In 1936, Adolf Hitler welcomed the world to Berlin to attend the Olympic Games. Visitors from all over the globe came to see not only a magnificent sporting event, but also a showcase for the newly rebuilt Germany. No effort was spared to present the Third Reich as the world's newest power. Swastikas fluttered next to the Olympic rings from the balconies of freshly painted buildings. Butter was hoarded weeks in advance in order to convince visitors that there were no shortages. There was even a pause in the implementation of anti-Semitic measures. But beneath the surface, the Games of the Eleventh Olympiad of the Modern Era came to act as a crucible for the dark political forces that were gathering to threaten the world.
The 1936 Olympics were nothing less than the most political sporting event of the last century. Far from being a mere meeting of sportsmen and-women, it was an epic clash between proponents of barbarism and those of civilization, both of whom tried to use the Games to promote their own values. Berlin Games is the complete history of those fateful two weeks in August that would foreshadow the bloody conflict soon to come. It is the story of the athletes, from their often humble beginnings to the glory of the Olympic Stadium. It is also an eye-opening tale of the Nazi machine that attempted to use the Games as a model of Aryan superiority and fascist efficiency. Furthermore, it is a devastating indictment of the manipulative figures ' including politicians, diplomats, and Olympic officials ' who vied for power and glory in different sorts of games whose results would have profound consequences for the world.
Drawing on original research and interviews with surviving participants from all over the world, Walters has produced a history filled with intrigue, sport, sex, and infamy. Berlin Games is a definitive and remarkable record of a time that still fascinates and haunts us to this day.
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August 08, 2006
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Excerpt from Berlin Games by Guy Walters
With its grand classical facade, the town hall in Barcelona makes a suitable setting for momentous decisions. Gathered there on the morning of Sunday, 26 April 1931, were twenty men, all of whom had breakfasted well and were ready to discuss the most important matter on the agenda of their two-day meeting-the venue for the 1936 Olympic Games. The men were members of the International Olympic Committee, and this, their twenty-eighth annual meeting, was chaired by the committee's president, the Wfty-Wve-year-old Count Henri de Baillet-Latour. The Belgian had been a member of the IOC since 1903, just nine years after it had been created to establish the Wrst of the modern Olympic Games in Greece in 1896. A former diplomat and a keen horseman, Baillet-Latour had successfully organised the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp, a feat that had been regarded as extraordinary as he had only a year to accomplish it in a country that had been ravaged by war. Tall, with balding white hair and a large but trim moustache bristling under a long nose, Baillet-Latour commanded much respect from his fellow members of the IOC.
Also present were three men who hoped to gain much from the meeting. Their names were State Excellency Dr Theodor Lewald, Dr Karl Ritter von Halt and the Count de Vallellano. Lewald and von Halt were both German members of the IOC, and they felt conWdent that Berlin, after years of lobbying, would be awarded the prize. Nevertheless, Vallellano, a representative of the Spanish Olympic Committee and a powerful Wnancier with his own palace in Madrid, was hopeful that the IOC members would award the 1936 Games to Barcelona.
Although Berlin and Barcelona were the two front-runners for the prize, there were two other potential candidates for host city-Budapest and Rome. After an introduction by Baillet-Latour, the Wrst members to speak were two Italian members of the IOC, General Carlo Montu and Count Bonacossa. To the relief of the Germans and the Spaniard, they told the meeting that 1936 was not the right time for Rome to host the Games, but they begged the committee to consider the city at some future date. The next to speak was the Hungarian, Senator Jules de Muzsa, who instead of lobbying for his capital spoke in favour of Berlin, much to the delight of Lewald and von Halt.