Blogs > Liberty and Power > Scoreboard Nationalism

Aug 23, 2004 1:04 pm

Scoreboard Nationalism

I've been enjoying both the Olympics and HNN's Olympic history links. One piece that may be of interest to L&P readers is Rick Shenkman's "Adolf Hitler, Jesse Owens and the Olympics Myth of 1936." The myth lives, especially among jingoes. Which brings to mind a provocative note Kevin Michael Grace once penned on the subject:

Ah yes, noble sport triumphed over nasty politics – as it always does. Adolf Hitler's supposed humiliation at the hands (and feet) of Jesse Owens is one of the great myths of the modern age. Funny, the IOC summary doesn't mention which country won the 1936 Summer Olympics. I wonder why. Here is the medal count (top 10 countries only):

Germany 33 26 30
USA 24 20 12
Hungary 10 1 5
Italy 8 9 5
Finland 7 6 6
France 7 6 6
Sweden 6 5 6
Japan 6 4 8
Netherlands 6 4 7
Great Britain 4 7 3

Implicit in the IOC's analysis is the disgusting fascist belief that sporting success proves national superiority. In 1932 in Los Angeles, pre-Adolf, pre-"Aryan" Germany finished a miserable 9th. In 1936, Germany won, easily, despite Jesse Owens. The Berlin Olympiad was used to prove Hitler's theories of Aryan racial superiority, most notably in Leni Riefenstahl's Olympia. As William Shirer wrote,

"Hitler, we who covered the Games had to concede, turned the Olympics into a dazzling propaganda success for his barbarian regime." …

The fascist conflation of sporting triumph and national superiority lives on: in England, whose football hooligans long for a Führer-and in Canada, where our 1972 hockey triumph over the Soviet Union has become the most celebrated national myth of all. How well I remember the shame I felt reading innumerable letters to the editor declaring that Canada's victory in Moscow proved the superiority of our way of life to theirs. And if the Soviets had won instead? What fools. What rubbish.

On a related note, I see that our hoopsters finally demonstrated the superiority of our way of life over someone else's by beating Angola.

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Aeon J. Skoble - 8/23/2004

For some reason, that link doesn't properly direct to the archived blog post, but that is the correct archive URL. I have no idea what the deal is.

Aeon J. Skoble - 8/23/2004

Maybe I'm overly sensitive, but that list of olympic-relevant posts should have included mine: I'm just sayin'.