Jesse Owens Wins Olympic Gold
The 3rd of August 1936 AD
The 1936 Berlin Olympics were used by Nazi Germany to showcase the country as peaceful, organised and technically advanced; and the German authorities hoped that their stance on the supposed superiority of the Aryan race would be vindicated in the sporting competition. Happily that latter aim was torpedoed by, for example, a number of Jewish athletes from Hungary and other nations winning medals; but above all by Jesse Owens, who took an unprecedented four golds in the track and field events.
Owens won his first gold in the 100m on August 3. He would go on to win the 200m, the Long Jump, and be part of the winning 4 x 100m relay team. Hitler’s vision of Aryan racial superiority was exposed as nonsense. It is now largely forgotten that British India managed to land a metaphorical blow on the Nazi visage by fielding a hockey team that was a mix of European- and Asian-origin players including the great Dhyan Chand, humiliating Germany 8 – 1 in the final.
What Owens achieved on a personal level is too often equated to good liberal USA defeats bad fascist Germany, a partial truth at best. Only 18 black athletes represented the USA at the games; and that was a vast improvement on the numbers at the preceding Los Angeles Olympiad. Mystery still surrounds the decision not to use two American Jewish athletes who at the last minute were withdrawn from the men’s the 4 x 100m team, supposedly to avoid ‘embarrassing’ Hitler. And as Owens himself later pointed out, President Roosevelt never even sent him a congratulatory telegram. When he attended a ticker-tape parade in New York, segregation meant Owens was only allowed to use the freight elevator at the Waldorf-Astoria.
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