1936  Berlin Summer Olympics

1936 Summer Olympics - About the Games

1936 Summer Olympics


Host City: Berlin, Germany (August 2, 1936 to August 16, 1936)
Opening Ceremony: August 1, 1936 (opened by Chancellor Adolf Hitler)
Taker of the Olympic Oath: Rudolf Ismayr (athlete)
Closing Ceremony: August 16, 1936
Events: 150 in 24 sports

Participants: 4,484 (4,123 men and 361 women) from 49 countries
Youngest Participant: DEN Inge Sørensen (12 years, 22 days)
Oldest Participant: AUT Arthur von Pongracz (72 years, 48 days)
Most Medals (Athlete): GER Konrad Frey (6 medals)
Most Medals (Country): GER Germany (101 medals)


The 1936 Summer Olympics (German: Olympische Sommerspiele 1936), officially known as the Games of the XI Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event held in 1936 in Berlin, Nazi 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 the International Olympic Committee gathered to vote in a city that was bidding to host those Games.

To outdo the Los Angeles games of 1932, Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler had a new 100,000-seat track and field stadium built, as well as six gymnasiums and many other smaller arenas. The games were the first to be televised, and radio broadcasts reached 41 countries. Filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl 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 antisemitism, and the official Nazi party paper, the Völkischer Beobachter, wrote in the strongest terms that Jews should not be allowed to participate in the Games.

  When threatened with a boycott of the Games by other nations, Hitler appeared to allow athletes of other ethnicities from other countries to participate. However, German Jewish athletes were barred or prevented from taking part by a variety of methodsand Jewish athletes from other countries seem to have been side-lined in order not to offend the Nazi regime.

Total ticket revenues were 7.5 million Reichsmark, generating a profit of over one million ℛℳ. The official budget did not include outlays by the city of Berlin (which issued an itemized report detailing its costs of 16.5 million ℛℳ) or outlays of the German national government (which did not make its costs public, but is estimated to have spent US$30 million).[8]

Jesse Owens won four gold medals in the sprint and long jump events and became the most successful athlete to compete in Berlin while the host country was the most successful country overall with 89 medals total, with the United States coming in second with 56 medals. These were the final Olympics under the presidency of Henri de Baillet-Latour and the final Olympic Games for 12 years due to the disruption of the Second World War. The next Olympic Games were held in 1948 (the Winter in Switzerland and then the Summer in London).

Overview by

No other Olympics belonged to a single non-competitor as much as the 1936 Olympics belonged to [Adolf Hitler]. But [Jesse Owens] showed up Hitler's Aryan supremacy theories and dominated the Berlin Games.

The greatest innovation of the 1936 Olympics was conceived by [Dr. Carl Diem], head of the organizing committee. He proposed that a torch relay be instituted to carry a flame from Ancient Olympia to the Berlin Stadium and then to light the Olympic Flame at the stadium. On 20 July 1936, fifteen Greek maidens clad in short, belted smocks representing the robes of priestesses, gathered on the plain at Ancient Olympia and the flame was lit there by the rays of the Greek sun off a reflector. The high priestess presented the flame to Kyril Kondylis, the first Greek runner, to begin a torch relay. After several thousand miles, the flame arrived in Berlin where it was lit in the stadium by [Fritz Schilgen].

There were many protests against the Olympics being held in Berlin in 1936. The Americans came the closest to boycotting in protest although the British and French both considered the option. The Games were magnificently staged, as Hitler spared no expense and used them as a propaganda tool to demonstrate the beauty and efficiency of the Third Reich. He had Leni Riefenstahl, a renowned German filmmaker, produce a wondrous movie, Olympia, to ensure that the propaganda would not end at the closing ceremonies.

But Jesse Owens and a German man he had never met would spread their own propaganda; that of the power of the human spirit and the beauty of the Olympic Movement. In the long jump qualifying round, Jesse Owens fouled on his first two jumps. After fouling those first two jumps, Owens felt a tap on his shoulder. It was his strongest competitor, [Luz Long] of Germany. There, in the Olympic stadium, in front of 100,000 Germans and Adolf Hitler, Luz Long befriended the black American, Jesse Owens. He told Owens he should move his mark back one foot, not even try to hit the take-off board. Long told him that with his skill, he would still qualify easily. Owens listened and did just that. He did qualify easily and the next day won the gold medal. The silver medalist was Luz Long.

