Friday, June 08, 2012

Olympics Past

For more of this series, click the 'Olympics' tag at the bottom.
  • In 1936, the winter Olympics were held in a German village called Garmisch (raise your hand if you've been there).  The run up to the games featured worries that the Germans wouldn't allow Jewish athletes to compete.  Jews living in America tried to organize a boycott, as far as I know the first serious attempt to use Olympic boycotts for political reasons.  The Germans heavily censored news and suppressed any negative coverage.  As to the actual events, it sounds like alpine skiing came of age at these games.  The Brits won the gold in hockey, upsetting the Canadians.  It turned out that a large number of the British team lived and played elsewhere but they were still eligible.  This practice is now very, very common.  I love all of the pictures of the outdoor skating.  We won't go back to that, which, from a visual standpoint, is a shame.
  • Germany also hosted the 1936 summer games, in the city of Berlin.  The IOC worked to move the games away from the Nazis but were unable to do so.  Especially since the winter games in Garmisch had gone very well.  These were the famous Jesse Owens' games as he showed up any talk of 'inferior races' and won four gold medals.  For these games, the torch was lit by the sun in Olympia, Greece and relayed to Germany.  I don't know if they still use a solar light.  Canoeing made its debut and there is a picture of the tandem bike winners.  Do they still do that?
  • The 1940 summer games were scheduled for Tokyo and the winter games for Sapporo, Japan, but, well, that didn't work out.  After war broke out with China, the games were withdrawn and St Moritz was proposed.  That didn't work out either so they decided to go back to Garmisch, Germany.  Well, that didn't work out either.  World War Two broke out and the whole thing fell apart.  The book doesn't say anything about the 1944 games.  They never took place and I don't know if any planning even took place.  The world had other things to worry about.
  • The games resumed in 1948, with the winter games in St Moritz, Switzerland.  The world was still poor and travel restrictions were in place so attendance was down.  Slalom and downhill skiing were included as full fledged events for the first time.  A demonstration was held for 'military patrol competition'.  The IOC was not happy with this.  They also had a demonstration for a 'winter pentathlon' which included cross-country skiing, shooting, downhill skiing, fencing and horse riding.  Sadly, it wasn't successful. The US somehow sent two hockey teams, one from the official Olympic committee and one from the Amateur Hockey Association.  The IOC tried to ban the amateurs but there was nothing in the rules to keep them out.  It sounds like they quickly changed the rule book and retroactively disqualified them.
  • The 1948 summer games were held in London.  The book says this was because their facilities were largely intact but I would think that the US would have been in even better shape.  London didn't build an Olympic village; instead the athletes were housed in military barracks.  Germany and Japan were kept out and the USSR couldn't compete because they didn't have IOC membership.  The Brits relayed the torch from Greece but carefully routed away from German soil.  The star of the games was a Dutch woman named Fanny Blankers-Koen who won four gold medals at the age of 30.  She was nicknamed 'the flying housewife' as she had two children.  The book makes the point that these were the first summer Olympics in 12 years, most of that in her athletic prime.  There is a picture of a Danish swimmer who had to be rescued when she fainted during the 400 meter freestyle. 

1 comment:

DD4 said...

My hand is 'up.' I've been to Garmisch three times and would return in a heart-beat if it were possible.