Feature Video–8th August–Olympic Trials

Since the Olympics are everywhere at the moment, especially in my previous home town of London (England), I have finally succumbed to the pressure and decided to throw up some Olympic footage for you all. Being an archive, then of course it is some of the old stuff. I started looking for footage from the 1932 games, since they were held here in America, but didn’t find anything interesting. Some of the best stuff that I did find was from the 1928 games, that were held in Amsterdam, Holland. In fact, there were a few really good newsreels from this games, and I found it hard to choose which one to feature.  Although the one that I did pick for the feature video for this week is track and field events for the trials to decide who competes for the United States at the Olympics, the other stories that I found have also been digitized and they are all now available to watch in the repository: http://mirc.sc.edu

I have now learnt several facts about early Olympic games and about the trials that we feature here in our video.  The International Olympic Committee (IOC) have always kept copyright on all footage and stills from all of the Olympic Games over the years, therefore I was not surprised to see that we did not have any footage from the games themselves in our archive.  What little footage about the Olympics seems to consist of American athletes in training before the Olympics, or their return from them. You can watch official video from these games at the website of the Olympic committee: http://www.olympic.org/amsterdam-1928-summer-olympics

The 1928 Olympics, however, have turned out to be particularly interesting games to focus on, even more so because there were several things that occurred for the first time at these games that are now held to be common rituals of the Olympics.  Perhaps it’s not too late for me to get into the Olympics after all? Read on for more information about this feature video and the 1928 Olympics:

The 1928 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the IX Olympiad, was celebrated in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The only other candidate city for the 1928 Games was Los Angeles, which would host the Olympics four years later.

There were many firsts at this Olympic games, which we now take for granted as a part of the games that we all know and love. Most importantly, the Olympic Flame was lit for the first time during this Olympics and as well, the parade of nations started with Greece, which holds the origins of the Olympics, and ended with the host country, a tradition that continues today.

It was also the first Olympics that women were allowed to participate in track and field (despite objections from Pope Pius IX) and doubled the amount of women competing from previous games. Asian athletes won gold medals for the first time also. On a non-athletic note, it is interesting in that corporate sponsorship raised its head with the first appearance of the sponsor Coca-Cola at the Olympic games.

Other firsts include the athletics events being held on a 400-meter track, which later became the standard for athletics tracks. These games were also the first to feature a standard schedule of 16 days, which is still followed. Previously, competition was stretched out over several months. During the Games, there was no Olympic Village, and none was necessary, because many of the teams boarded their athletes on ships moored in Amsterdam Harbour.

I came across this interesting link online, from another archive, who have the diary of Louis Nixdorff, a member of the U.S. Lacrosse team. Nixdorff sailed over to Amsterdam on the S.S. Roosevelt, with other members of the American Olympic Teams, such as Johnny Weissmuller. It gives some background to this Olympic games, and just to being a member of an Olympic team and representing your country abroad in this time period. It makes fascinating reading with its P.G. Wodehouse air and the jaunty rhythm of life on board the ship combined with training for the big games is wonderful. His diary covers the actual games and his views on competing on an international level, with all the highs and lows on the field of play, for other team members not just his own sport. You can read it using the link below, it is a part of the archives of The National Museum of American History, one of the Smithsonian Institution museums located in Washington DC.

Diary of 1928 Olympics: http://americanhistory.si.edu/archives/d9443f.htm#weiss

The United States did very well at these games. American Olympic Committee president Gen. Douglas MacArthur stated, before the start of the 1928 Games: “We are here to represent the greatest country on earth. We did not come here to lose gracefully. We came here to win–and win decisively.”

His athletes did indeed deliver, with the U.S. winning eight gold medals and 6 silver medals in track and field, including the mens high jump, but victorious in only one individual running race (Ray Barbuti in the 400 meters). And in swimming, the U.S. got 6 gold medals with double gold performances from Martha Norelius, Albina Osipowich and Johnny Weissmuller, as well as diver Pete Desjardins.

In this feature video we see various American athletes in tryouts for the Olympics, running on a track in Philadelphia. The Olympic Trials were held in Cambridge for the third time in 1928, except for the 400m, 400m hurdles and decathlon, which took place in Philadelphia on July 3-5, two days prior to the main two-day meeting. The event was held over 3 days due to a torrential downpour and all the remaining athletes had to take an enforced rest because of dreadful weather conditions. On the 3rd day Doherty, Stewart, Berlinger and Churchill proved themselves for the team.

Ken Doherty (Cad AC), James Stewart (LAAC), Bernard Berlinger (Penn) and Thomas Churchill (Okla).

Between them the 4 qualifiers had lost 50 lb in weight over the 3 days. In the actual games in Amsterdam Doherty, Stewart and Churchill took places 3-5 , while Berlinger had a poor competition, and finished 18th. Stewart was allegedly the inventor of the straddle, which style he developed while jumping over barbed wire farm fences, while the burly (6’1/200) Berlinger was a star football player at Penn and won the Sullivan award as the outstanding amateur athlete in the USA in 1931.

 In the video we see contestants try out and footage includes Frank Cuhel (pictured left) from the University of Iowa, winning the heat in the 400 meter hurdles. He was the National Collegiate Low Hurdle Champ at the time and he went on to win the Silver medal at the Olympics.  Another athlete featured and shown in close up is that of F. Morgan Taylor. Taylor had broken a world record in the trials for the 1924 games and subsequently went on to win gold in those games in the 400m hurdles. Sadly, he only managed a bronze at the 1928 and 1932 games, despite setting another world record in the 1928 trials seen here.

Other decathlon contestants include Harry Flippen (NYAC) and A. J. Plansky (Georgetown University) putting the 16-pound shot, and an unknown athlete in the high jump – can you identify him?

I suspect that it could be University of Pennsylvania athlete Bernard ‘Barney’ Berlinger. After the Olympics, Berlinger went on to win the Penn Relays decathlon from 1929-31, and was AAU decathlon champion in 1933 and pentathlon champion in 1930. Competing for the University of Pennsylvania, he captained the track team his senior year, and then attended the Wharton (Business) School. His career was with the Quaker City Gear Works in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania, and he eventually retired as President of that company.

Is this Barney? Can you identify this athlete?

Watch the full video here: http://mirc.sc.edu/fedora/repository/usc%3A2113

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