Long and Owens became fast friends during the Berlin Olympics; they spent many hours together talking of their lives. But their friendship extended way beyond that. Owens would never forget the blonde Aryan who had befriended him in front of Hitler and after the Olympics were over, they wrote each other frequently.

War broke out and Long was called to fight for Germany, but the letters between the two athletes did not stop. One letter from Luz to Jesse, written from the North African desert, spoke of Long's infant son, whom he barely knew. It read:

> "My heart tells me, if I be honest with you, that this is the last letter I shall ever write. If it is so, I ask you something. It is for you go to Germany when this war is done, someday find my son Karl, and tell him about his father. Tell him, Jesse, what times were like when we were not separated by war. I am saying – tell him how things can be between men on this earth."

Owens never forgot that letter nor the man who wrote it. Luz Long was killed shortly after he wrote that letter, but the promise would also not be forgotten by the man that was Jesse Owens.

In the 1960's, Owens went to Germany and met Karl Long. He told him of his father and the courage he had displayed that August day in Berlin. He told him of the love that had developed between them. A few years later, Karl Long was to be married, and although he would have liked a brother, or his father, to be his best man, there was none that could be. But he knew there could be only one choice and thus Jesse Owens, the son of a black Alabama sharecropper, stood by Karl Long, the son of a blonde, Aryan hero, on the most important day of Long's life.

Adolf Hitler tried to dominate the Berlin Olympics. Later, he tried to dominate the world and killed six million Jews, and was responsible for the death of hundreds of thousands of soldiers. But when you think of the 1936 Olympics, don't think of Hitler or Berlin or the propaganda or Leni Riefenstahl. Think of Jesse and Luz.


Host city selection

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 final years of the Weimar Republic, two years 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, Buenos Aires, Cologne, Dublin, Frankfurt, Helsinki, Lausanne, Nuremberg, Rio de Janeiro, Budapest, and Rome. Helsinki, Rome, Barcelona and Rio de Janeiro would go on to host the Olympic Games in 1952, 1960, 1992 and 2016, respectively.

The selection procedure 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.

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.

1936 Summer Olympics bidding result
CityCountry Round 1
Berlin Weimar Republic Germany 43
Barcelona Spain Spain 16
Alexandria Egypt Egypt 0
Budapest Hungary Hungary 0
Buenos Aires Argentina Argentina 0
Cologne Weimar Republic Germany 0
Dublin Republic of Ireland Ireland 0
Frankfurt Weimar Republic Germany 0
Helsinki Finland Finland 0
Lausanne Switzerland Switzerland 0
Nuremberg Weimar Republic Germany 0
Rio de Janeiro Brazil Brazil 0
Rome Kingdom of Italy Italy 0

People's Olympiad

The People's Olympiad (Catalan: Olimpíada Popular, Spanish: Olimpiada Popular) was a planned international multi-sport event that was intended to take place in Barcelona, the capital of the autonomous region of Catalonia within the Spanish Republic. It was conceived as a protest event against the 1936 Summer Olympics being held in Berlin, which was then under control of the Nazi Party.

Despite gaining the support from some athletes; and most significantly Joseph Stalin's Soviet Union and the Communist International organization; the People's Olympiad was never held, as a result of the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. Fifty-two years later, Barcelona hosted the 1992 Summer Olympics.

The Soviet Union did not participate in the Olympics until 1952 considering them a "bourgeois" event. However, the Communist government later used the Olympics to further its political agenda
ALBA 033 program


In 1931, the International Olympic Committee had selected Berlin, then the capital of the Weimar Republic, to host the 1936 Summer Olympics at the 29th IOC Session in Barcelona. Berlin had defeated Barcelona, which was also vying to host the games, by 43 votes to 16. During the same year, Spain had adopted a republican constitution, with King Alfonso XIII going into exile, and Catalonia was declared an autonomous region inside the new Spanish Republic.

