History of the Olympic Games


Site: Berlin, Germany
Dates: August 1 - 16
Nations: 49
Total Athletes: 4,066
Sports: 19

The 1936 Games would take on national as well as historic importance because of the appearance of German ruler Adolph Hitler, who was out to prove that the German's blue-eyed, blond-haired Aryan race was superior. It was the beginning of a propaganda platform that would catapult him into worldwide prominence from that point on.

The 11th Olympiad would also be remembered for the feats of one James Cleveland (Jesse) Owens, who was nothing short of spectacular in difficult circumstances. Owens dominated each event he participated, winning the 100 and 200-meter sprints, the long jump and the 4 x 100-meter relay.

Owens, who had already earned medals in the sprints, and was certainly the choice in the long jump, entered the arena to participate in the long jump. Running down the runway in his warm-ups, he jumped into the pit. German officials chose to count that as one of his jumps. Shocked and shaken, Owens fouled in his second attempt. Luz Long, a German by birthright, settled Owens down in his final attempt to qualify for the long jump finals and Owens was able to easily qualify. Owens easily won the competition, four and a half inches ahead of Long.

Germany was awarded the '36 Olympics in 1932 when German was governed by the Weimar Republic. The IOC mistakenly assumed the Games would help a worn-torn Germany, who had been saddled by the Treaty of Versailles, to ingratiate Germany back into the European community.

It was difficult for outsiders to notice the importance or power Nazis were gaining in the Reichstag. By 1933, Hitler had been tabbed chancellor and when Paul von Hindenberg died in 1934, Hitler assumed power, much to the dismay of foreign nations. While he enjoyed vast popularity in his homeland, he was troublesome for the rest of the European community.

By this time, there was a growing fear within the IOC and beyond that there would be discrimination against Jews. IOC president Baillet-Latour asked for and received assurances that Jews would be allowed to participate in the Games. The president of the Berlin Organizing Committee, Theodor Lewald, a Jew himself, gave guarantees to the IOC president. Carl Diem, the Organizing Committee secretary general and person in charge of the flame relay from Greece to Berlin, also was of Jewish origin. Both men kept their positions through the Games only because of Baillet-Latour's threat that Hitler would lose the Games if the two men were replaced.

Many countries, included the United States, threatened a boycott of the Games. The Amateur Athletic Union in the United States, voted 58-56 to attend the Games.

Hitler had begun his propaganda pitch months earlier, by sending out more then 3,000 bulletins on how Germany had grown since the war and for the grand Olympic Show they could expect for the XI Olympiad.

These Olympics would be remembered for the moral convictions of the common citizenry and athletes rather than the performances themselves. People like Indian hockey star Dhayan Chan openly refused Hitler's personal invitation to move to Germany.

Hitler could not have been more proud of his Aryan race, as a German captured the Games' first gold medal, Hans Woellke, in the shot put. A Finn, Sulo Barlund, close enough to have the looks of the German race, and German Gerhard Stock, won the next set of medals. Following suit, two Finns and a Swede, all of which fit the Aryan style, captured medals next.

In day three of the competition, black Americans Cornelius Johnson and David Albritton finished first and second in the high jump posing a huge problem for Hitler. Hitler, who had stated in propaganda sheets that the United States should be ashamed for allowing medals to be won by Negroes, swore he would never shake hands with any of them. He left the stadium before the start of the medal ceremony.

Other innovations at the XI Games would be the introduction of live television, cultural pageantry and the first official film of the Olympics. It would also mark the introduction of basketball to the Olympics, which was won by the Americans.

The true reality of the German Olympics is that six Olympic winners would not survive the War and be put to death by the Germans.

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