IOC issues apology for tweet on 1936 Berlin Games in Nazi Germany

Dubai: The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has apologised and deleted a tweeted video after receiving criticism for showing footage from the Berlin 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany.

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The 30-second clip from the Olympics account came as part of a series of tweets showing videos from previous editions of the Games that were aimed at marking the one-year countdown to the postponed Tokyo 2020 Games.

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The IOC said its series of short films from various Games was intended to highlight the potential unifying power of the multi-sport event.

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The Berlin 1936 clip featured as part of a tweet reading: “This is turning out to be quite a #ThrowbackThursday already! Berlin 1936 marked the first Olympic Torch Relay to bring the flame to the cauldron. We can’t wait for the next one in Japan. #StrongerTogether,” the clip noted.

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The video featured the lighting of the Games cauldron, with the act completed by athlete Fritz Schilgen, who had not competed at the Berlin Games, but was selected to light the cauldron by German film director Leni Riefenstahl, owing to his Aryan characteristics.

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Riefenstahl directed the Nazi propaganda film about the Games titled Olympia, with the 1936 event having become indelibly associated with the Nazis and the swastika symbol. The video also features crowd images and clips to music, including teams marching into the opening ceremony of the Games.

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The IOC’s video has faced criticism, with the Auschwitz Memorial among those to post comments in response. “For two weeks the Nazi dictatorship camouflaged its racist, militaristic character,” a tweet from the official Auschwitz Memorial account said.

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“It exploited the Games to impress foreign spectators with an image of a peaceful, tolerant Germany. Later, Germany’s expansionism, the persecution of Jews and other ‘enemies of the state’ accelerated,” the tweet continued.

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The IOC maintained that the film series was not intended to be a historic classification of respective Olympic Games. The world governing body highlighted photos of legendary American sprinter Jesse Owens, which featured as part of the video.

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Owens had won gold medals in the 100 metres, 200m, 4x100m relay and long jump events at the 1936 Games, thus debunking Adolf Hitler’s idea of Aryan supremacy. In fact, Owens became friends with German competitor Luz Long, the long jump silver medallist at the Games thus portraying the unifying power of the Games.

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The IOC later issued a second statement, which confirmed the tweet has been deleted and apologised for any offence caused by the post.

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