In 1936, the Olympics were held in Nazi Germany. Germany won the most gold medals by far, demonstrated infrastructure as national pride, and oversaw the first televised games, with the International Olympic Committee effectively laundering the public image of Nazism. The very first Olympic torch relay also took place that year under Hitler’s direction. But the showcase for fascism and Nazi soft power did not go unopposed.
6,000 athletes traveled to Barcelona for The People’s Olympiad, and alternative and explicitly antifascist Olympics. It was a large-scale demonstration of international solidarity with 20,000 spectators. The People’s Olympiad has a stadium, an Olympic village, a flag, and athletes from 22 countries, including dissenters from Germany and political exile’s from Italy’s dictatorship. Many athletes were sponsored by their unions and socialist groups rather than nation states, and represented their regions or cities rather than their country, in order to side-step nationalism. Hundreds of participating athletes joined fevered street battles against the fascist coup and many stayed in Spain to fight the Franco dictatorship. Hitler’s running flame is still with us, but so is the memory of the antifascist People’s Olympiad.
This CPH poster printed at the worker-owned and union-run Community Printers, Santa Cruz, CA.
This is #157 in the Celebrate People’s History Poster Series.
Sam Wallman is a comics-journalist and cartoonist based in Melbourne, Australia.