Americans Win First Olympic Basketball Competition.
Basketball made its debut as an Olympic sport at the 1936 Games in Berlin. On August 14, 1936, the U.S. won the Gold Medal, defeating Canada 19-8. The championship game was played outdoors in similar fashion to all the other basketball games of the Berlin Olympics. The “Master Olympic Planners” hadn’t gotten the memo that basketball was an indoor sport. They set the games on a clay tennis court, which made for less than ideal conditions. On the day of the gold medal round, it not only rained, it poured.
The U.S. began with a forfeit victory over Spain, whose team had been called home because of the start of the Spanish civil war. The Universal players trounced Estonia 52-28 in the second round, and the McPherson platoon followed with a 56-23 victory over the Philippines. A 25-10 U.S. triumph over Mexico in the semifinals set up a gold medal encounter between Naismith’s native Canada and his adopted U.S. Unfortunately, it turned out to be what Balter later described as “a priceless bit of Chaplinesque comedy.”
Read more: Sports Illustrated
The AP noted that “the game might have been better played had it been played under water polo rules”.
Basketball’s inventor, Dr. James Naismith attended the 1936 Olympics. The Boston Globe reported that “he made the trip on funds provided by American basketball fans.” However, Naismith was not exactly treated like a guest of honor by the American Olympic Committee, headed by Avery Brundage. Apparently, Naismith arrived in Berlin without even a pass to see a game. The International Basketball Federation showed the old professor a little more respect. He was given the honor of tossing up the ball for the tip off of the very first Olympic basketball game, between Estonia and France (won by Estonia 34-29). Also at the end of the competition it was Naismith who handed out the medals to winning teams.
Jesse Owens won his fourth gold medal at the 1936 Olympics on August 9, 1936. He ran the first leg for the U.S. team in the 4×100 meter relay. Prior to his participation on the relay team, Owens was already “the big story” of the 1936 Olympics (at least among the athletes), having won the the long jump, as well as the 100 and 200 meter individual sprints.
As if there wasn’t enough controversy surrounding the 1936 Olympics, Owens and his relay teammate Frank Metcalfe (They were among the 18 African American athletes that Hitler referred to as America’s Black Auxiliaries.) were named at the last minute as replacements for two Jewish sprinters, Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller. Until a day before the race, it was assumed that the relay team would be comprised of Glickman, Stoller, Frank Wykoff and Foy Draper. Owens and Metcalfe hadn’t even been involved in any baton passing practices. U.S. track coach Lawson Robertson claimed that he feared that the Germans were hiding their best sprinters in order to upset the U.S. in the relay, and that he had to use Owens and Metcalfe in the race. Owens and Metcalfe had in fact, run faster times in the 100 meters than Glickman and Stoller. On the other hand, Lawson’s concern about “stealth German sprinters” seems dubious. Even in 1936, world class sprinters did not appear out of thin air. As it turned out, the U.S. team ran away from the field, winning the race by 15 meters. Unless they tripped, with Stoller and Glickman running, the U.S. would have probably still won, although perhaps with a smaller lead at the finish.
Marty Glickman speaking about his experience.
I was always aware of the fact that I am a Jew, never unaware of it, under virtually all circumstances. Even in the high school competitions, and certainly at college and for the Olympic team, I wanted to show that a Jew could do just as well as any other individual no matter what his race, creed, or color, and perhaps even better.
The Olympic stadium itself is a very impressive place. It was particularly impressive then, filled with 120,000 people. When Hitler walked into the Stadium, stands would rise, and you’d hear it in unison, “Sieg Heil, Sieg Heil,” all together, this huge sound reverberating through the stadium.
Everyone seemed to be in uniform. As for banners and flags, they were all over the place, dominated by the swastika. The swastika was all over. On virtually every other banner we saw, there was a swastika. But this was 1936, this was before we really got to know what the swastika truly meant.
There was antisemitism in Germany. I knew that. And there was antisemitism in America. In New York City, I was also aware of the fact that there were certain places I was not welcome. You went into a hotel, for example, and you’d see a small sign where you registered which read “Restricted clientele,” which meant, in effect, no Jews or Blacks allowed.
