On This Day, August 3

Posted on 3rd Aug 2012 by ian under On This Day | No Comments »

On this day in 1936, Jesse Owens won the 100m sprint at the Berlin Olympics.  Owens won four Gold Medals at the Games, including long jump and the story goes that Hitler refused to shake the hand of a black man.  That’s only partially true.  On the first day of the Games, Hitler only shook the hands of the German medal winners.  When told he also had to shake the other winners hands in future, or shake none at all, he opted for the latter option.  In private Hitler said that blacks should be banned from future competition because they had the advantage of jungle primitiveness.  After the Games, Owens said, “Hitler didn’t snub me, it was FDR who snubbed me.  The president didn’t even send me a telegram.”  In many parts of America, black people didn’t have the same rights as whites and after a ticker-tape parade through the streets of New York, he was forced to ride the service elevator to the reception at the Waldorf-Astoria.

The bottom photo is Owens with German sprinter, ‘Lutz’ Long, who won Silver – he was posthumously awarded the Pierre de Coubertin medal for the spirit of sportsmanship.  He gave Owens advice on technique that allowed him to take Gold.  He was also the first to congratulate Owens, posing for photographs and walking arm-in-arm to the dressing room. Owens said, “It took a lot of courage for him to befriend me in front of Hitler… You can melt down all the medals and cups I have and they wouldn’t be a plating on the twenty-four karat friendship that I felt for Luz Long at that moment”.  Long was killed in action serving in the German army during World War II, aged 30. In the last letter Long wrote to Owens before his death, he asked “Someday find my son … tell him about how things can be between men on this Earth.”

We’ll leave the Olympics there today – a lean day in the medals for Australia today – looks like just a bronze in the cycling.  Michael Phelps picked up his 16th Olympic Gold Medals – he has to be the greatest swimmer of all time… especially seeing he doesn’t like swimming!