Maps & Charts
Glossary: 1936 Olympic Games
The 1936 Olympics were held in a tense, politically charged atmosphere. The Nazi
Party had risen to power in 1933, two years after Berlin was awarded the Games, and
its racist policies led to international debate about a boycott of the Games. An
alternative competition, to be called the "People's Olympics," was scheduled for
Barcelona, Spain, but this plan was abandoned with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil
War. In the end, 49 nations chose to attend the Olympic Games in Berlin.
Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party viewed the Olympics as an
opportunity to advance Nazi ideology. Pamphlets and
speeches about the natural superiority of the Aryan race were
commonplace. The Reich Sports Field, a newly constructed
sports complex that covered 325 acres (131 hectares) and
included four stadiums, was draped in Nazi banners and
The Berlin Olympics featured advancements in media coverage. It was the first
Olympic competition to use telex transmissions of results, and zeppelins were used to
quickly transport newsreel footage to other European cities. The Games were televised
for the first time, transmitted by closed circuit to specially equipped theatres in Berlin.
The 1936 Games also introduced the torch relay.
A runner carrying the Olympic torch into the Reich Sports Field to light
the Olympic flame during the opening ceremonies of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin (click on the image to enlarge).
Some 4,000 athletes competed in 148 events. The
track-and-field competition starred American Jesse Owens,
who won three individual gold medals and a fourth in the 4
100-metre relay. Owens and his teammates won 12 men's
track-and-field gold medals; the success of Owens and the
other African American athletes, referred to as "black
auxiliaries" by the Nazi press, was considered a particular
blow to Hitler's Aryan ideals.
However, the Germans did win the most medals overall, dominating the gymnastics,
rowing, and equestrian events. Hendrika ("Rie") Mastenbroek of The Netherlands won
three gold medals and a silver in the swimming competition. Basketball, an Olympic
event for the first time in 1936, was won by the U.S. team. Canoeing also debuted as an
The 1940 and 1944 Games, scheduled for Helsinki (originally slated for Tokyo) and
London, respectively, were canceled because of World War II.
"Olympic Games" Encyclopædia Britannica Online.