The greatest show on earth

On a gloriously sunny day, an expectant crowd of 100,000 gathered in the revamped Olym-pic Stadium for the Opening Ceremony, the scale and quality of the arena impressing all who were present.

Some 1,300 amateur athletes, representing 37 countries, had congregated in Los Angeles for what would prove to be, in the eyes of many, the most spectacular Olympic Games so far.

A rendition of the American national anthem by the Official Band of the Games stirred on-lookers, who only grew in frenzy when the Parade of Nations began in earnest, each country performing their traditional lap of the stadium with flags and banners in hand.

“As the long lines of athletes, strikingly uniformed, pour from the tunnel in an apparently never-ending stream, the real significance of the scene is borne in upon the spectators,” the Official Report noted. “Enthusiasts and sceptics alike suddenly realise that here, in flesh and blood, are the greatest athletes of the world – come to Los Angeles to celebrate the Games of the Xth Olympiad.”

Once the parade was over, Charles Curtis, Vice-President of the USA, was afforded the hon-our of lighting the Olympic Flame, a symbolic fire which had first been incorporated into the ritual at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics, that would be kept burning until the end of the Closing Ceremony 16 days later.

As the ceremony neared its climax, Lieutenant George C. Calnan, of the United States Olympic Team, was called to take the Olympic Oath. A hush descended over the audience as he raised his right hand to the sky – a gesture repeated by each athlete in the stadium.

He then uttered the following solemn declaration: “We swear that we will take part in the Olympic Games in loyal competition, respecting the regulations which govern them and desirous of participating in them in the true spirit of sportsmanship for the honour of our country and for the glory of sport.”