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1936 Summer Olympics

Games of the XI Olympiad, celebrated in Berlin in 1936

Top 10 1936 Summer Olympics related articles

Games of the XI Olympiad
Host cityBerlin, Germany
MottoI Call the Youth of the World!
(German: Ich rufe die Jugend der Welt!)
Athletes3,963 (3,632 men, 331 women)
Events129 in 19 sports (25 disciplines)
Opening1 August
Closing16 August
Opened by
Los Angeles 1932 London 1948
Tokyo 1940
Garmisch 1936 St. Moritz 1948
Garmisch 1940

The 1936 Summer Olympics (German: Olympische Sommerspiele 1936), officially known as the Games of the XI Olympiad (German: Spiele der XI. Olympiade), was an international multi-sport event held in 1936 in Berlin, Germany. Berlin won the bid to host the Games over Barcelona, Spain, on 26 April 1931, at the 29th IOC Session in Barcelona. It marked the second and most recent time the International Olympic Committee gathered to vote in a city that was bidding to host those Games.

To outdo the Los Angeles games of 1932, Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler had a new 100,000-seat track and field stadium built, as well as six gymnasiums and many other smaller arenas. The games were the first to be televised, and radio broadcasts reached 41 countries.[2] Filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl was commissioned by the German Olympic Committee to film the Games for $7 million.[2] Her film, titled Olympia, pioneered many of the techniques now common in the filming of sports.

Hitler saw the Games as an opportunity to promote his government and ideals of racial supremacy and antisemitism, and the official Nazi party paper, the Völkischer Beobachter, wrote in the strongest terms that Jews should not be allowed to participate in the Games.[3][4] German Jewish athletes were barred or prevented from taking part by a variety of methods,[5] although some women swimmers from the Jewish sports club, Hakoah Vienna, did take part. Jewish athletes from other countries seem to have been side-lined in order not to offend the Nazi regime.[6]

Total ticket revenues were 7.5 million Reichsmark, generating a profit of over one million ℛℳ. The official budget did not include outlays by the city of Berlin (which issued an itemized report detailing its costs of 16.5 million ℛℳ) or outlays of the German national government (which did not make its costs public, but is estimated to have spent US$30 million).[7]

Jesse Owens won four gold medals in the sprint and long jump events and became the most successful athlete to compete in Berlin while Germany was the most successful country overall with 89 medals total, with the United States coming in second with 56 medals. These were the final Olympics under the presidency of Henri de Baillet-Latour and the final Olympic Games for 12 years due to the disruption of the Second World War. The next Olympic Games were held in 1948 (the Winter in Switzerland and then the Summer in London).

1936 Summer Olympics Intro articles: 15

Host city selection

At the 28th IOC Session, held in 1930, in Berlin, 14 cities announced their intention to bid to host the 1936 Summer Olympic Games. The bidding for these Olympic Games was the first to be contested by IOC members casting votes for their own favorite host cities.[8]

The vote occurred in 1931, at the 29th IOC Session held in Barcelona that year. The vote was held days after the declaration of the Second Spanish Republic and during the final years of the Weimar Republic. This was two years before Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party rose to power in Germany, in 1933.

By the time of the 1931 IOC Session, only Barcelona and Berlin were left in contention for the delegate vote. Rome withdrew on the eve of the vote. How other candidates withdrew is unclear, as is the seriousness of intent behind all of the listed candidate cities. The other cities who announced an intention to hold the games, but which withdrew from the race, were Alexandria, Budapest, Buenos Aires, Cologne, Dublin, Frankfurt, Helsinki, Lausanne, Montevideo, Nuremberg, Rio de Janeiro, and Rome. Helsinki, Rome, Barcelona and Rio de Janeiro would go on to host the Olympic Games in 1952, 1960, 1992 and 2016, respectively.[9]

The selection procedure marked the second and final time that the International Olympic Committee would gather to vote in a city which was bidding to host those Games. The only other time this occurred was at the inaugural IOC Session in Paris, France, on 24 April 1894. Then, Athens and Paris were chosen to host the 1896 and 1900 Games, respectively.

The city of Barcelona held a multi-sport festival at the same time as the 1931 IOC Session. This included a football match between Spain and the Irish Free State, which was watched by 70,000 spectators. The political uncertainty around the declaration of the Second Spanish Republic, which had happened days before the IOC Session, was likely to have been a greater factor in the decision taken by delegates regarding the host city for 1936. Berlin prevailed.

