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The Invention of the Modern Olympics

Leni Riefenstahl behind the camera. Germany / Mono Print [ Rechtehinweis: ]
The power of propoganda: Leni Riefenstahl behind the camera.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The 1936 Berlin Olympics were the first time that a regime used a major sports event for political propaganda.

  • Facts


    • For the games, the Nazis pioneered countless innovations, including live television coverage and the Olympic torch relay.
    • Their script book has been used by many other authoritarian regimes to create a positive image for the world.
    • Oliver Hilmes is the author of Berlin 1936: Sixteen Days in August, published by Siedler Verlag.
  • Audio


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Eighty years ago this summer, the world converged on Berlin for the 1936 Summer Olympics. It was the biggest, most modern and most perfectly choreographed spectacle the world had ever seen – and whose inventions, from the Olympic torch relay to live television coverage – still define the Olympic Games today. Thanks to a stream of perfect and beautiful images, the games tricked much of the world into thinking, for a very brief time, that Adolf Hitler’s Germany meant no harm. It was the first time an unsavory regime successfully used a sporting event for propaganda purposes, but it would not be the last.

Oliver Hilmes, a bestselling biographer of Alma Mahler and Cosima Wagner, is the author of Berlin 1936: Sechzehn Tage im August (Sixteen Days in August), published by Siedler Verlag in May.

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