Berlin 1936 Summer Olympics

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Berlin was awarded the olympic summer games in 1936 only a short time before Adolf Hitler and his national socialist party came to power in Germany. The unwillingness against the politics of the German government made many countries consider a boykot of the games in Berlin - among these for example the USA. However, the boycot didn't happen, and the scene was set for Hitler and the nazi's to exploit the enourmous propaganda potential inherent in the olympic games. The prelude to the Berlin games were loaded with political tension especially right up to the opening ceremony when Spain withdrew as a result of the begining of the Spanish Civil War only days before the games began.

The olympic games in Berlin has become famous for Hitler's attempt to prove the superiority of the Arian race. He obviously didn't succeed and the most popular athlete of the games were the afro-american sprinter Jesse Owens who won four gold medals. Jesse Owens became a legend in olympic history and his achievements are among the best in the history of athletics.

The Germans build an impressive olympic arena in Grünewald in the Northern part of the city. Originally the idea was to enlarge the old stadium which had been raised for the cancelled games in 1916 but Hitler dictated that a new grand stadium should be build with a capacity of 100.000 spectators. Among other new structures for the olympics was 150 buildings for the athletes. Sailing competitions were held in Kiel at Germany's Northeastern coast.

The Berlin olympics was the first olympics where the olympic fire was lid in Olympia in Greece with the help of sun beams. It was then given to Greek runner Kyril Kondylis who was the first of 3330 torch carriers taking the fire to Berlin. This first travel with the olympic fire was almost 3200 km long and the fire passed through seven countries before German athlete Fritz Schilgen as the last in line could light the olympic fire in the stadium as part of the opening ceremony.

The Berlin games was also the first games where a kind of television was broadcasted to a number of screens positioned at different locations in the city. For the first time an official film was made about the games in Berlin. The film "Olympia" produced by Leni Riefensthal was however first and foremost an act of propaganda.

The games in Berlin took place in the period from August 1st to the 16th.

Nearly 4100 athletes from 49 countries competed in Berlin - a record high number of participants and more than double the number of athletes participating in the previous games in Los Angeles 1932.

In Berlin there were 129 events in 21 sports. In addition to the programme from the games in Los Angeles 1932 another five sports were added: Basketball, handball, canoe/kayak, football and polo. Among these the three first was part of the olympics for the first time.

Apart from Jesse Owens' impressive victories other great achivements should be mentioned from the Berlin games: In the olympic stadium American sprinter Helen Stephens dominated the short distances, Glenn Morris the decathlon, Jack Lovelock had a world record run on the 1500 m and the Finns dominated the long distances. British rower Jack Beresford won gold in doublesculler and Berlin thereby became the fifth olympic games where Beresford won a medal. Wrestler Kristjan Palusalu won gold in the heavyweight class in both Greco-Roman and Freestyle wrestling. And Norwegian Jacob Thullin Thams won silver in sailing in the 8 m class 12 years after he had won gold in the Chamonix 1924 winter games in ski jumping.

For the first time since 1908 USA was not the best nation as host nation Germany won 33 gold medals against the Americans 24. Hungary was third with ten gold medals.

Follow this link for a detailed and interactive medal standing for Berlin 1936.
The story about the Berlin Olympics 1936 is based on the official Olympic reports and the Olympian Database.
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