Sport and Politics- 1936 Olympische Sommerspiele


In 1936, the Olympics were held in Berlin, Nazi Germany. Adolf Hitler was in power and saw the games as an opportunity to promote the anti-semitic, homophobic and racist propaganda of his fascist party. German Jews were barred from participating in any event, and the Nazi Party’s publication- the Völkischer Beobachter- stated that Jews would not be allowed to compete under any circumstances. Unfortunately, other countries (notably the US) sidelined their Jewish athletes in an effort to maintain a civil relationship with Germany. Not only this, but racism also played a key part in the selection of team members- the German team was entirely made up of Caucasian athletes.

However, Jesse Owens- a black American won many medals during the Olympics. On the first day of competition, August 1, 1936, Hitler shook hands with only the German victors and then left the stadium. Henri de Baillet-Latour, the President of the International Olympic Committee, insisted that Hitler greet every medalist or none at all. Hitler opted for the latter and skipped all further medal presentations. Despite not being recognised by the host country, he was very successful and later became a symbol of resistance against the Nazi regime.

Politics has long been linked with sport; ideologies, racial equality, gender equality, and sexual orientation have all been protested or represented at various sporting events, and even a seemingly innocent decision such as choosing the host country for the next World Cup is a complex decision affected by layers of factors and economic influences.

In any case, sport is a demonstration of strength: this surely reveals the extent to which it can be manipulated for nationalistic, religious and political purposes.

Do you think it’s actually possible to have professional sport separate from politics?

By NellieBly:the2nd, Graveney School

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