Following the 1936 general election in Spain, the newly elected Popular Front government (which included the Communist Party of Spain) decided that Spain would boycott the Berlin Olympics in Germany, which was now under Adolf Hitler's NSDAP government, and host its own games. Invitations were made to many different countries, and it was planned to use the hotels built for the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition as an Olympic-style Village. The games were scheduled to be held from July 19 to 26 and would have therefore ended six days prior to the start of the Berlin games. In addition to the usual sporting events, the Barcelona games would also have featured chess, folkdancing, music and theatre.

A total of 6,000 athletes from 22 nations registered for the games. The largest contingents of athletes came from the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and French Algeria. There were also teams from Germany and Italy made up of political exiles from those countries. Teams representing Jewish exiles, Alsace, Galicia, Catalonia and the Basque Country also registered. The Soviet Union, under the rule of Joseph Stalin, had been holding its own version of the Olympics, known as the Spartakiad, organised by Red Sport International. Despite this, the Soviets agreed to attend the Barcelona competition.

Many of the athletes were sent by trade unions, workers' clubs and associations, socialist and communist parties, and left-wing groups, rather than by state-sponsored committees.

With the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War just as the games were to begin, the alternate games were hastily cancelled. Some athletes never made it to Barcelona as the borders had been closed, while many who were in the city for the beginning of the games made a hasty exit. However, at least 200 of the athletes, such as Clara Thalmann, remained in Spain and joined workers' militias that were organized to defend the Second Spanish Republic against the nationalists



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.

Torch relay

The 1936 Summer Olympics torch relay was the first of its kind, following on from the reintroduction of the Olympic Flame at the 1928 Games. It pioneered the modern convention of moving the flame via a relay system from Greece to the Olympic venue. Leni Riefenstahl filmed the relay for the 1938 film Olympia.

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.

— Adolf Hitler, commenting on the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1976-116-08A, Olympische Spiele, Fackelläufer.jpg

Runners carrying the Olympic Flame


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. They used three different types of TV cameras, so blackouts would occur when changing from one type to another


Olympic village

The 1936 Olympic village is located at Elstal in Wustermark (at
52°32′10.78″N 13°0′33.20″E), on the western edge of Berlin. The site, which is 30 kilometres (19 mi) from the centre of the city, consisted of one and two-floor dormitories, a large dining hall, Dining Hall of the Nations, a swimming facility, gymnasium, track, and other training facilities. Its layout was designed and construction overseen by appointed village commander Hauptmann Wolfgang Fürstner beginning in 1934. Less than two months before the start of the Olympic Games, Fürstner was abruptly demoted to vice-commander, and replaced by Oberstleutnant Werner von Gilsa, commander of the Berlin Guard-Regiment. The official reason for the replacement was that Fürstner had not acted "with the necessary energy" to prevent damage to the site as 370,000 visitors passed through it between 1 May and 15 June.
However, this was just a cover story to explain the sudden demotion of the half-Jewish officer. The 1935 Nuremberg Laws, passed during the period Fürstner was overseeing the Olympic Village, had classified him as a Jew, and as such, the career officer was to be expelled from the Wehrmacht. Two days after the conclusion of the Berlin Olympics, vice-commander Fürstner had been removed from active Wehrmacht duty, and committed suicide because he realised he had no future under the Nazis
Jesse Owens' room in the 1936 Olympic Village in Berlin as seen today.
After the completion of the Olympic Games, the village was repurposed for the Wehrmacht into the Olympic Döberitz Hospital (German: Olympia-Lazarett Döberitz), and Army Infantry School (German: Heeres-Infanterieschule), and was used as such through the Second World War. In 1945 it was taken over by the Soviet Union and became a military camp of the union occupation forces. Late 20th century efforts were made to restore parts of the former village, but little progress was made. More recently, the vast majority of the land of the Olympic village has been managed by the DKB Foundation, with more success; efforts are being made to restore the site into a living museum. The dormitory building used by Jesse Owens, Weissen House, has been fully restored, with the gymnasium and swimming hall partially restored. Seasonally, 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. An effort aimed at 2018 completion is underway to make the village a mixed residential and historical property



Twenty-two venues were used for the 1936 Summer Olympics.

