1936 Summer Olympics


Competition type Olympic Games
Number and Year XI / 1936
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


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.

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. In the end, all the usual nations competed, with the exception of Spain, which was involved in its own Civil War, and which scheduled a competing sports festival, the People’s Olympiad, in Barcelona, although it was eventually cancelled.

Many of the protests dealt with Hitler’s and Germany’s treatment of Jews, which also included the very real possibility that all Jews would be excluded from German Olympic teams. In the end, Germany placed one token Jew on the team, fencer Helene Mayer, to assuage the protestors. The most controversial exclusion was that of German high jumper Margarethe “Gretel” Bergmann, who had been in the top 20 in the world lists in 1934-35 and would end 1936 in the top 10. She never competed at the Olympics and later emigrated to the United States.

The USOC asked future IOC President Avery Brundage to visit Germany to discuss the concerns with Jews being excluded and he returned with a report that spoke glowingly of the Germany sports programs. He was at the time the President of the US Olympic Committee and opposed all US efforts to boycott Berlin, and he was successful. One US member of the IOC, Ernest Lee Jahncke, opposed competing at Berlin, and for his support of the boycott, he was eventually expelled from the IOC, to be replaced by Brundage.

In the end, the 1936 Olympic 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. For Riefenstahl, her association with Hitler would basically end her career in film making.

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, 15 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 kilometres, the flame arrived in Berlin where it was lit in the stadium by Fritz Schilgen.

Several sports were held for the first time at Berlin, notably basketball, canoeing, and handball, although the latter was played as 11-a-side field handball rather than the modern indoor 7-a-side game. Canoeing had been a demonstration sport in 1924. Polo was contested after having been absent from the program in 1928 and 1932, but it would never be contested again at the Olympics.

On the sporting fields, the most significant performances came from Black American Jesse Owens, who put the lie to Hitler’s theories of Aryan supremacy. The sprinter/long jumper won four gold medals, in the 100 metres, 200 metres, 4x100 metre relay, and long jump. It would be 48 years before anyone would equal Owens’ feat in athletics, when Carl Lewis won the same events at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

Hitler once said he wanted all future Olympic Games to be held in Germany, and even envisioned a 400,000 seat Olympic stadium, but that would not occur, and the Games would not return to Germany until 1972 and München. The 1940 Olympics were scheduled for Tokyo but neither those Games nor the 1944 Olympics would be held because of World War II. When one thinks of the Berlin Games, don’t remember Hitler and how he tried to control the 1936 Olympics – remember Jesse Owens and how he did.

Bid process

By 1930, no less than 14 cities had shown interest in hosting the 1936 Summer Olympics: Berlin (Germany), Barcelona (Spain), Alexandria (Egypt), Budapest (Hungary), Buenos Aires (Argentina), Dublin (Ireland), Köln (Cologne) (Germany), Dublin (Ireland), Frankfurt am Main (Germany), Helsinki (Finland), Lausanne (Switzerland), Nürnberg (Germany), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), and Roma (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.


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