Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Jesse Owens Olympics myth

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted
1936 "Adolf Hitler walked out of the 1936 Summer Olympics stadium in Berlin, Germany after African-American athlete Jesse Owens (1913 - 1980) won gold in the 200 metre race. Owens's four gold medals were an eloquent refutation of Hitler's theory of the inferiority of the black races."

So says the story, repeated in many places including here. However, it isn't so. Hitler wasn't at the Olympics that day, and it was probably a story invented by journalists at the time. As the Congressional Gold Medal website says,

"In fact Hitler was absent on the days in question and the German athletes and German public welcomed and praised Owens, just like everyone else." Source

At first, Owens denied the tale to interviewers at Berlin and to reporters on his return home. However, he must have found that the constant denial was a bother and that to claim the 'snub' occurred would work to his advantage.

However, Jesse Owens himself throws some confusion into an already confused question. In his 1970 autobiography, The Jesse Owens Story, Owens himself recounted an opposite but also historically inaccurate variation on the myth – that Hitler had stood up and waved to him ...

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