Berlin Germany, 1936

Legacy of the Games

Although the Olympic flame had featured at previous Games, this was the first time the torch arrived at the Olympic Stadium after a relay which carried it from Olympia in Greece. The torch travelled through seven countries at a distance of over 3,000km – Greece, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Czeckoslovakia, Austria and Germany.

The 1936 Games were the first to be broadcast on television. The German Post Office broadcast over 70 hours of coverage to 25 special television viewing rooms, which were set up around Greater Berlin to allow locals to watch the Games free of charge.

There was naturally a great deal of debate and controversy around these Games, as they were held under the aegis of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. Hitler saw the Games as an opportunity to promote his government and his ideals of racial supremacy, and attempted to ban Jews and Blacks from participating. However, after the threat of boycott from other nations, he relented and added one token participant to the German team – Helene Mayer, who had a Jewish father. Despite this, Spain and the Soviet Union did choose to boycott the 1936 Games, as did several individual sportsmen and women. The Spanish government organised a parallel event – the People’s Olympiad, to be held in Barcelona. More than 6,000 athletes from 22 countries were registered to compete at this event, but it was aborted as the Spanish Civil War broke out the day before it was due to start.

As with World War I, the Olympic Games were again affected on the outbreak of World War II. The 1940 and 1944 Games were both cancelled, leaving the 1936 Games as the last to be held until 1948.