Monday, March 28, 2016

The 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics

This is one of the Summer Olympics that was surrounded by controversies and boycott threats with only 49 nations out of them five making their Summer Olympics debut participated.

Adolf Hitler was the Chancellor of the NAZI Germany and officially opened the 1936 Sumer Olympics held in Berlin on the summer of that year. Interestingly, the NAZI were planning to use this edition of the Olympics to show that the Aryan Race was superior.

Read about The Politics of Racial Discrimination in the Berlin 1936 Summer Olympics

This notion was shattered by Jesse Owen, who won 4 gold medals all in athletics, from one field event; high jump and 3 track events.

The official opening ceremony of the 1936 Summer Olympics was held in the newly built 100,000 seats stadium; Berlin Olympics Stadium.

The Berlin Olympics Stadium During the 1936 Summer Olympics Events

This Picture is from Wikipedia under Creative Common License

The 3,632 men and 331 women all totaling 3,963 athletes had no doubt that the prevailing political temperatures were high, thus making Games of the XI Olympiad one of the most tense Olympics, only comparable to the 1912 Summer Olympics that had taken place 2 years before the 1st World War. This edition of the games had competitors from 49 nations and the world was soon to be at war within 3 years.

A war started in 1930 saw millions losing their lives and a creation of a highly hostile world that was witnessed by politically tense environment lasting for over 50 years and became to be known as The Cold War. Besides, the war saw several new nations created and while others were destroyed, families were divided by walls and the world entered into an arm race that almost brought the human race to a blink of extinction from a nuclear holocaust from any of the two warring sides; the east or the west.

The 1936 Berlin Olympic Games had been handed to Berlin before the Hitler’s NAZI ascended to power introducing one of the most despotic and cruel regime the world had ever known. These Games of the XI Olympiad had been awarded to Germany during the 29th International Olympics Committee Session that was held on the 26th of April, 1930. This IOC meeting was in the Spanish City of Barcelona with Berlin winning the bid to host games beating Spain’s Barcelona by 43 to 16. Surprisingly, Spain boycotted the Berlin games and planned parallel games known as the People’s Olympics but failed to take off when Spanish Civil war broke out two days before the 45 nations sporting event would take off.

Berlin also won the bid against other 3 Germany cities; Cologne, Frankfurt and Nuremberg. The 2016 Summer Olympics host Rio de Janeiro, also placed a bid to host these 1936 games but failed. Barcelona was to win the bid to host the 1992 Summer Olympics Games. Other cities that placed the bid to host the Summer Olympics games of 1936 but failed included the 1960 Summer Olympics host; Rome and Finland’s Helsinki who hosted the 1952 Summer Olympics. Other bids came from Argentina’s Buenos Aires, Austria’s Budapest, Egypt’s Alexandria, Ireland’s Dublin and Switzerland’s Lausanne, but only Barcelona and winning City Berlin managed to get votes in the Spain’s 29th International Olympics Committee Session of 1930.

This tense 10th edition of the Summer Olympics Games of 1936 officially opened their doors on the 1st of August and closed their doors after 16 days of action and contrivances on the 16th of August. In those 16 days, there were intense competitions to win in the 129 events drawn from the 19 sports cutting across 25 disciplines.

As mentioned earlier, it was Chancellor Adolf Hitler, then the leader of NAZI Germany who officially opened these controversial games in the newly constructed Berlin’s Olympics Stadium. Rudolf Ismayr and Fritz Schilgen went to the Olympics history as the ones who swore the Athletes Oath and led the Olympic Torch, respectively.

Despite the high political temperature and the fact that Germany was preparing to take the entire world to war, the host spent $25 million; quite a colossal amount of money back then. This money was spent in creating some of the greatest Olympics facilities the world had witnessed. The Berlin streets were at their cleanest moment. Due to huge outcry of the host’s racial segregation policies, the Olympics saw the state sponsored anti-Jewish campaign temporary withdrawn. The host Olympics stadium had the capacity to hold 100,000 people; this is big stadium even by today’s standards.

The NAZI regime extravagant spend was to ensure that the 1936 Summer Olympics outdid the previous host of the 1932 Summer Olympics; Los Angeles. Money was spent to build the New Berlin Stadium that accommodate 100,000 seat track as well as a field stadium. Other newly built structures included a total of 6 gymnasiums and several other Olympics arenas.

New innovations, nations and sports at the 1936 Summer Olympics

Despite the bad side of racism at the Berlin 1936 Summer Olympics, there were notable innovations from these games that cannot go unnoticed.

In its spending spree to create unparalleled games, the Nazi Germany government gave Leni Riefenstahl, a renowned filmmaker whopping US$ 7 million to make a film out of Olympics Torch relay, this film knowns as Olympia and it’s considered a pioneer of some of the modern days filming sports techniques. That aside, this was the first games to be aired live and broadcasted to 41 nations globally. Using the Telefunken cameras and equipment, a total of 70 hours was covered.

Though the Olympic Flame had been used in the other two editions of the Olympics games; the 1928 and the 1932 editions, the Olympic Flame came to the Olympic Village by Olympic Torch Relay convention and this was a new way that started in the Berlin games and has been part of the Olympics since then. This Olympics Torch Relay had been initiated in the Olympia in Greece, passing through several nations across Europe and got to Berlin just before the games started. The Olympics Torch relay was the idea by Carl Diem; a former president of Reich Sports Office who organized the 1938 games together with Theodor Lewald, both helping the then president of Reich Sports Office; Hans von Tschammer und Osten.

The Olympic Torch Relay in the 1936 Summer Olympics

This Picture is from Wikipedia under Creative Common License

Besides, 5 new nations made their debut in this Summer Olympics Games. These five new entrants were Asia’s Afghanistan, America’s Bermuda, Bolivia, Costa Rica and Europe’s Liechtenstein.

Two new sports made their debut; Basketball and Handball. Handball would miss the subsequent summer editions only to reappear in yet another Germany hosted Summer Olympics; the 1972 Munich Games. Both Basketball and Handball sports will be featuring in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics, with each scheduled to have two events; one for men and the other event for women.

A total of 130 gold medals were awarded, another 128 silver medals were also won plus 130 bronze medals all coming to a total of 388 of which the host won 89 medals in total. A total of 32 nations out of the 49 that took part in the 1938 Summer Olympics won at least a medal with the host topping the medal table with a total of 89 medals. Except for Team USA which ranked 2nd with a total of 56 medals and Japan, ranked 8, the other top ten medalists were from Europe.

The other nations which won the medals but were not from continental Europe were the 15th ranked Egypt which won 2 gold medals, 17th ranked Canada with a gold medal, 3 silver medals and 5 bronze medals. India, Turkey and New Zealand tied at position 19 with each getting a gold medal, but no silver or bronze medals. South Africa ranked 25th with a solitary silver medal, Mexico was ranked position 28th with three silver medals while Australia tied with Philippines with a bronze medal each.

Despite the challenges faced in the 1938 Summer Olympic, the spirit of Olympics lives on and will be witnessed it in the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics and we hope that there will not boycott calls or controversies.