The event I was supposed to run, the 400-meter relay, was one of the last events in the track and field program. The morning of the day we were supposed to run in the trial heats, we were called into a meeting, the 7 sprinters were, along with Dean Cromwell, the assistant track coach, and Lawson Robertson, the head track coach. Robertson announced to the 7 of us that he had heard very strong rumors that the Germans were saving their best sprinters, hiding them, to upset the American team in the 400-meter relay. Consequently, Sam Stoller and I were to be replaced by Jesse Owens and Ralph Metcalfe.
We were shocked. Sam was completely stunned. He didn’t say a word in the meeting. I was a brash 18-year-old kid and I said “Coach, you can’t hide world-class sprinters.” At which point, Jesse spoke up and said “Coach, I’ve won my 3 gold medals [the 100, the 200, and the long jump]. I’m tired. I’ve had it. Let Marty and Sam run, they deserve it,” said Jesse. And Cromwell pointed his finger at him and said “You’ll do as you’re told.” And in those days, Black athletes did as they were told, and Jesse was quiet after that.
Watching the final the following day, I see Metcalfe passing runners down the back stretch, he ran the second leg, and [I thought] “that should be me out there. That should be me. That’s me out there.” I as an 18-year-old, just out of my freshman year, I vowed that come 1940 I’d win it all. I’d win the 100, the 200, I’d run on the relay. I was going to be 22 in 1940. I was a good athlete, I knew that, and 4 years hence I was going to be out there again. Of course, 1940 never came. There was a war on. 1944 never came.
Nazi Germany hosted the 1936 Olympics. On August 1 of that year, Adolph Hitler welcomed the world to Berlin for two weeks of fun, and nothing but fun, with just a little bit of political propaganda thrown in.
In 2011 on the 75th anniversary of the Berlin Olympics, Frank Deford wrote in Sports Illustrated:
While, of course, nothing can approach the horror of the terrorist murders at the 1972 Olympics, it is now the 75th anniversary of what were surely the most fascinating and historically influential Games—- those in Berlin that began this very week in the summer of ’36. It was novelty and glory and evil all in athletic conjunction as never before or since.
1931 Germany is awarded the games. 1933 the Nazis take over, and calls for Olympicb boycott begin
The games were awarded to Berlin by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1931, two years before Hitler came to power. In the German federal election in 1933, the Nazis won a plurality of the seats in the Reichstag. A few weeks after the election the Reichstag passed the Enabling Act which effectively gave Hitler full dictatorial power.
Almost immediately the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was besieged with protests calling for the relocation of the 1936 games. Responding to the uproar, IOC President Comte Henri de Baillet-Latour wrote to Avery Brundage, President of the American Olympic Committee (AOC), “I am not personally fond of jews and of the jewish influence, but I will not have them molested in no way [sic] whatsoever.” He added, “I know that they [the Jews] shout before there is reason to do so.”
In 1934 Brundage went to Germany to see for himself how the Germans were treating the Jews. While he was there, he convinced himself that the AOC should ignore the calls for a a boycott. After returning to the U.S. Brundage wrote in an AOC’s pamphlet “Fair Play for American Athletes” that American athletes should not become involved in “the present Jew-Nazi altercation.”
Brundage has his way. There is no boycott
And so the U.S. and the rest of the world all accepted the Nazis’ invitation to compete at their Olympics, and that meant that the Germans had to do some “housekeeping”. In June of 1936 the Manchester Guardian reported that “the more conspicuous and easily removable anti-Semitic displays posters and signs have been removed so that visitors to the Olympic Games and the competitors shall not get an unfavorable impression of Germany.”
But the U.S. Team does not get a warm welcome
Even though the U.S. team dignified the Nazi Olympics by showing up, they did manage to stir up a mild controversy as they entered the stadium for the Parade of Nations. The night before, the Americans changed their plans so that they would not appear to be giving even a modified Nazi salute. They had originally intended to extend their arms with hats in hands, but instead they decided to just remove their hats, place them over their hearts and look eyes right, at their host, Adolph Hitler. The AP’s Alan Gould reported that the Americans “were welcomed with a noisy whistling reception which some European observers suggested was tantamount to the European “raspberries.”
Carter Announces Olympic Boycott Threat January 20, 1980
U.S. Olympic Boxing Team Wins 5 Gold Medals July 31,1976
Carl Lewis Wins 9th and Last Gold July 29, 1996
Mathias Repeats in Olympic Decathlon July 26, 1952
Edwin Moses Wins First Olympic Gold July 25, 1976
Perfect 10 for Nadia – July, 18 1976
Flo Jo Sets 100-Meter Record July 16, 1988