After the Nazis took control of Germany, and began instituting antisemitic policies, the IOC held private discussions among its delegates about changing the decision to hold the Games in Berlin. However, Hitler's regime gave assurances that Jewish athletes would be allowed to compete on a German Olympic team.[10] One year before the games, the American Olympic Association suggested to change the venue to Rome; they saw Rome as a good replacement because Rome was originally selected to hold the 1908 Summer Olympics.[11]

1936 Summer Olympics bidding result[9]
City Country Round 1
Berlin  Germany 43
Barcelona Spain 16
Abstentions 8
Withdrawn bids
Alexandria Egypt 0
Budapest Hungary 0
Buenos Aires Argentina 0
Cologne  Germany 0
Dublin Ireland 0
Frankfurt  Germany 0
Helsinki Finland 0
Lausanne Switzerland 0
Montevideo Uruguay 0
Nuremberg  Germany 0
Rio de Janeiro Brazil 0
Rome Italy 0

1936 Summer Olympics Host city selection articles: 34


Hans von Tschammer und Osten, as Reichssportführer (i.e., head of the Deutscher Reichsbund für Leibesübungen (DRL), the Reich Sports Office), played a major role in the structure and organisation of the Olympics. He promoted the idea that the use of sports would harden the German spirit and instill unity among German youth. At the same time he also believed that sports was a "way to weed out the weak, Jewish, and other undesirables".[12]

Von Tschammer trusted the details of the organisation of the games to Theodor Lewald and Carl Diem, the former president and secretary of the Deutscher Reichsausschuss für Leibesübungen, the forerunner of the Reich Sports Office. Among Diem's ideas for the Berlin Games was the introduction of the Olympic torch relay between Greece and the host nation.

Runners carrying the Olympic Flame

Torch relay

The 1936 Summer Olympics torch relay was the first of its kind,[13] following on from the reintroduction of the Olympic Flame at the 1928 Games. It pioneered the modern convention of moving the flame via a relay system from Greece to the Olympic venue. Leni Riefenstahl filmed the relay for the 1938 film Olympia.

The sportive, knightly battle awakens the best human characteristics. It doesn't separate, but unites the combatants in understanding and respect. It also helps to connect the countries in the spirit of peace. That's why the Olympic Flame should never die.

— Adolf Hitler, commenting on the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games.[14]


The games were the first to have live television coverage. The German Post Office, using equipment from Telefunken, broadcast over 70 hours of coverage to special viewing rooms throughout Berlin and Potsdam and a few private TV sets, transmitting from the Paul Nipkow TV Station. They used three different types of TV cameras, so blackouts would occur when changing from one type to another.[15]

Olympic village

The 1936 Olympic village was located at Elstal in Wustermark (at 52°32′10.78″N 13°0′33.20″E / 52.5363278°N 13.0092222°E / 52.5363278; 13.0092222), on the western edge of Berlin. The site, which is 30 kilometres (19 mi) from the centre of the city, consisted of one and two-floor dormitories, a large dining hall, Dining Hall of the Nations, a swimming facility, gymnasium, track, and other training facilities. Its layout was designed and construction overseen by appointed village commander Hauptmann Wolfgang Fürstner beginning in 1934.[16] Less than two months before the start of the Olympic Games, Fürstner was abruptly demoted to vice-commander, and replaced by Oberstleutnant Werner von Gilsa, commander of the Berlin Guard-Regiment. The official reason for the replacement was that Fürstner had not acted "with the necessary energy" to prevent damage to the site as 370,000 visitors passed through it between 1 May and 15 June. However, this was just a cover story to explain the sudden demotion of the half-Jewish officer.[17] The 1935 Nuremberg Laws, passed during the period Fürstner was overseeing the Olympic Village, had classified him as a Jew, and as such, the career officer was to be expelled from the Wehrmacht.[18] Two days after the conclusion of the Berlin Olympics, vice-commander Fürstner had been removed from active Wehrmacht duty,[19] and committed suicide because he realised he had no future under the Nazis.[17]

After the completion of the Olympic Games, the village was repurposed for the Wehrmacht into the Olympic Döberitz Hospital (German: Olympia-Lazarett Döberitz), and Army Infantry School (German: Heeres-Infanterieschule), and was used as such through the Second World War. In 1945 it was taken over by the Soviet Union and became a military camp of the union occupation forces. Late 20th-century efforts were made to restore parts of the former village, but little progress was made. More recently, the vast majority of the land of the Olympic village has been managed by the DKB Foundation, with more success; efforts are being made to restore the site into a living museum. The dormitory building used by Jesse Owens, Weissen House, has been fully restored, with the gymnasium and swimming hall partially restored. Seasonally, tours are given daily to small groups and students.[20]

The site remains relatively unknown even in Germany, but some tournaments are held at the site in an effort to boost knowledge of the venues.[21]

1936 Summer Olympics Organization articles: 22


Twenty-two venues were used for the 1936 Summer Olympics. Many were located in the Reich Sportsfeld complex.

