Olympic Marathon: A Centennial History of the Games' Most Storied Race

By Charlie Lovett | Go to book overview

11
The Games of the XI Olympiad: Berlin, 1936

The Berlin Games of 1936 were the most politically charged Olympic Games in history. The IOC had voted to grant the Games to Berlin in 1931, before Hitler became Chancellor. By the time 1936 arrived, the world situation, as well as the situation in Berlin, had changed completely. Spain was on the brink of civil war; in fact, their team was called home from the Games when the war broke out. Japan had invaded Manchuria, Italy had conquered Ethiopia, and Adolf-Hitler had taken over Germany, turned it into a fascist state, and was prepared to imbue the Olympics with his own philosophies of Aryan supremacy and anti-Semitism. The Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) of the United States narrowly voted to send a team to the 1936 Games. A large contingent had lobbied for a boycott to protest Hitler's policies.

The IOC gave Hitler little leeway in setting the rules of the Games. It insisted, for instance, that Jews be allowed to compete on Germany's team and the teams of any other nation, against the will of the Führer. But Hitler knew that the Olympic Games afforded him a tremendous propaganda opportunity, so he complied with the IOC's demands. The Olympics, he felt, would allow him to demonstrate the strength and efficiency of his fascist state, as well as the physical superiority of his "master race" of Aryans.

The Olympic complex was the largest ever built, with room for 110,000 in the Olympic stadium. Estimates of its cost ranged as high as $30 million. The Opening Ceremonies featured the first Olympic flame to be run by relay all the way from Greece. Richard Straus conducted a massive orchestra. For

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