|Host city||Berlin, Germany|
(3,632 men, 331 women)
|Events||129 in 19 sports|
|Opening ceremony||August 1|
|Closing ceremony||August 16|
|Officially opened by||Chancellor and Führer Adolf Hitler|
|Athlete's Oath||Rudolf Ismayr|
|Olympic Torch||Fritz Schilgen|
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The 1936 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XI Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event that was held in 1936 in Berlin, Germany. Berlin won the bid to host the Games over Barcelona, Spain, on 26 April 1931, at the 29th IOC Session in Barcelona (two years before the Nazis came to power). It marked the second and final time that the International Olympic Committee would gather to vote in a city which was bidding to host those Games. The only other time this occurred was at the inaugural IOC Session in Paris, France, on 24 April 1894. Then, Athens and Paris were chosen to host the 1896 and 1900 Games, respectively.
To outdo the Los Angeles games of 1932, Germany built a new 100,000-seat track and field stadium, six gymnasiums, and many other smaller arenas. They also installed a closed-circuit television system and radio network that reached 41 countries, with many other forms of expensive high-tech electronic equipment. Filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, a favourite of Adolf Hitler, was commissioned by the German Olympic Committee to film the Games for $7 million. Her film, titled Olympia, pioneered many of the techniques now common in the filming of sports.
Hitler saw the Games as an opportunity to promote his government and ideals of racial supremacy, and the official Nazi party paper, the Völkischer Beobachter, wrote in the strongest terms that Jews and Black people should not be allowed to participate in the Games. However, when threatened with a boycott of the Games by other nations, he relented and allowed Black people and Jews to participate, and added one token participant to the German team—a German woman, Helene Mayer, who had a Jewish father. At the same time, the party removed signs stating "Jews not wanted" and similar slogans from the city's main tourist attractions. In an attempt to "clean up" Berlin, the German Ministry of the Interior authorized the chief of police to arrest all Romani (Gypsies) and keep them in a "special camp," the Berlin-Marzahn concentration camp. Total ticket revenues were 7.5 million Reichsmark, generating a profit of over one million marks. The official budget did not include outlays by the city of Berlin (which issued an itemized report detailing its costs of 16.5 million marks) or outlays of the German national government (which did not make its costs public, but is estimated to have spent US$30 million, chiefly in capital outlays).
The bidding for these Olympic Games was the first to be contested by IOC members casting votes for their own favorite host cities. The vote occurred in 1931, during the Weimar Republic, before Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party rose to power in 1933. Many other cities around the world also wanted to host the Summer Olympics for that year, but except for Barcelona they did not receive any IOC votes. The other cities competing to hold the games were Alexandria, Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Cologne, Dublin, Frankfurt, Helsinki, Lausanne, Nuremberg, Rio de Janeiro, and Rome.
|1936 Summer Olympics bidding result|
Academics cannot agree whether the IOC during this period was a willing collaborator or an organisation that favoured the aesthetics of fascist governments. Although the IOC was insulated from the reality of Nazism, elements of Hitler's regime subscribed to the sporting ideologies of the IOC.
After the Nazis took control and began instituting anti-Semitic policies, the IOC held private discussions among its delegates about changing the decision to hold the Games in Berlin. However, Hitler's regime gave assurances that Jewish athletes would be allowed to compete on a German Olympic team. In September 1934, the US Olympic committee publicly accepted the invitation to go to the Berlin games, halting any further IOC attempts to quietly revise the decision.
The next scheduled games in 1940 were awarded to Tokyo, even though Japan was already becoming an aggressive militaristic, nationalist state. The Japanese military even demanded that venues should be built from wood because metal was needed for its wars in Manchuria. The Olympic torch relay – itself pioneered as part of the 1936 Summer Games – was to fly the Olympic flame from Berlin to Tokyo in a specially-designed long-range aircraft. In 1938 the Japanese rejected hosting the games because they saw the Olympics and its pacifist values as 'an effete form of European culture'.
