spotCampaigns

spotOrganisations

spotArguments for socialism

spotPeople

spotInternational

spotEvents

spotAround the UK


All keywords


All Campaigns subcategories:

Anti-capitalism

* Anti-fascist

Anti-racism

Anti-war

Asylum

Black and Asian

Children

CNWP

Corporate crime

Disability

Education

Election campaigns

Environment

EU

Finance

Food

Gender Recognition Act

Health and safety

Health and welfare

Housing

Human Rights

LGBT Pride

Local government

Local services

Low pay

Migration

Nationalisation

New workers party

NHS

Pensions

Post Office

Poverty

Privatisation

Public Services

Socialism

Socialist

Sport

Stop the slaughter of Tamils

Students

The state

Transport

TUSC

Welfare rights

Women

Workplace and TU campaigns

Youth


Anti-fascist keywords:

Anti-fascist (26)

BNP (231)

EDL (118)

Far right (151)

Far-right (163)

Fascism (74)

Fascist (75)

Fascists (61)

Nazis (24)

Right-wing (80)

Fascism


Highlight keywords  |Print this articlePrint this article
From: The Socialist issue 911, 27 July 2016: No compromise with Labour right

Search site for keywords: Olympics - Spain - Nazis - Hitler - Fascism - Solidarity - Sport - Women - Olympic Games - Black - Working class - Workers - Socialist - Mussolini - Soviet Union - Fascist - Fascists

Barcelona 1936: the people's Olympics

Olimpiada Popular, the People's Olympiad

Olimpiada Popular, the People's Olympiad   (Click to enlarge)

Scott Jones

For a brief moment 80 years ago, in a hint of what Spain as a whole would become, Barcelona became the focus of opposition to fascism.

In July 1936, 6,000 athletes arrived in the city, greeted by banners and bunting welcoming them. They were no ordinary athletes; the socialist hurdlers and the anarchist shot putters were there for the Olimpiada Popular, the People's Olympiad.

The event's official flag depicted three figures in red, yellow and black clutching a single standard, the figures represented unity and equality of women and men, white and black.

This was the alternative Olympics, designed to upstage the official games taking place 900 miles away in Berlin where, week's later, athletes would be greeted by 'sieg heils' and swastika flags.

Two cities, two Olympic games. One that didn't take place and one that never should. The 'people's games' and the 'Nazi games'.

It was in 1931 that the seeds were sown when Berlin beat Barcelona to host the 1936 games. But by the time the games rolled around, the world had changed.

In 1933 a parliamentary coup installed Adolf Hitler as chancellor allowing the Nazis to stamp their jackboot on German society. The Olympics then became an opportunity to flaunt this power and showcase the new Germany to the world.

Meanwhile, in 1936, a left-wing Popular Front government was elected in Spain, which decided to boycott the Berlin Olympics and host its own games in Barcelona. Athletes from 22 countries accepted the invitation with large contingents from the USA, Britain and Scandinavia.

There were also teams made up of exiles from fascist Germany and Italy and another team representing Jewish exiles.

The majority of the athletes knew the reason they were there. Not just for sport but in solidarity against fascism, as most were sent by trade unions, socialist and communist parties and other workers' organisations.

But the games would never take place. On the eve of the games the fascists and nationalists of Spain, led by Franco and assisted by Nazi Germany and Mussolini's Italy, launched a coup d'etat to overthrow the country's left-wing, republican government.

Fighting fascism

Unsurprisingly, the thousands of radical youth in Barcelona for the games supported the government but 200 of them went further and heroically pledged to stay and fight.

They recognised that this was not a domestic issue for the Spanish people but an attack by fascism. They became the first international volunteers in the Spanish civil war, including the famous swimmer Clara Thalmann, later a hero of the French Resistance, who stayed to fight in Spain.

The same conclusion was drawn by others and in the end over 2,500 men and women from Britain and Ireland voluntarily travelled to Spain to defend the elected Popular Front government of the Spanish republic against the forces of Franco, Hitler and Mussolini. The 40,000 volunteers from across the globe were an unprecedented example of international solidarity.

While in Berlin, as troops and planes were being prepared for the coming vicious war in Spain, the official Olympic Games went ahead. As well as the thousands who were to take part in Barcelona, many other individual athletes boycotted Berlin, especially Jews and the games also took place without the Soviet Union.

But many other athletes, deemed "racially inferior" by the Nazis, did compete. Fencers Halet Çambel and Suat Fetgeri Aseni, the first Turkish and Muslim women athletes to participate in the Olympics, refused to meet Adolf Hitler due to his attitude to Jews.

Most famously it was Jessie Owens, a black American, who embarrassed and infuriated Hitler and the Nazis by winning four gold medals.

The Olympic Games, like the football World Cup and other huge sporting events, are always looked forward to by competitors and spectators alike. They are a chance for people to come together and see inspirational acts of skill and prowess. The idea of the People's Olympiad was a marvellous attempt to protest the distortion of these ideals by the Nazis, who used the games to celebrate instead racist ideas of "racial superioty".

Modern games

The modern games, while providing awesome moments like Mo Farah's exploits in London in 2012, have also been hijacked by corporations and capitalism. The 2012 games, while brilliant, brought home to people the rampant money making that takes place for big business at these events, leaving little economic or sporting legacy for the working class of London and beyond.

Youth Fight for Jobs 'Austerity Games 2012' highlighted the Tory-led coalition's attacks on young people's living standards at the same time as the government handed over billions to host the London Olympics photo Paul Mattsson

Youth Fight for Jobs 'Austerity Games 2012' highlighted the Tory-led coalition's attacks on young people's living standards at the same time as the government handed over billions to host the London Olympics photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

This summer, in Olympic host city Rio de Janeiro, this is even more starkly illustrated as the only banners welcoming athletes and fans are ones saying: "Welcome to hell", held by police and firefighters, explaining their poor pay, or no pay at all, and saying "whoever comes to Rio will not be safe"!

This is driven home by the repeated warnings of the violence and crime that blights the city. Even World Cup winning Brazilian footballer Rivaldo has told people to stay away. Some competitors have withdrawn because of the Brazilian authorities' failure to tackle the mosquito-borne Zika virus.

Brazil is currently suffering a brutal recession and widespread corruption with Brazilian workers and poor recognising, like they did during the 2014 World Cup, that they will be paying the price of no investment in public services for a tournament they will be priced out of attending.

They will however witness, not just sporting achievement, but the spectacle of already enormously wealthy corporations making even more out of the Rio Olympics in a city where vast inequality fuels the violence, crime and failing public services.

This is a reflection of sport under capitalism, a society as unequal as the contrasting games were 80 years ago. But the People's Olympiad is a flavour, a small glimpse of what sport and its events could be like in a society organised by the working class, a society of solidarity and equality and not one run for profit.







Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: info@socialistparty.org.uk

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0784 114 4890

North West 07954 376 096

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


December 2019

November 2019

October 2019

September 2019

August 2019

July 2019

June 2019

May 2019

April 2019

March 2019

February 2019

January 2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999