OLYMPICS ROUNDUP Starting today Tokyo, the biggest city in the world, will host the Games of the XXXII Olympiad aka the Tokyo Olympics 2020 (in 2021). The Japanese city first hosted the games back in 1964.
New York City, the biggest city in the United States, has never hosted the Olympics Games.
The city did aim to host the 2012 Olympics in an ultimately unsuccessful bid back in 2005. Those games went to London.
A great many New Yorkers were quite happy to be without that international sporting event in the city. Personally, I would have loved to have seen New York become even more international for a few weeks, although I’m relieved that plans for that catastrophic Olympic Village in Queens were never realized.
Outside of that, the closest the city has ever gotten to the Olympics is a little under 300 miles — the distance from New York to Lake Placid, which hosted the 1980 Winter Olympics.
Those games featured the now-storied ‘Miracle on Ice‘ match between the USA and the USSR.
But did you know that the Russian team completely iced the US team just a few days earlier in an exhibition game played at Madison Square Garden? You can read more about that in my article ‘No Miracle on Ice’ from February 2010.
Although New York has never hosted the Games, when it comes to events before and after the Olympics, New York City’s all over them.
Randall’s Island has hosted several Olympic trials, including one of the most famous at all, the track and field events from 1936 which produced sports legend Jesse Owens.
You can hear all about it in one of our very early podcasts on the history of Randall’s Island and the 1936 Olympic Trials.
Around the same time, Robert Moses commissioned Astoria Pool with the explicit purpose of hosting Olympic swimming trials.
That 1936 event, featuring its dramatic diving platform, produced several American gold medalists. Two massive Olympic torches stood astride the pool as competitors fought for a spot on the Olympic team.
Olympics trials returned to Astoria Pool in 1952, and again in 1964, producing athletes that again nearly swept the diving events in the Tokyo games.
Swimmer Don Schollander went on to win 4 golds that year, the most of any athlete in 1964 and the most medals won by an American athlete since Jesse Owens.
You can read more about Astoria Pool here — Nostalgia for Astoria Pool.
The Counter Olympics
Of course, a great many New Yorkers were entirely unhappy with any participation in the 1936 Olympic Games, given that they were being held that year in Berlin, in the heart of Nazi Germany.
A concerted effort by politicians (including Fiorello LaGuardia), religious leaders and athletes to boycott the games was met with defeat, but in the summer of 1936, a group of Jewish athletes competed in a ‘counter-Olympics’.
For more information, check out our article Boycott the Olympic Games!
New York Welcomes Olympians
And finally, here are some pictures of two glorious receptions of American Olympians held in New York — after the 1908 games (in London) and the 1912 games (in Stockholm).
And finally, here’s a swell photograph — no other adjective to describe it — of the U.S. Olympic team from 1908, posing with President Theodore Roosevelt at his home in Sagamore Hill, Long Island.
1 reply on “New York City loves the Olympics — despite never hosting them”
HI. Thanks for this. There is a really interesting documentary on Jesse Owens from PBS’s American Experience http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/owens/ It talks about the controversy of Berlin hosting the events. Really great and fascinating documentary.