129 events in 25 disciplines, comprising 19 sports, were part of the Olympic program in 1936. The number of events in each discipline is noted in parentheses.
The Olympic village was located at Estal in Wustermark, (at ), on the western edge of Berlin. The site, which was 30 kilometres (19 mi) from the centre of the city, consisted of one to two-floor dormitories, dining areas, a swimming pool, and training facilities. During the Second World War, it was used as a hospital for injured Wehrmacht soldiers. In 1945 it was taken over by the Soviet Union and became a torture and interrogation centre for SMERSH. Recent efforts have been made to restore parts of the former village, but to no avail. Efforts are being made to restore the site into a living museum. The dormitory building used by Jesse Owens has been fully restored, and tours are given daily to small groups and students. The site remains relatively unknown even in Germany, but some tournaments are held at the site in an effort to boost knowledge of the venues.
Hans von Tschammer und Osten, as Reichssportführer, i.e. head of the Deutscher Reichsbund für Leibesübungen (DRL), the Reich Sports Office, played a major role in the structure and organisation of the Olympics. He promoted the idea that the use of sports would harden the German spirit and instill unity among German youth. At the same time he also believed that sports was a "way to weed out the weak, Jewish, and other undesirables."
Von Tschammer trusted the details of the organisation of the games to Theodor Lewald and Carl Diem, the former president and secretary of the Deutscher Reichsausschuss für Leibesübungen, the forerunner of the Reich Sports Office. Among Diem's ideas for the Berlin Games was the introduction of the Olympic torch relay between Greece and the host nation (see 1936 Summer Olympics torch relay).
The German Olympic committee, in accordance with Nazi directives, virtually barred Germans who were Jewish or Roma or had such an ancestry from participating in the Games (Helene Mayer was the only German Jew to compete at the Berlin Games). This decision meant exclusion for many of the country's top athletes such as shotputter and discus thrower Lilli Henoch, who was a four-time world record holder and 10-time German national champion, and Gretel Bergmann who was suspended from the German team just days after she set a record of 1.60 meters in the high jump.
During the Games, Hauptmann Wolfgang Fürstner, the commandant of the Olympic Village in Wustermark, was abruptly replaced by Oberstleutnant Werner von Gilsa, commander of the Berlin Guard-Regiment. The official reason given by the Nazis was because Fürstner had not acted "with the necessary energy" after 370,000 visitors had passed through the village – between 1 May to 15 June – causing significant damage to the site. However this reason was just a pretext to disparaging the half-Jewish officer and expediting his removal.. Fürstner committed suicide shortly after the conclusion of the Berlin Olympics because he learned the Nuremberg Laws classified him as a Jew. As such, the career officer was to be expelled from the Wehrmacht.
Prior to and during the Games, there was considerable debate outside Germany over whether the competition should be allowed or discontinued. Berlin had been selected by the IOC as the host city in 1931, but after Adolf Hitler's rise to power in 1933, observers in many countries began to question the morality of going ahead with an Olympic Games hosted by the Nazi regime. A number of brief campaigns to boycott or relocate the Games emerged in the United Kingdom, France, Sweden, Czechoslovakia and the Netherlands. Exiled German political opponents of the Hitler's regime also campaigned against the Berlin Olympics through pro-Communist newspapers such as the Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung.
The protests were ultimately unsuccessful in their campaign; in 1935 the Amateur Athletic Union of the United States voted to compete in the Berlin Games and other countries followed suit. Forty-nine teams from around the world participated in the 1936 Games, the largest number of participating nations of any Olympics to that point. However, some individual athletes, including Jewish Americans Milton Green and Norman Cahners, chose not to compete in Germany; in Spain, an alternative event was organised in the IOC's second choice for a host city, Barcelona. However, the turn of historical events in Spain was to disrupt this scheme.
The Spanish government led by the newly elected left-wing Popular Front boycotted the Games and organized the People's Olympiad as a parallel event in Barcelona. Some 6,000 athletes from 49 countries registered. However, the People's Olympiad was aborted because of the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War just one day before the event was due to start, just as thousands of athletes had begun to arrive.
