The 1936 Berlin Olympics brought together athletes, politicians, socialites, journalists, soldiers and artists from all over the world. But behind the scenes, they were a dress rehearsal for the horrors of the forthcoming conflict.
Hitler had secretly decided the Games would showcase Nazi prowess and the unwitting athletes became helpless pawns in his sinister political game. Berlin Games explores the machinations of a wide cast of characters, including sexually incontinent Nazis, corrupt Olympic officials, transvestite athletes and the mythic figure of Jesse Owens. By illuminating the dark, controversial recesses of the world's greatest sporting spectacle, Guy Walters throws shocking new light on the whole of Europe's troubled pre-war period.
An iconic cast of athletes and political figures shares an international stage in this complex and engaging account of the planning, execution, and aftermath of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Demonstrating an impressive and well-controlled sense of scope, Walters transitions between the International Olympic Committee debates regarding Germany's political situation, the individual stories of certain key athletes, and the world-wide perception of Hitler's regime as seen through the contemporary press. The pervasive and sometimes cunningly subtle anti-Semitism that pervaded all aspects of 1930s Germany provides a provocative thread that Walters follows diligently, teasing out the truth behind the Nazi propaganda and exploring the motivations of part-Jewish German athletes, such as Helene Meyer, to conform, at least outwardly, to Nazi ideology. Walters also follows the legendary Jesse Owens, debunking some of the myths surrounding his performance in the '36 games (Hitler probably did not personally snub Owens, for example) and replacing them with the equally impressive reality of his accomplishments. Throughout, Walters lays on the pathos without falling into melodrama or sports cliche. Instead, his rigorous journalism relies on succinct summations of his characters' histories, which prove both even-handed and generous. Walters strays from objectivism only in his tireless maligning of the Nazi agenda, providing the work a righteous momentum.