Sailing was held in the Bay of Kiel, which would serve as the sailing venue for the 1972 Summer Olympics held in Munich. The Olympic Stadium would later be part of two FIFA World Cups and then host an IAAF World Championships in Athletics along with undergoing a renovation in the early 2000s to give new life to the stadium. Avus Motor Road (AVUS) was started in 1907, but was not completed until 1921 due to World War I. The track was rebuilt for the 1936 Games.AVUS continued being used after World War II though mainly in Formula 2 racing. The German Grand Prix was last held at the track in 1959. Dismantling of the track first took place in 1968 to make way for a traffic crossing for touring cars that raced there until 1998.

BSV 92 Field was first constructed in 1910 for use in football, handball, athletics, and tennis. The Reich Sports Field, which consisted of the Olympic Stadium, the Dietrich Ecekrt Open-Air Theatre, the Olympic Swimming Stadium, Mayfield, the Hockey Stadiums, the Tennis Courts, and the Haus des Deutschen Sports, was planned for the aborted 1916 Summer Olympics, but was not completed until 1934. Mayfield was the last venue completed prior to the 1936 Games in April 1936.

File:1936 Summer Olympics Reichssportfeld map.jpg

Map of Reichssportfeld during the 1936 Summer Olympics

Deutschland Hall was opened in 1935. Mommenstadion opened in 1930. Basketball was held outdoors at the request of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA). The tennis courts were used, which turned to mud during heavy rain at the final. The K-1 1000 m canoeing final was also affected by heavy rain at Grünau that included thunder and lightning. During World War II, Deutschlandhalle suffered heavy aerial bombing damage. After the second world war, the hall was reconstructed and expansion has continued as of 2010. The Deutschlandhalle in Berlin, where the boxing, weightlifting, and wrestling events took place, was used as venue, but was increasingly closed for repairs, last in 2009 when it was close for repairs, It was demolished in December 2011. the Mommsenstadion was renovated in 1987 and was still in use in 2010.

The Olympic Stadium was used as an underground bunker in World War II as the war went against Nazi Germany's favor. The British reopened the Stadium in 1946 and parts of the stadium were rebuilt by the late 1950s. As a host venue for the 1974 FIFA World Cup, the stadium had its roof partially covered on the North and South Stands. British occupation of the stadium ended in 1994. Restoration was approved in 1998 with a contractor being found to do the work in 2000. This restoration ran from 2000 to 2004. The modernized Stadium reopened in 2004, with a capacity of 74,228 people. The seating has been changed greatly, especially the sections that were reserved for German and international political leaders. The stadium now plays host to Hertha BSC (1963–present), and is expected to remain the home of the team for years to come. For the 2006 FIFA World Cup, the venue was where the final took place between Italy and France. Three years later, the venue hosted the World Athletics Championships.

Avus Motor Road Athletics (marathon, 50 km walk), Cycling (road) Not listed
BSV Field Cycling (track), Handball 1,000
Dietrich Eckart Open-Air Theatre Gymnastics 20,000
Döberitz Equestrian (eventing), Modern pentathlon (riding) Not listed
Deutschlandhalle Boxing, Weightlifting, Wrestling 8,630
Berlin-Grünau Regatta Course Canoeing, Rowing 19,000
Haus des Deutschen Sports Fencing, Modern pentathlon (fencing) 1200
Hertha BSC Field Football 35,239
Hockeystadion Field hockey 18,000
Hockeystadion#2 Field hockey 1600
Kiel Bay Sailing Not listed
Mayfield Equestrian (dressage), Polo 75,000
Mommsenstadion Football 15,005
Olympic Stadium Athletics, Equestrian (jumping), Football (final), Handball (final) 100,000
Olympic Swimming Stadium Diving, Modern pentathlon (swimming), Swimming, Water polo 20,000
Police Stadium Handball Not listed
Poststadion Football 45,000
Ruhleben Modern pentathlon (shooting) Not listed.
Tennis Courts Basketball, Fencing (épée) 832
Tennis Stadium Basketball Not listed
Wannsee Golf Course Modern pentathlon (running) Not listed
Wannsee Shooting Range Shooting Not listed