The Soviet Union had never participated in the Olympic Games and boycotted the 1936 summer Olympics. Instead, through the auspices of the Red Sport International, it had participated in a left-wing workers' alternative, the Spartakiad, since 1928. The USSR had intended to attend the People's Olympiad in Barcelona until it was cancelled and did attend the 1937 Workers' Summer Olympiad in Antwerp, Belgium (both of which were Spartakiad events).
Halet Çambel and Suat Fetgeri Așani, the first Turkish and Muslim women athletes to participate in the Olympics (fencing) refused an offer by their guide to be formally introduced to Adolf Hitler, saying they would not shake hands with him due to his approach to Jews as stated by Ms Çambel in a "Milliyet" newspaper interview in 2000.
Traditionally the USA sent one of the largest teams to the Olympics, and there was a considerable debate over whether the United States should participate in the 1936 Games.
Those involved in the debate on whether or not to boycott the Olympics included Ernest Lee Jahncke, Judge Jeremiah Mahoney, and future IOC President Avery Brundage. Some within the United States considered requesting a boycott of the Games, as to participate in the festivity might be considered a sign of support for the Nazi regime and its anti-Semitic policies. However, others such as Brundage (see below) argued that the Olympic Games should not reflect political views, but rather should be strictly a contest of the greatest athletes.
Avery Brundage, then of the United States Olympic Committee, opposed the boycott, stating that Jewish athletes were being treated fairly and that the Games should continue. Brundage asserted that politics played no role in sports, and that they should never be entwined. Brundage also believed that there was a "Jewish-Communist conspiracy" that existed to keep the United States from competing in the Olympic Games. On the subject of Jewish discrimination, he stated, "The very foundation of the modern Olympic revival will be undermined if individual countries are allowed to restrict participation by reason of class, creed, or race."
During a fact-finding trip that Brundage went on to Germany in 1934 to ascertain whether or not German Jews were being treated fairly, Brundage found no discrimination when he interviewed Jews and his Nazi handlers translated for him, and Brundage commiserated with his hosts that he belonged to a sports club in Chicago that did not allow Jews entry, either.
Unlike Brundage, Jeremiah Mahoney supported a boycott of the Games. Mahoney, the president of the Amateur Athletic Union, led newspaper editors and anti-Nazi groups to protest against American participation in the Berlin Olympics. He contested that racial discrimination was a violation of Olympic rules and that participation in the Games was tantamount to support for the Third Reich.
Most African-American newspapers supported participation in the Olympics. The Philadelphia Tribune and the Chicago Defender both agreed that black victories would undermine Nazi views of Aryan supremacy and spark renewed African-American pride. American Jewish organizations, meanwhile, largely opposed the Olympics. The American Jewish Congress and the Jewish Labor Committee staged rallies and supported the boycott of German goods to show their disdain for American participation.
Eventually, Brundage won the debate, convincing the Amateur Athletic Union to close a vote in favor of sending an American team to the Berlin Olympics. Mahoney's efforts to incite a boycott of the Olympic games in the United States failed.
US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his administration did not become involved in the debate due to a tradition of allowing the US Olympic Committee to operate independently of government influence. However, several American diplomats including William E. Dodd, the American ambassador to Berlin, and George Messersmith, head of the US legation in Vienna, deplored the US Olympic Committee's decision to participate in the games.
The games were the first to have live television coverage. The German Post Office, using equipment from Telefunken, broadcast over 70 hours of coverage to special viewing rooms throughout Berlin and Potsdam and a few private TV sets, transmitting from the Paul Nipkow TV Station. Unfortunately, they were using three different types of TV cameras, so blackouts would occur when changing from one type to another. Also, the quality was generally poor. As one New York journalist said "...Only the polo game show up fairly clearly when black or chestnut ponies are used." The Olympic Flame was used for the third time at these games, but this marked the first time it was brought to the Olympic Village by a torch relay, with the starting point in Olympia, Greece. The Republic of China's Three Principles of the People was chosen as the best national anthem of the games.
