Think Today's Sports Announcers Are Too Much? Listen to the 1952 Olympics

By Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg

"Here in the European northlands of Scandinavia, a small, tough people puts out the carpet for the athletes of the world," begins an archival clip from the TV series The Big Picture, produced by the U.S. Army in the 1950s-1960s. These highlights from the 1952 games, excerpted from the half-hour show, reveal how much the Olympics have changed in 60 years. 

The narrator focuses on celebrating the achievements of athletes from the Army and Navy, of course, like Sammy Lee, the first Asian American athlete to win a gold medal for the U.S. (Helsinki was his second gold, in fact). "He is a living testament before the peoples of the world to equality of opportunity in America," the narrator announces proudly. He also makes a few snarky asides, gently mocking other participating countries. The Soviet Union competed in the Olympics for the first time in Helsinki, leading to an instant rivalry in many events. In a particularly awkward incident, an American swimmer accidentally flipped into his neighbor's lane -- a "red-capped" Russian who tried, unsuccessfully, to disqualify the invader. Details like this make the clip a fascinating time capsule of another era in sports (and international relations). This episode is available in its entirety at the Internet Archive

For more films from the Internet Archive, visit http://archive.org/.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/video/archive/2012/07/think-todays-sports-announcers-are-too-much-listen-to-the-1952-olympics/260378/