Sailing was held in the Bay of Kiel, which would serve as the sailing venue for the 1972 Summer Olympics held in Munich.[22] The Olympic Stadium would later be part of two FIFA World Cups and then host an IAAF World Championships in Athletics along with undergoing a renovation in the early 2000s to give new life to the stadium. Avus Motor Road (AVUS) was started in 1907, but was not completed until 1921 due to World War I.[23] The track was rebuilt for the 1936 Games.[23] AVUS continued being used after World War II though mainly in Formula 2 racing.[23] The German Grand Prix was last held at the track in 1959.[23] Dismantling of the track first took place in 1968 to make way for a traffic crossing for touring cars that raced there until 1998.[23]

BSV 92 Field was first constructed in 1910 for use in football, handball, athletics, and tennis.[24] The Reich Sports Field, which consisted of the Olympic Stadium, the Dietrich Ecekrt Open-Air Theatre, the Olympic Swimming Stadium, Mayfield, the Hockey Stadiums, the Tennis Courts, and the Haus des Deutschen Sports, was planned for the aborted 1916 Summer Olympics, but was not completed until 1934.[25] Mayfield was the last venue completed prior to the 1936 Games in April 1936.[25] Deutschland Hall was opened in 1935.[26] Mommenstadion opened in 1930.[27] Basketball was held outdoors at the request of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA).[28][29] The tennis courts were used, which turned to mud during heavy rain at the final.[28] The K-1 1000 m canoeing final was also affected by heavy rain at Grünau that included thunder and lightning.[30] During World War II, Deutschlandhalle suffered heavy aerial bombing damage.[26] After the second world war, the hall was reconstructed and expansion has continued as of 2010.[26] The Deutschlandhalle in Berlin, where the boxing, weightlifting, and wrestling events took place, was used as venue, but was increasingly closed for repairs, last in 2009 when it was close for repairs, It was demolished in December 2011. the Mommsenstadion was renovated in 1987 and was still in use in 2010.[27]

The Olympic Stadium was used as an underground bunker in World War II as the war went against Nazi Germany's favor.[31] The British reopened the Stadium in 1946 and parts of the stadium were rebuilt by the late 1950s.[32] As a host venue for the 1974 FIFA World Cup, the stadium had its roof partially covered on the North and South Stands.[33] British occupation of the stadium ended in 1994.[34] Restoration was approved in 1998 with a contractor being found to do the work in 2000.[35] This restoration ran from 2000 to 2004.[36] The modernized Stadium reopened in 2004,[37] with a capacity of 74,228 people. The seating has been changed greatly, especially the sections that were reserved for German and international political leaders. The stadium now plays host to Hertha BSC (1963–present), and is expected to remain the home of the team for years to come. For the 2006 FIFA World Cup, the venue was where the final took place between Italy and France.[38] Three years later, the venue hosted the World Athletics Championships.[39]

Venue Sports Capacity Ref.
Avus Motor Road Athletics (marathon, 50 km walk), Cycling (road) Not listed [40]
BSV Field Cycling (track), Handball 1,000 [41]
Dietrich Eckart Open-Air Theatre Gymnastics 20,000 [42]
Döberitz Equestrian (eventing), Modern pentathlon (riding) Not listed [43]
Deutschlandhalle Boxing, Weightlifting, Wrestling 8,630 [44]
Berlin-Grünau Regatta Course Canoeing, Rowing 19,000 [45]
Haus des Deutschen Sports Fencing, Modern pentathlon (fencing) 1200 [46][47]
Hertha BSC Field Football 35,239 [48]
Hockeystadion Field hockey 18,000 [42]
Hockeystadion#2 Field hockey 1600 [42]
Kiel Bay Sailing Not listed [49]
Mayfield Equestrian (dressage), Polo 75,000 [42]
Mommsenstadion Football 15,005 [48]
Olympic Stadium Athletics, Equestrian (jumping), Football (final), Handball (final) 100,000 [42]
Olympic Swimming Stadium Diving, Modern pentathlon (swimming), Swimming, Water polo 20,000 [50]
Police Stadium Handball Not listed [51]
Poststadion Football 45,000 [48]
Ruhleben Modern pentathlon (shooting) Not listed [52]
Tennis Courts Basketball, Fencing (épée) 832 [53]
Tennis Stadium Basketball Not listed [53]
Wannsee Golf Course Modern pentathlon (running) Not listed [54]
Wannsee Shooting Range Shooting Not listed [54]

1936 Summer Olympics Venues articles: 54


Opening ceremony

Parade of nations

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Segments of the opening ceremony.

