYAGE For the 1932 Games in Los Angeles, European athletes first had to trav- el to New York by boat. They then crossed the American continent by train to Los Angeles (a total jour- ney time of three weeks!). They returned the same way. Some competitors had to save up their holiday entitlement for three years in order to have the ten weeks’ leave they needed for the Olympic adventure !
In 1964 it was the turn of the Asian continent to host the Games, which were held in the city of Tokyo in Japan.
The Olympic Games have now been held on every continent except Africa.
TECHNOLOGY BRINGS THE GAMES WITHIN REACH Television made an enormous contribution to the growing popularity of the Olympic Games. As early as 1956, the Winter Games in Cortina d’Ampezzo (Italy) were transmitted live on a small scale. Beginning with the 1960 Games in Rome (Italy), the majority of the European continent benefitted from live broadcasts of the competitions. For the United States, Canada and Japan, a tape was flown out every day, which meant that the competi- tions could be screened with just a few hours’ delay. With a couple of weeks’ delay, the images were transferred onto film and sent to Asia, Africa, Oceania and South America. The Olympic audience ended up being far larger than just the spectators present in the stadium.
Today, satellites can transmit images with just a few seconds’ delay.
Thanks to further technological developments, picture quality has improved enormously and it is now possible to follow athletes almost anywhere! Slow motion shots mean that an athlete’s movements can be seen in great detail and underwater cameras even take the audience into the swimming pool with the competitors.