Inside the Shame Games: How Hitlers Berlin Olympics plan epically backfired

It was the most controversial sporting tournament in history and it began 85 years ago today (August 1) – the infamous Berlin Olympics.

The event was hijacked by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler who hoped to prove his crackpot theories about the athletic superiority of the Aryan race.

But things didn’t entirely go the dictator’s way.

Here, James Moore reveals 15 fascinating facts about the games…

1. The 10th modern Olympic games had been awarded to Berlin two years before the Nazis rose to power. But despot Adolf Hitler tried to use them for propaganda to show off his regime.

2. In the run-up to games the German Chancellor built a new 110,000 seater Olympic stadium draped in Nazi banners and complete with a personal stand for himself and his flunkies.

3. Although he made a show of temporarily relaxing race laws, Hitler forcibly removed thousands of Roma gypsies from the city, while only a ‘token’ Jewish athlete would be included in the German team.

4. Amid the controversy the Soviet Union and Spain boycotted the games, but 49 nations took part with 4000 athletes competing in 129 events.

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5. Hitler oversaw a grand opening ceremony featuring the Hindenburg airship (which would crash in flames in 1937). A flock of 25,000 pigeons was released but pooped on the crowd when a cannon fired.

6. Though Germany won the most medals, Hitler’s racist ideals were dealt a blow when black US runner Jesse Owens became the top individual medal winner

7. Owens won four gold medals in the 100m, 200m, long jump and 4x100m relay, setting new world and Olympic records along the way.

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8. Nazi minister Albert Speer reported that Hitler was annoyed at the star’s success, especially as the German crowd had cheered him. He reportedly avoided shaking his hand, referring to Owens and other African American athletes as “black auxiliaries” considering them sub-human.

9. A host of Jewish athletes did win medals to spoil the Nazis party too – including Austrian weightlifter Robert Fein who picked up gold.

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10. There were over 200 Brits taking part and among the athletes refusing to give the Nazi salute were the amateur players taking part in the football competition.

11. Britain won 14 medals and four golds in the 50km walk, yachting, 4x400m relay and double scull rowing where Dick Southwood and wounded World War One veteran Jack Beresford came from behind to beat the German pair. He called it: “The sweetest race I ever rowed.

12. Hitler stormed out of the stadium when India beat Germany 8-1 in the hockey final, while Germany’s Dora Ratjen who took part in the women’s high jump was later exposed as being male.

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13. The tournament was the first to be partially televised and telex was used to transmit results.

14. The torch relay of the Olympic flame from Greece made its debut too and bizarrely, Hitler ordered that oak saplings be given to winners.

15. The original athlete's village in Berlin was later used by the Soviet KGB, while the Olympiastadion, used by British forces after World War Two, would go on to be renovated and host the 2006 World Cup Final.

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