People's Olympiad

The Spanish city of Barcelona had bid to host the 1936 Olympics, but had lost to Berlin. In an era of increasing tension between communism and fascism in Europe, the fact that the 1936 Olympic Games were hosted by Nazi Germany did not sit well with socialists and communists, particularly so in Spain, where the Frente Popular (a coalition of a handful of left-wing parties) had gained power in January 1936. They soon declared that Spain would boycott the Berlin Olympics, and would instead stage alternate Olympic Games. This Olimpiada Popular was to be held in Barcelona, between 19 and 26 July 1936, a few weeks before the Berlin Games. The organization was in the hands of the Sozialistische Arbeiter Sport Internationale (Socialist Workers’ Sport International) (SASI), which also organized the socialist Workers’ Olympiads, and because of this, the 1936 People’s Olympiad is occasionally listed as having been planned as the 3rd Workers’ Olympiad. Sixteen sports, including track & field athletics and swimming but also non-Olympic sports like pelota and chess, were scheduled to be held. The Montjuïc stadium was to be used as the main venue; it would serve that same function in 1992, when the Olympics came to Barcelona. Some 6,000 athletes were said to have entered for competitions, with most delegations coming from Europe, but the United States also sent a contingent. It was not necessary to enter a national team, and there were entries from Jewish groups, German exiles, and French colonies. On 17 July, General Francisco Franco and various other dissatisfied officers launched a coup from Spanish islands and North African enclaves. The insurgency quickly spread, and by 19 July – the day of the Opening Ceremony of the People’s Olympiad – fights had broken out in the streets of Barcelona, causing the Games to be cancelled. Most athletes evacuated to France soon afterwards, although a few supposedly stayed behind to join the fight on the Republican side, with the International Brigades.