The Significance of International Sports

Topics: World War II, United States, Olympic Games Pages: 8 (2869 words) Published: May 22, 2005
The Significance of International Sports
International sporting events have become somewhat of a staple in today's society, whether it be the Olympics, the World Cup, or exhibition games between the New York Yankees and the Tokyo Giants. These competitions generally bring out high spirits and intense enthusiasm. Most people envision sports as childhood pastimes, played for fun and recreation. However, in a lot of cases, international sporting events mean more than just the game or event themselves because they inspire nationalism and patriotism. The patriotism and nationalism that these events inspire, however, is not always positive and can sometimes "legitimize" superiority claims or inspire anti-foreign sentiment. In 1936, the summer Olympics took place in Germany, where at the time dictator Adolph Hitler was claiming that the Germans were a master race and he would surely be proven right in the Olympic games where the Germans would obviously win every gold medal because they were so superior. Jesse Owens and other incredible African-American and Jewish athletes proved Hitler wrong. Owens persevered to capture four gold medals in the 1936 Olympics; in the 100-meters sprint, the 200-meter sprint, the long jump and the 400-meter relay, breaking two Olympic records and one world record. Jesse Owens's record for the long jump set in the 1936 Olympics stood for twenty-five years. The German spectators gave Owens a very large standing ovation. In the unofficial point system drawn up by the American Olympic Committee the American male track and field team scored 203 points. Owens, amazingly, scored 40 points by himself, almost two-thirds the total of the entire German track and field team. When Jesse Owens made his triumphant return to the United States, he was honored and celebrated with a New York ticker tape parade, and awarded many honors. Even though the United States was not yet at war with Nazi Germany, the people knew of Hitler's white supremacy policy, but did not interfere with it because the citizens were extremely bent towards isolationism following the first World War and the Great Depression. Owens's triumphs in the 1936 Olympics lifted the spirits of the American people who were still greatly battling the Great Depression. Owens was turned into a national icon and political figure, and reportedly received 10,000 dollars to endorse Republican candidate Alf Landon in the 1936 Presidential election. The fact that Alf Landon tried to capitalize on Jesse Owens's success gives a better picture of just how intense the patriotism surrounding Jesse Owens had amounted to; the Republican party believed that the American voters would cast their vote based on the endorsement of an Olympic hero. The significance of Jesse Owens's triumphs in relation to society proves that the 1936 Olympic Games were more than just games. One of the major reasons that Hitler believed his Aryan athletes to be racially superior in the 1936 Olympics was because of the boxing match between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling, in which Schmeling knocked Louis out in twelve rounds. What was most interesting leading up to the match was that Hitler privately was upset with Schmeling for accepting the match because he had so little chance to win. Historian Chris Mead wrote: "When he got back to Germany, Schmeling lunched with Adolf Hitler in Munich . . .The dictator was upset that Schmeling was risking Germany's reputation in a fight against a black man when there was so little chance of victory. With his usual self-confidence, Schmeling assured his Fuehrer that he had a good chance to win, and Hitler presented the boxer with an autographed picture of himself. Schmeling hung the picture of Hitler in his study." One of the reasons for Hitler's private misgiving about the fight was that Schmeling had already been knocked out by a Jew, Max Baer. Therefore, prior to the fight, the German government completely detached itself from...
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