The opening ceremony was held at the Berlin Olympic Stadium on 1 August 1936. A flyover by the German airship Hindenburg flying the Olympic flag behind it was featured early in the opening ceremonies.[55] After the arrival of Hitler and his entourage, the parade of nations proceeded, each nation with its own unique costume. As the birthplace of the Olympics, Greece entered the stadium first. The host nation, Germany, entered last. Some nations' athletes purposefully gave the Nazi salute as they passed Hitler. Others gave the Olympic salute (a similar one, given with the same arm), or a different gesture entirely, such as hats-over-hearts, as the United States and China did. All nations lowered their flags as they passed the Führer, save the United States, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and the Commonwealth of the Philippines. (The United States doing this was explained later as an army regulation.[55]) Writer Thomas Wolfe, who was there, described the opening as an "almost religious event, the crowd screaming, swaying in unison and begging for Hitler. There was something scary about it; his cult of personality."[56]

After a speech by the president of the German Olympic Committee, the games were officially declared open by Adolf Hitler who quoted (in German): "I proclaim open the Olympic Games of Berlin, celebrating the Eleventh Olympiad of the modern era."[55] Hitler opened the games from his own box, on top of others. Writer David Wallechinsky has commented on the event, saying, "This was his event, he wanted to be glorified."[56]

Although the Olympic flame was first introduced in the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam, this was the first instance of the torch relay. The Nazis invented the concept of the torch run from ancient Olympia to the host city. Thus as swimmer Iris Cummings Critchell later related, "once the athletes were all in place, the torch bearer ran in through the tunnel to go around the stadium". A young man chosen for this task ran up the steps all the way up to the top of the stadium there to light a cauldron which would start this eternal flame that would burn through the duration of the games.[56][57]

But in spite of all the pomp and ceremony, and the glorification of Hitler, all did not go according to plan, and there was a rather humorous aspect in the opening ceremony. U.S. distance runner Louis Zamperini, one of the athletes present, related it on camera:[56]

They released 25,000 pigeons, the sky was clouded with pigeons, the pigeons circled overhead, and then they shot a cannon, and they scared the poop out of the pigeons, and we had straw hats, flat straw hats, and you could heard the pitter-patter on our straw hats, but we felt sorry for the women, for they got it in their hair, but I mean there were a mass of droppings, and I say it was so funny...


129 events in 25 disciplines, comprising 19 sports, were part of the Olympic program in 1936. The number of events in each discipline is noted in parentheses.

Basketball and handball made their debut at the Olympics, both as outdoor sports. Handball did not appear again on the program until the next German summer Olympic games in Munich in 1972. Demonstration sports were Art, Baseball, Gliding, Wushu and Kabaddi.

Medal count

Volmari Iso-Hollo, 3000 m steeplechase, 1936 Summer Olympics

The ten nations that won most medals at the 1936 Games.

  *   Host nation (Germany)

1  Germany*33263089
2  United States24201256
3  Hungary101516
4  Italy89522
5  Finland76619
7  Sweden65920
8  Japan64818
9  Netherlands64717
10  Great Britain47314
Totals (10 nations)1118891290

Notable achievements

Germany had a successful year in the equestrian events, winning individual and team gold in all three disciplines, as well as individual silver in dressage. In the cycling match sprint finals, the German Toni Merkens fouled Arie van Vliet of the Netherlands. Instead of being disqualified, he was fined 100 ℛℳ and kept his gold. German gymnasts Konrad Frey and Alfred Schwarzmann both won three gold medals.

