1 August 1936
|This photograph shows an Olympic torch bearer running through Berlin, passing by the Brandenburg Gate, shortly before the opening ceremony on 1 August 1936. (US National Archives).|
Nazi Propaganda: On August 1, 1936, Hitler opens the XIth Olympiad. Musical fanfares directed by the famous composer Richard Strauss announce Hitler's arrival to the largely German (and pre-television) crowd. Hundreds of athletes in opening day regalia march into the stadium, team by team in alphabetical order. Inaugurating a new Olympic ritual, a lone runner arrives bearing a torch carried by relay from the site of the ancient Games in Olympia, Greece.
Forty-nine athletic teams from around the world compete in the Berlin Olympics, more than in any previous Olympics. Germany fields the largest team with 348 athletes. The US team is the second largest, with 312 members, including 18 African-Americans such as Jesse Owens. American Olympic Committee President Avery Brundage leads the US delegation, which is the only participating country to not dip its flag to the Fuhrer and, along with the British, not salute him. The Soviet Union does not participate in the Berlin Games.
The Games become a propaganda masterstroke by the Nazis. Director Leni Riefenstahl choreographs the event and films numerous competitions for posterity. In 1938, she releases two documentaries - "Olympia, Festival of Beauty" and "Olympia: Festival of the Nations" - which both introduce and perfect such classic techniques as slow-motion photography of sports events. The highly stylized films are still considered classics of the documentary genre and in some respects anticipate the entire film noir genre.
There are some who consider these still, to this day, to be among the greatest, most artistic and most influential documentaries of all time, and without the blatant political connotations of Riefenstahl's other classic documentary, "Triumph of the Will." Others, though, fault the films for various sins, such as racism, a political agenda, and elements of filmmaking that take them out of the realm of documentaries altogether.
The use of the lone runner to light the Olympic torch, together with the journey of the flame from Greece, is one of the few relics of the Nazi era still in active use today.
Future History: Yves Saint Laurent is born in Oran, Algeria, then a French possession. He becomes a top fashion designer and passes away in 2008.
|Adolf Hitler and Leni Riefenstahl at the time of the 1936 Olympic Games.|
Those unfamiliar with Leni Riefenstahl's "Olympia" may find the below video interesting. It incorporates snippets from the film with a performance by German band Rammstein in 1998.
8-9 November 1923: Beer Hall Putsch
December 20, 1924: Hitler Leaves Prison
September 18, 1931: Geli Raubal Commits Suicide
November 8, 1932: Roosevelt is Elected
30 January 1933: Hitler Takes Office
February 27, 1933: Reichstag Fire
March 23, 1933: The Enabling Act
June 20, 1934: Hitler Plans the Night of the Long Knives
June 30, 1934: Night of the Long Knives
August 1, 1936: Opening of the Berlin Olympics
September 30, 1938: The Munich Agreement
November 9, 1938: Kristallnacht
August 1, 1939: Flight Tests of B-17 Flying Fortress
August 2, 1939: Einstein and the Atom Bomb
August 7, 1939: Goering Tries to Broker Peace
August 14, 1939: Hitler Decides To Attack Poland
August 15, 1939: U-Boats Put To Sea
August 16, 1939: Incident at Danzig
August 20, 1939: Battle of Khalkhin Gol
August 22, 1939: Hitler Tips His Hand
August 23, 1939: Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact
August 25, 1939: Hitler Postpones Invasion of Poland
August 27, 1939: First Jet Flight
August 31, 1939: The Gleiwitz Operation