The Berlin Olympics of 1936 was perhaps the first games in which politics played a significant role. For this reason, it is considered to be one of the most controversial Olympic Games of modern times. But it was not just the politics of the Third Reich that cast it's shadow over the Games - other politicial considerations, particularly with regard to racial tensions, both Jewish and Black, made its mark. Surprisingly, the Jewish question was brought to bear on not only the selection of the German team, but also the American, in what must surely be a surprise to most readers. The long running dispute between "amateur" and "professional" athletes also raises its head. Hilton delves into each of these issues and how they came to bear upon the Games. The organization of the Games is also discussed, including Hitler's dominance of the process.
Of course, the Games is not just backroom politics. After all, it is the world's largest sporting event, and the sporting participants and their endeavors come under scrutiny. The star of the Games was undoubtedly Jesse Owens. But Hilton has also thrown the spotlight on other athletic notables, including the lesser lights of the American track and field team, along with Hendrika Mastenbroek, whose efforts in the pool were largely overlooked, despite winning 3 golds. There is passing comment on the gender controversy between Helen Stephens and Stella Walsh, two track athletes competing for Britain and Poland respectively. It is not just the athlete's sporting endeavors that is discussed by Hilton, but also what became of many of them afterwards.
Some aspects of the author's writing is tedious and repetitive: "And that was the seventh day." "And that was the 8th day" etc... which becomes tiresome after a time. Christopher Hilton has an informal style at times to his writing. While it works for his racing car driver biographies (his books "Ayrton Senna: The Hard Edge of Genuis" and "Alain Prost" are superb) it does not come off so well here. It should have been toned down in my opinion. Nonetheless, this is really a minor bugbear. "Hitler's Olympics" is a good account of the 1936 Berlin Games and is well worth a look for an insight into the personalities, politics and competitive endeavors of one of the most controversial Olympic Games ever. At the conclusion of the book, there is a statistics section, which lists the medal winners of the Games, along with comparisons (where possible) to the 2004 Athens Games. "Hitler's Olympics" also includes an insert of black and white photography.
There are many books on the subject of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, which made it very difficult to choose which one was best. I eventually settled on Christopher Hiltons version, and am very glad i did as it is a great account of one of the most controversial sporting events of all time. Hilton writes in plain english and offers various perspectives of the event from the fans, politicians and athletes themselves. One thing i found very disturbing was that 1930's America treated its jews and black population with the same predujices as National Socialist Germany at that time. I was also shocked to learn that Avery Brundage, head of the American Olympic Committee was an secret nazi sympathiser, who delibrately dropped Jewish athletes Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller to avoid embarrassing Adolf Hitler, by having two jews win gold medals. This to me is a major sliding doors moment and left me asking the question: what if these two had competed and won gold? Surely this would have dispelled Hitlers myth of Aryan supremacy once and for all? It seems the world missed its chance.It is also interesting to read the observations of foreign fans at the event. Many are quick to point out what a magnificent job the nazis had done of organising the event,and how welcoming they were to everyone, yet others comment of feeling the sinister undertones of a country preparing for war below the surface. Little did they know the ruthless efficiency on show at the games would be the same used to exterminate 11 million people, and wage war on countless others in a mere three years time. The 1936 Games proved to be the calm before the storm. Hilton also gives us an insight into the personalities of the nazi hierarchy, and the pathetic infighting and point scoring between the likes of Goering, Goebbels and Ribbentrop. It leads me to question how an entire government could be made up of such vile arrogant, vain and uncultured individuals like the three named above. However the one shining light of the whole episode comes in the form of jesse owens. The german crowd, in the vice like grip of a maniac, cast aside the hate propaganda imposed upon them, and actually acknowledged Owens for his ability and not on his skin colour of skin. In this respect Hitlers racial theories were effectively put to bed, no matter what came three years later. All in all and excellent read for anyone interested in this subject.
I've read this book several times. It's well-researched, comprehensive and very readable. It clears up myths and misconceptions, and gives glimpses into what life was really like for athletes - Germans, Americans, Jews.
My only quibble is with the title. The 1936 Berlin Olympic Games never were 'Hitler's Olympics'. They were independent from the German government. Indeed, Hitler and the Nazis had initially fought against hosting Olympic Games in their country. I imagine the inappropriate title was imposed by the publisher's marketing people.
(At least the title of this book doesn't call the 1936 the 'Nazi Games' like another book does.)