1936 Summer Olympics

Facts

Competition type Olympic Games
Host city Berlin, Germany (Venues)
Opening ceremony 1 August
Closing ceremony 16 August
Competition dates 2 – 16 August
OCOG Organisationskomitee für die XI. Olympiade Berlin 1936
Participants 4483 from 49 countries
Medal events 151 in 28 disciplines
Other events 2 in 2 disciplines

Overview

Berlin had been promised the 1916 Olympic Games, which were never held because of World War I. Twenty years later, the Olympics came to Berlin, as the world hovered on the brink of another, even more destructive war.

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 Ceremony.

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, qualifying 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, and their friendship extended well 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.

Adolf Hitler tried to dominate the Berlin Olympics. Later, he tried to dominate the world and killed 6 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.

Bid process

By 1930, no less than thirteen cities had shown interest in hosting the 1936 Summer Olympics: Berlin (Germany), Barcelona (Spain), Alexandria (Egypt), Budapest (Hungary), Buenos Aires (Argentina), Cologne (Germany), Dublin (Ireland), Frankfurt am Main (Germany), Helsinki (Finland), Lausanne (Switzerland), Nuremberg (Germany), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Rome (Italy). By the time the 30th IOC Session in Barcelona was scheduled, all but two bids were withdrawn: Barcelona itself and Berlin. Because only 19 voting members were present at the IOC Session, a postal vote was held, which Berlin won 43 – 16.

Ceremonies

Officially opened by Adolf Hitler (Chancellor)
Torchbearer(s) Fritz Schilgen (Lit flame)
Taker of the Athlete's Oath Rudolf Ismayr
Flagbearers Full list

Medal Disciplines

Aeronautics Cycling Track Polo
Alpinism Diving Rowing
Art Competitions Equestrian Dressage Sailing
Artistic Gymnastics Equestrian Eventing Shooting
Athletics Equestrian Jumping Swimming
Basketball Fencing Water Polo
Boxing Football Weightlifting
Canoe Marathon Handball Wrestling
Canoe Sprint Hockey
Cycling Road Modern Pentathlon

Other Disciplines

Baseball Gliding

Medal table

NOC Gold Silver Bronze Total
Germany GER 38 31 32 101
United States USA 24 21 12 57
Hungary HUN 10 1 5 16
Italy ITA 9 13 5 27
Finland FIN 8 6 6 20
France FRA 7 6 6 19
Sweden SWE 6 5 10 21
Japan JPN 6 4 10 20
Netherlands NED 6 4 7 17
Austria AUT 5 7 5 17
Switzerland SUI 4 9 5 18
Great Britain GBR 4 7 3 14
Czechoslovakia TCH 3 5 1 9
Argentina ARG 2 2 3 7
Estonia EST 2 2 3 7
Egypt EGY 2 1 2 5
Canada CAN 1 3 5 9
Norway NOR 1 3 2 6
Turkey TUR 1 0 1 2
India IND 1 0 0 1
New Zealand NZL 1 0 0 1
Poland POL 0 4 5 9
Denmark DEN 0 2 3 5
Latvia LAT 0 1 1 2
Romania ROU 0 1 0 1
South Africa RSA 0 1 0 1
Yugoslavia YUG 0 1 0 1
Belgium BEL 0 0 3 3
Mexico MEX 0 0 3 3
Australia AUS 0 0 1 1
Philippines PHI 0 0 1 1
Portugal POR 0 0 1 1

Most successful competitors

Athlete Nat Gold Silver Bronze Total
Jesse Owens USA 4 0 0 4
Konrad Frey GER 3 1 2 6
Rie Mastenbroek NED 3 1 0 4
Alfred Schwarzmann GER 3 0 2 5
Robert Charpentier FRA 3 0 0 3
Guy Lapébie FRA 2 1 0 3
Giulio Gaudini ITA 2 1 0 3
Gregor Hradetzky AUT 2 0 0 2
Kurt Hasse GER 2 0 0 2
Heinz Pollay GER 2 0 0 2
Ludwig Stubbendorff GER 2 0 0 2
Jean Goujon FRA 2 0 0 2
Endre Kabos HUN 2 0 0 2
Franco Riccardi ITA 2 0 0 2
Kristjan Palusalu EST 2 0 0 2
Helen Stephens USA 2 0 0 2

All medalists at these Games