United States Olympic Committee president Avery Brundage became a main supporter of the Games being held in Germany, arguing that "politics has no place in sport", despite having initial doubts. Later Brundage requested that a system be established to examine female athletes for what Time magazine called "sex ambiguities" after observing the performance of Czechoslovak runner and jumper Zdenka Koubkova and English shotputter and javelin thrower Mary Edith Louise Weston. (Both individuals had sex change surgery and legally changed their names to Zdenek Koubek and Mark Weston.).
Despite not coming from a fascist country, French Olympians gave what appeared to be the Roman salute at the opening ceremony, although some have later claimed that they were just performing the Olympic salute, which was in fact a very similar action.
Although Haiti only attended the opening ceremony, an interesting vexillological fact was noticed: its flag and the flag of Liechtenstein were coincidentally identical, and this was not discovered until then. The following year, a crown was added to Liechtenstein's to establish one flag from the other.
American sprinters Sam Stoller and Marty Glickman, the only two Jews on the U.S. Olympic team, were pulled from the 4 × 100 relay team on the day of the competition, leading to speculation that U.S. Olympic committee leader Avery Brundage did not want to add to the embarrassment of Hitler by having two Jews win gold medals.
In 1937, Hollywood released the film Charlie Chan at the Olympics. The plot concerned members of the Berlin police force helping the Chinese detective apprehend a group of spies (of unnamed nationality) from trying to steal a new aerial guidance system. Despite pertaining to the Berlin Olympics, actual Games' footage used by the filmmakers was edited to remove any Nazi symbols.
After the Olympics Jewish participation in German sports was further limited, and persecution of Jews started to become ever more lethal. The Olympic Games had provided a nine months period of relative calmness.
Germany had a prosperous year in the equestrian events, winning individual and team gold in all three disciplines, as well as individual silver in dressage. In the cycling match sprint finals, the German Toni Merkens fouled Arie van Vliet of the Netherlands. Instead of being disqualified, he was fined 100 marks and kept his gold. German gymnasts Konrad Frey and Alfred Schwarzmann both won three gold medals.
Jesse Owens won four gold medals in the sprint and long jump events. His German competitor Luz Long offered Owens advice after he almost failed to qualify in the long jump and was posthumously awarded the Pierre de Coubertin medal for sportsmanship. Mack Robinson, brother to Jackie Robinson, won the 200-meter sprint silver medal behind Owens by 0.4 seconds. Although he did not win a medal, future American war hero Louis Zamperini, lagging behind in the 5,000-meter final, made up ground by clocking a 56-second final lap. This effort caught the attention of Adolf Hitler who personally commended Zamperini on his speed. In one of the most dramatic 800-meter races in history, American John Woodruff won gold after slowing to jogging speed in the middle of the final in order to free himself from being boxed in. Glenn Edgar Morris, a farm boy from Colorado, won Gold in the Decathlon. Rower Jack Beresford won his fifth Olympic medal in the sport, and his third gold medal. The U.S. eight-man rowing team from the University of Washington won the gold medal, coming from behind to defeat the Germans and Italians with Adolf Hitler in attendance.
Controversy surrounded the Jesse Owens victory in the 100m Sprint in front of Adolf Hitler. At the time it was widely reported that Hitler 'snubbed' the opportunity to shake hands with Jesse Owens after his victory, and quickly left the stadium. This was picked up by the press at the time and was used to paint Hitler in a negative light.
Jack Lovelock of New Zealand won the 1500m gold medal, coming through a strong field to win in world record time of 3:47.8.
British India won the gold medal in the field hockey event once again (they won the gold in all Olympics from 1928 to 1956), defeating Germany 8–1 in the final. However, Indians were considered Indo-Aryans by the Germans and there was no controversy regarding their victory. Rie Mastenbroek of the Netherlands won three gold medals and a silver in swimming. Estonia's Kristjan Palusalu won two gold medals in Men's Wrestling, marking the last time Estonia competed as an independent nation in the Olympics until 1992.