American Jesse Owens won four gold medals in the sprint and long jump events. His German competitor Luz Long offered Owens advice after he almost failed to qualify in the long jump and was posthumously awarded the Pierre de Coubertin medal for sportsmanship. Mack Robinson, brother of Jackie Robinson, won the 200-meter sprint silver medal behind Owens by 0.4 seconds. Although he did not win a medal, future American war hero Louis Zamperini, lagging behind in the 5,000-meter final, made up ground by clocking a 56-second final lap. This effort caught the attention of German leader Adolf Hitler who personally commended Zamperini on his speed. In one of the most dramatic 800-meter races in history, American John Woodruff won gold after slowing to jogging speed in the middle of the final in order to free himself from being boxed in.[58] Glenn Edgar Morris, a farm boy from Colorado, won gold in the decathlon. Rower Jack Beresford won his fifth Olympic medal in the sport, and his third gold medal. The U.S. eight-man rowing team from the University of Washington won the gold medal, coming from behind to defeat the Germans and Italians with Hitler in attendance.

Obverse of John Woodruff's gold medal for winning the 800 metres.
Reverse of John Woodruff's gold medal while on display at Hillman Library, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA.

Jack Lovelock of New Zealand won the 1500 m gold medal, coming through a strong field to win in world record time of 3:47.8.

In the marathon, the ethnic Koreans Sohn Kee-chung and Nam Sung-yong won one gold and one bronze medal; as Korea was annexed by Japan at the time, they were running for Japan.

India won the gold medal in the field hockey event once again (they won the gold in all Olympics from 1928 to 1956), defeating Germany 8–1 in the final. However, Indians were officially considered Indo-Aryans by the Germans so there was no controversy regarding the victory. Rie Mastenbroek of the Netherlands won three gold medals and a silver in swimming. Estonia's Kristjan Palusalu won gold medals in both Men's heavyweight Wrestling styles, marking the last time Estonia competed as an independent nation in the Olympics until 1992.

After winning the middleweight class, the Egyptian weightlifter Khadr El Touni continued to compete for another 45 minutes, finally exceeding the total of the German silver medalist by 35 kg. The 20-year-old El Touni lifted a total of 387.5 kg, crushing two German world champions and breaking the then-Olympic and world records, while the German lifted 352.5 kg. Furthermore, El Touni had lifted 15 kg more than the light-heavyweight gold medalist, a feat only El Touni has accomplished. El Touni's new world records stood for 13 years. Fascinated by El Touni's performance, Adolf Hitler rushed down to greet this human miracle. Prior to the competition, Hitler was said to have been sure that Rudolf Ismayr and Adolf Wagner would embarrass all other opponents. Hitler was so impressed by El Touni's domination in the middleweight class that he ordered a street named after him in Berlin's Olympic village.[59] The Egyptian held the No. 1 position on the IWF list of history's 50 greatest weightlifters for 60 years, until the 1996 Games in Atlanta where Turkey's Naim Süleymanoğlu surpassed him to top the list.

Italy's football team continued their dominance under head coach Vittorio Pozzo, winning the gold medal in these Olympics between their two consecutive World Cup victories (1934 and 1938). Much like the successes of German athletes, this triumph was claimed by supporters of Benito Mussolini's regime as a vindication of the superiority of the fascist system. Austria won the silver; a controversial win after Hitler called for a rematch of the quarterfinals match to discount Peru's 4–2 win over Austria. The Peruvian national Olympic team refused to play the match again and withdrew from the games. In the quarter-finals of the football tournament, Peru beat Austria 4–2 in extra-time. Peru rallied from a two-goal deficit in the final 15 minutes of normal time. During extra-time, Peruvian fans allegedly ran onto the field and attacked an Austrian player. In the chaos, Peru scored twice and won, 4–2. However, Austria protested and the International Olympic Committee ordered a replay without any spectators. The Peruvian government refused and their entire Olympic squad left in protest as did Colombia.[60]

A remarkable story from the track and field competition was the gold medal won by the US women's 4 × 100 m relay team. The German team were the heavy favourites, but dropped the baton at one hand-off. Of notable interest on the US team was Betty Robinson.[61] She was the first woman ever awarded an Olympic gold medal for track and field, winning the women's 100 m event at the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam.[61] In 1931, Robinson was involved in a plane crash, and was severely injured. Her body was discovered in the wreckage and it was wrongly thought that she was dead. She was placed in the trunk of a car and taken to an undertaker, where it was discovered that she was not dead, but in a coma. She awoke from the coma seven months later, although it was another six months before she could get out of a wheelchair, and two years before she could walk normally again.[62] Due to the length of her recovery, she had to miss participating in the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, in her home country.

Participating nations

A total of 49 nations attended the Berlin Olympics, up from 37 in 1932. Five nations made their first official Olympic appearance at these Games: Afghanistan, Bermuda, Bolivia, Costa Rica and Liechtenstein.

Participating National Olympic Committees

1936 Summer Olympics Games articles: 119