Opening ceremony

The opening ceremony was held at the Berlin Olympic Stadium. A flyover by the German airship Hindenburg flying the Olympic flag behind it was featured early in the opening ceremonies. After the arrival of Hitler and his entourage, the parade of nations proceeded, each nation with its own unique costume. As the birthplace of the Olympics, Greece entered the stadium first. The host nation, Germany entered last. Some nations' athletes purposefully gave the Nazi salute as they passed Hitler. Others gave the Olympic salute (a similar one, given with the same arm), or a different gesture entirely, such as hats-over-hearts, as the United States and China did. All nations lowered their flags as they passed the Führer, save the United States. (The United States doing this was explained later as an army regulation.).

Writer Thomas Wolfe, who was there, described the opening as an "almost religious event, the crowd screaming, swaying in unison and begging for Hitler. There was something scary about it; his cult of personality.

File:Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-P017045, Berlin, Eröffnung der XI. Olympischen Spiele.jpg

Parade of nations

After a speech by the president of the German Olympic Committee, the games were declared open by Adolf Hitler: "I proclaim open the Olympic Games of Berlin, celebrating the Eleventh Olympiad of the modern era." Hitler opened the games from his own box, on top of others. Writer David Wallechinsky has commented on the event, saying, "This was his event, he wanted to be glorified."

Although the Olympic flame was first introduced in the 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 of all the pomp and ceremony, and the glorification of Hitler, all did not go according to plan, and there was a rather humorous aspect in the opening ceremony. U.S. distance runner Louis Zamperini, one of the athletes present, related it on camera:

They released 25,000 pigeons, the 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...

The Greek men's team filing through the streets of Berlin for the Olympic Games of 1936, and being led by Louis.


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.

  • Aquatics
    • Diving (4)
    • Swimming (11)
    • Water polo (1)
  • Athletics (29)
  • Basketball (1)
  • Boxing (8)
  • Canoeing (9)
  • Cycling
    • Road (2)
    • Track (4)
  • Equestrian
    • Dressage (2)
    • Eventing (2)
    • Show jumping (2)
  • Fencing (7)
  • Field hockey (1)
  • Football (1)
  • Gymnastics (9)
  • Handball (1)
  • Modern pentathlon (1)
  • Polo (1)
  • Rowing (7)
  • Sailing (4)
  • Shooting (3)
  • Weightlifting (5)
  • Wrestling
    • Freestyle (7)
    • Greco-Roman (7)

Basketball and handball made their debut at the Olympics, both as outdoor sports. Handball did not appear again on the program until the next German summer Olympic games in Munich in 1972. Demonstration sports were Art, Baseball, Gliding and Wushu.

Medal count

The ten nations that won most medals at the 1936 Games.

  *   Host nation (Germany)

1  Germany* 33 26 30 89
2  United States 24 20 12 56
3  Hungary 10 1 5 16
4  Italy 8 9 5 22
5  Finland 7 6 6 19
 France 7 6 6 19
7  Sweden 6 5 9 20
8  Japan 6 4 8 18
9  Netherlands 6 4 7 17
10  Great Britain 4 7 3 14
Totals (10 nations) 111 88 91 290

Notable achievements

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 ℛℳ and kept his gold. German gymnasts Konrad Frey and Alfred Schwarzmann both won three gold medals.

American 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 Hitler in attendance.

Jack Lovelock of New Zealand won the 1500 m gold medal, coming through a strong field to win in world record time of 3:47.8.

In the marathon, the ethnic Koreans Sohn Kee-chung and Nam Sung-yong won one gold and one bronze medal; as Korea was annexed by Japan at the time, they were running for Japan.

