Anti-Nazi games protested 1936 Berlin Olympics

German athlete Fritz Schilgen at the 1936 Berlin Olympics torch relay. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

An online archive offers a glimpse of the People’s Olympiad, an unrealized alternative to the 1936 Olympics held in Nazi-ruled Berlin.

Archivists at the Modern Records Centre at the University of Warwick uncovered and digitized programs, letters, and images from the 1936 Barcelona People’s Olympiad, an event set up in opposition to the Summer Olympics held that year in Berlin during the period of Nazi rule.

Olympiad poster
(Credit: Modern Records Centre/U. Warwick)

Despite gaining considerable support, the People’s Olympiad had to be cancelled due to the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War on July 17, 1936, just five days before the Olympiad was due to start.

The online archive, called “Trabajadores: The Spanish Civil War through the eyes of organised labour,” features a publicity poster for the People’s Olympiad, as well as a program, press cuttings, and letters of support.

A total of 6,000 athletes from 22 nations had registered for the People’s Olympiad, including male and female athletes from the UK, the US, the Netherlands, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and French Algeria. Teams made up of political exiles from Germany and Italy had also signed up.

The government of the French Peoples’ Front had granted 500,000 Francs for the participation of the French delegation.

(Credit: U. Warwick)

The People’s Olympiad was due to take place between July 22 and 26, 1936. Alongside more traditional events such as swimming and boxing, the programs also list chess and folk dancing.

The documents are part of more than 13,000 pages from the Trades Union Congress files relating to the Spanish Civil War. Staff at the University of Warwick’s Modern Records Centre have taken 13 months to scan and index all the material.

Source: University of Warwick (Originally published July 26, 2012)