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25 May 2017

Film "Race" Surprising facts in 1936 Olympic game

The film "Race" features life of Jessie Owens, an Afro-American truck and field athlete who won 4 gold medals in 1936 Berlin Olympic game. It was a time that segregation was legal in US and Nazis ruled Germany.

What surprised me was at that time, there was a boycott movement for joining the game. Jessie Owens was asked to boycott the game by NAACP, prominent advocate group for Black people.

But he went to Berlin to participate in the game along with two Jewish athletes, whom Nazis were reluctant to welcome. AOC, American Olympic Committee decided to let US team participate in although opinion among committee members were split. The film implies it was due to the committee leader who collaborated with Nazi-Germany in exchange of big business deal.

Then in the game, two notorious events occurred. In the long jump competition, Owens fouled the jumping in first two of the 3 tries in qualification match. But his German competitior, Luz Long advised him to step back a foot behind the measurement start point. The he did and passed the qualification to the final. Then he won the gold medal marking the Olympic record. After the awarding ceremony, Owens and Long walked on the truck together holding arms looking like good friends. It was very much anti-Nazis action. A white man and a Black man holding arms together walking. Long stood on the podium raising his right hand in the form of Hitler salute. In addition, in that competition, in the third place, bronze medalist was Japanese, Tajima. Actually Japan had medalists in truck and field competition in 1930's. That is far different from what Japanese truck and field society has been lately.

The other thing was two Jewish American athletes in relay competition was removed from the team just in advance of actual competition. It was due to Nazis demand to promote their anti-semitism ideology in the game. AOC leader who collaborated with Nazis was blackmailed to do so, otherwise, the collaboration would be exposed to the public.

Then Owens became a replacement for one of the two atheletes. Then his team won the relay competition.  

After he got home, he was welcomed in a parade by a million of people on the street in New York. But he was not allowed to enter to a hotel in which a celebration party was held, so he had to go through back door of the hotel.

Kind of surprising stories in that era. 3 years after the Olympic game, Germany started the 2nd world war. Japan became an ally with Germany. 3 years after the war started, Long, who became Owens' friend died in the war, leaving the message to Owen that he wanted Owen to take care of his son.

How dramatic the stories were! How ugly and beautiful the things were!

 

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