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 gold medals in both Men's heavyweight Wrestling styles, 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 light-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's 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 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 remarkable story from the track and field competition was the gold medal won by the US women's 4 × 100 m relay team. The German team were the heavy favourites, but dropped the baton at one hand-off. Of notable interest on the US team was Betty Robinson. She was the first woman ever awarded an Olympic gold medal for track and field, winning the women's 100 m event at the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam. In 1931, Robinson was involved in a plane crash, and was severely injured. Her body was discovered in the wreckage and it was wrongly thought that she was dead. She was placed in the trunk of a car and taken to an undertaker, where it was discovered that she was not dead, but in a coma. She awoke from the coma seven months later, although it was another six months before she could get out of a wheelchair, and two years before she could walk normally again. Due to the length of her recovery, she had to miss participating in the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, in her home country.

Participating nations

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.
File:1936 Summer Olympics countries.png
Nations participating for the first time shown in blue. Number of attending athletes from respective participating countries.
Participating National Olympic Committees
  •  Afghanistan (14)
  •  Argentina (51)
  •  Australia (32)
  •  Austria (176)
  •  Belgium (120)
  •  Bermuda (5)
  •  Bolivia (1)
  •  Brazil (73)
  •  Bulgaria (24)
  •  Canada (96)
  •  Chile (40)
  • China (54)
  •  Colombia (5)
  •  Costa Rica (1)
  •  Czechoslovakia (162)
  •  Denmark (116)
  •  Egypt (54)
  •  Estonia (33)
  •  Finland (107)
  •  France (201)
  •  Germany (348) (host)
  •  Great Britain (207)
  •  Greece (40)
  •  Hungary (209)
  •  Iceland (12)
  •  India (27)
  •  Italy (182)
  •  Japan (153)
  •  Latvia (24)
  •  Liechtenstein (6)
  •  Luxembourg (44)
  •  Malta (11)
  •  Mexico (34)
  •  Monaco (6)
  •  Netherlands (128)
  •  New Zealand (7)
  •  Norway (72)
  •  Peru (40)
  •  Philippines (28)
  •  Poland (112)
  •  Portugal (19)
  •  Romania (53)
  •  South Africa (25)
  •  Sweden (150)
  •  Switzerland (174)
  •  Turkey (48)
  •  United States (310)
  •  Uruguay (37)
  •  Yugoslavia (90)

August 1, 1936: Spyridon Louis Presents Hitler with Olive Tree from Olympia

On This Day August 1, 1936: Spyridon Louis Presents Hitler with Olive Tree from Olympia

Spyros Louis, the son of a farmer who made a modest living delivering clean drinking water to the rich residents of Athens, became an overnight national hero in 1896 when he won the Marathon at the first modern Olympic Games.

He is remembered to this day as the 23-year-old Greek who ran the race at an unprecedented speed and finished in just under three hours.

But on August 1, 1936, Louis also became known as the Greek Olympian who extended an olive branch — a symbol of peace — to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, whose rise in power ultimately would lead to World World II and the extermination of more than six million Jews in Europe.

This high-profile meeting occurred during the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Berlin in 1936 — on the 40th anniversary of the day Louis made history in his homeland.

Louis, who was 63-years-old in 1936, was given a hero’s welcome by the Nazi hosts of the Games. As the guest of honor at the opening ceremony, he marched into the Olympic Stadium wearing the traditional Greek foustanella and carrying the blue and white Greek flag.

He shook hands with Adolf Hitler and presented him with an olive branch that had been picked from Olympia – the birthplace of the ancient Olympic games.

Olympia (1938 film)


Olympia is a 1938 German documentary sports film written, directed and produced by Leni Riefenstahl, documenting the 1936 Summer Olympics, held in the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, Germany. The film was released in two parts: Olympia 1. Teil — Fest der Völker (Festival of Nations) and Olympia 2. Teil — Fest der Schönheit (Festival of Beauty). It was the first documentary feature film of the Olympic Games ever made. Many advanced motion picture techniques, which later became industry standards but which were groundbreaking at the time, were employed —including unusual camera angles, smash cuts, extreme close-ups and placing tracking shot rails within the bleachers. The techniques employed are almost universally admired, but the film is controversial due to its political context. Nevertheless, the film appears on many lists of the greatest films of all time, including Time magazine's "All-Time 100 Movies."

