July 30: This Date in Los Angeles Transportation History

1932:  The Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the X Olympiad, open in Los Angeles.

Xth Olympiad Los Angeles 1932

The Games had been awarded to the city as the sole bidder in 1923, a period of notable growth and prosperity.  But nine years later, they are the first to be held during the Great Depression.  Fewer than half the number of athletes competed compared to 1928, and the Games were appropriately scaled back, despite the prediction of “thousands of tourists attending conventions and the Olympic Games are coming from all parts of the world, the influx being estimated of record-breaking proportions.”

Existing facilities such as the Rose Bowl were used — only the Swimming Stadium was constructed for the Olympics.  Male athletes were housed in an Olympic Village in Baldwin Hills, while the females occupied the Chapman Park Hotel on Wilshire Boulevard.  10th Street was renamed Olympic Boulevard in honor of the Tenth Games.

For the Opening Ceremony, 68 buses carried nearly 2,000 athletes and officials to the Olympic Stadium (Coliseum).  During the course of the Games, Los Angeles Railway, Pacific Electric Railway, and Los Angeles Motor Coach Company jointly furnished the bus service which logged 83,360 miles carrying more than 68,000 passengers, without a single injury or delay.

Our retrospective of the role of transportation in the 1932 Summer Olympics can be found in our blog post here.

By the time the Olympics returned to Los Angeles more than half a century later, the entire event spanned Southern California yet it was staged entirely using buses again, as our blog post explains.  This is even more striking in light of the fact that Los Angeles had once boasted the largest streetcar system in the world.

Both Pacific Electric Railway and Los Angeles Railways documented their preparations for the 1932 events.  More information about their streetcar and motor transit plans can be found in the May-June, 1932 issue of Pacific Electric Magazine and the September, 1932 issue of Los Angeles Railways’ Two Bells employee news magazine.

Additional information can be found in the official Transportation Arrangements and Traffic Control reports, while more extensive information can be found in the comprehensive official 840 page Xth Olympiad Los Angeles 1932 Official Report.