After winning the middleweight class, the Egyptian weightlifter Khadr El Touni continued to compete for another 45 minutes, finally exceeding the total of the German silver medalist by 35 kg. The 20-year-old El Touni lifted a total of 387.5 kg crushing two German world champions, El Touni broke the then Olympic and world records, while the German lifted 352.5 kg. Furthermore, El Touni had lifted 15 kg more than the heavyweight gold medalist, a feat only El Touni has accomplished. El Touni's new world records stood for 13 years. Fascinated by El Touni's performance, Adolf Hitler rushed down to greet this human miracle. Prior to the competition, Hitler was said to have been sure that Rudolf Ismayr and Adolf Wagner would embarrass all other opponents. Hitler was so impressed by El Touni's domination in the middleweight class that he ordered a street named after him in Berlin olympic village. The Egyptian held the No. 1 position on the IWF list of history's 50 greatest weightlifters for 60 years, until the 1996 Games in Atlanta where Turkey's Naim Süleymanoğlu surpassed him to top the list.
Italy's football team continued their dominance under legendary head coach Vittorio Pozzo, winning the gold medal in these Olympics between their two consecutive World Cup victories (1934 and 1938). Much like the successes of German athletes, this triumph was claimed by supporters of Benito Mussolini's regime as a vindication of the superiority of the fascist system. Austria won the silver; a controversial win after Hitler called for a rematch of the quarterfinals match to discount Peru's 4–2 win over Austria. The Peruvian national Olympic team refused to play the match again and withdrew from the games. In the quarter-finals of the football tournament, Peru beat Austria 4–2 in extra-time. Peru rallied from a two-goal deficit in the final 15 minutes of normal time. During extra-time, Peruvian fans allegedly ran onto the field and attacked an Austrian player. In the chaos, Peru scored twice and won, 4–2. However, Austria protested and the International Olympic Committee ordered a replay without any spectators. The Peruvian government refused and their entire Olympic squad left in protest as did Colombia.
A total of 49 nations attended the Berlin Olympics, up from 37 in 1932. Five nations made their first official Olympic appearance at these Games: Afghanistan, Bermuda, Bolivia, Costa Rica and Liechtenstein.
The opening ceremony was held at the Berlin Olympic Stadium, and the games were declared open by Adolf Hitler. Writer Thomas Wolfe, who was there described the opening as an almost religious event, the crowd screaming, swaying in unison, begging for Hitler, there was something scary about it, his cult of personality.
Though the Olympic flame was first introduced 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam, this was the first instance of the torch relay. The Nazis invented the concept of the torch run from ancient Olympia to the host city. Thus as swimmer Iris Cummings Critchell later related, "once the athletes were all in place, the torch bearer ran in through the tunnel to go around the stadium". A young man chosen for this task ran up the steps all the way up to the top of the stadium there to light a cauldron which would start this eternal flame that would burn through the duration of the games.
But in spite all the pomp and circumstance and glorification of Hitler, all did not go according to plan, and there was a rather humorous aspect in the opening ceremony. Distance runner Louis Zamperini, one of the athletes present, related it on camera:
|“||They released 25,000 pigeons, they sky was clouded with pigeons, the pigeons circles overhead, and then they shot a cannon, and they scared the poop out of the pigeons, and we had straw hats, flat straw hats, and you could heard the pitter-patter on our straw hats, but we felt sorry for the women, for they got it in their hair, but I mean there were a mass of droppings, and I say it was so funny…||”|
These are the top ten nations that won medals at the 1936 Games.
|1||Germany (host nation)||33||26||30||89|
"The sportive, knightly battle awakens the best human characteristics. It doesn't separate, but unites the combatants in understanding and respect. It also helps to connect the countries in the spirit of peace. That's why the Olympic Flame should never die."
"German sport has only one task: to strengthen the character of the German people, imbuing it with the fighting spirit and steadfast camaraderie necessary in the struggle for its existence."— Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels
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|Summer Olympic Games
XI Olympiad (1936)