Olympia set the precedent for future films documenting and glorifying the Olympic Games, particularly the Summer Games. The 1936 Summer Olympics torch relay was devised by the German sports official Dr. Carl Diem for these Olympic Games in Berlin. Riefenstahl later staged the torch relay for this film, with competitive events of the Games.

Despite being restricted to six camera positions on the stadium field, Riefenstahl persevered by setting up cameras in as many places as she could, including in the grandstands.

Olympia Poster.jpg
She attached automatic cameras onto balloons and included instructions to return the film to Leni Riefenstahl, and she also placed automatic cameras in boats during practice runs. Amateur photography was used to supplement that of the professionals along race courses. Perhaps the greatest innovation that came out of Olympia was the use of the underwater camera. The camera would follow divers through the air, and as soon as they hit the water, the cameraman would dive down with them, all while changing focus and aperture.


Olympia was made in three versions: German, French and English. There are slight differences between each version, extending to which portions were included and their sequence within the entire film. The French version is known by the alternate title Les Dieux du Stade (Gods of the Stadium).

It appeared to be Riefenstahl's habit to re-edit the film upon re-release, so that there are multiple versions of each language version of the film. For example, as originally released, the famous diving sequence (the penultimate sequence of the entire film) ran about four minutes. Riefenstahl subsequently reduced it by about 50 seconds. (The entire sequence could be seen in prints of the film circulated by the collector Raymond Rohauer.)


The film had an immensely strong reaction in Germany and was received with acclaim and accolades around the world.[3] In 1960, Riefenstahl's peers voted Olympia one of the 10 best films of all time. The Daily Telegraph recognised the film as "even more technically dazzling" than Triumph of the Will. The Times described the film as "visually ravishing ... A number of sequences in the supposedly documentary Olympia, notably that devoted to the high-diving competition, become less and less concerned with record and more and more abstract: as some of the divers hit the water, the visual interest of patterns of movement takes over."

American film critic Richard Corliss observed in Time that "the matter of Riefenstahl 'the Nazi director' is worth raising so it can be dismissed. [I]n the hallucinatory documentary Triumph of the Will... [she] painted Adolf Hitler as a Wagnerian deity... But that was in 1934–35. In [Olympia] Riefenstahl gave the same heroic treatment to Jesse Owens..."

The film won a number of prestigious film awards but fell from grace, particularly in the United States when, in November 1938, the world learned of Kristallnacht, an especially large pogrom against the Jews of Germany. Riefenstahl was touring the U.S. to promote the film at that time and was immediately asked to leave the country.


The film won several awards;

  • National Film Prize (1937–1938)
  • Venice International Film Festival (1938) — Coppa Mussolini (Best Film)
  • Swedish Polar Prize (1938)
  • Greek Sports Prize (1938)
  • Olympic Gold Medal from the International Olympic Committee (1939)
  • Lausanne International Film Festival (1948) — Olympic Diploma


There had been few screenings of Olympia in English-speaking countries upon its original release; the film was not shown in the United States until 1940, and was then re-released in 1948 under the title Kings of the Olympics in a truncated version acquired from Germany by the U.S. Office of Alien Property Custodian and severely edited without Riefenstahl's involvement. In 1955 Riefenstahl agreed to remove three minutes of Hitler footage for screening at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The same version was also screened on West German television and in cinemas around the world.

In popular culture

In the 2016 biographical film about Jesse Owens, Race, the filming at the Olympic Games is depicted with Riefenstahl constantly quarreling with Goebbels about her artistic decisions, especially over filming Jesse Owens who is proving a politically embarrassing refutation of Nazi Germany's claims about Aryan athletic supremacy.

Neue Deutsche Härte band Rammstein released a cover of Depeche Mode's song "Stripped" in 1998. The song's music video is made from footage from Olympia



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