Site: Berlin, Germany
Dates: August 1 - 16
Total Athletes: 4,066
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
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
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
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.