• 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.
• Hitler saw the Games as an opportunity to promote his government and ideals of racial
supremacy, and the official Nazi party paper 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.
• 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.
• 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 install unity among German youth. At the same time
he also believed that sports was a "way to weed out the weak, Jewish, and other
• 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
In 1936, Owens arrived in Berlin to compete for the
United States in the Summer Olympics. Adolf Hitler
was using the games to show the world a resurgent
Nazi Germany. He and other government officials
had high hopes that German athletes would
dominate the games with victories (the German
athletes achieved a "top of the table" medal haul).
Meanwhile, Nazi propaganda promoted concepts of
"Aryan racial superiority" and depicted ethnic
Africans as inferior.
• Owens surprised many by winning four gold medals. On August 3, he won the 100m sprint
with a time of 10.3s, defeating Ralph Metcalfe. On August 4, he won the long jump (later
crediting friendly and helpful advice from Luz Long, the German competitor he ultimately
defeated). On August 5, he won the 200m sprint with a time of 20.7s, defeating Mack
Robinson. On August 9, Owens won his fourth gold medal in the 4x100 sprint.
• Just before the competitions, Owens was visited in the Olympic village by Adi Dassler, the
founder of the Adidas athletic shoe company. He persuaded Owens to use Gebrüder
Dassler Schuhfabrik shoes, the first sponsorship for a male African-American athlete.
• The long-jump victory is documented, along with many other 1936 events, in the 1938 film
Olympia by Leni Riefenstahl.
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