Seeds: This year marks the 80th anniversary of the 1936 Olympics held in Berlin, Germany, also commonly known as The Nazi Olympics. When the country was chosen by the International Olympic Committee in 1931 it was meant as a symbol of Germany’s return to the world after the horrors of World War I. However, by 1936, the country was controlled by Adolf Hitler and the whole event became an opportunity for propaganda to show off the dominance of his Aryan athletes.
Core: A few athletes stood in the way of Hitler’s idea of Aryan perfection, including nine Jewish athletes who took home medals. Most notably American Jesse Owens’ success stood in complete opposition to Hitler’s ideals of blond hair, blue eyes, and white skin. Owens was black, making him quite the opposite of the Aryan profile. By the end of the 1936 Olympics, Owens had broken three world records and had won four gold medals.
Skin: Although Germany emerged victorious from the 1936 Olympics, Owens’ high level of success put a damper on Hitler’s pro-Aryan propaganda.
Leaves: Despite Owens’ emergence as a hero from the Olympic Games, his return home to the U.S. was not so luxurious. The country that he represented still did not allow him to sit at the front of the bus. President Franklin D. Roosevelt did not even acknowledge the great athlete’s accomplishments. It was not until 1976, four years before Owens’ death, that President Gerald Ford awarded Owens the Medal of Freedom, the highest honor given to civilians.
Food For Thought: Which Olympic Games were your favorite? Do you have an Olympic hero?