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Inside the Games

A show of German strength

The immediate task for the Third Reich was to set the scene for an enormous and successful Olympiad that would put all others in the shade. Sweeping aside the issue of sport, Adolf Hitler thus wanted to replace the peaceful nature of the Games with a dominating Nazi propaganda machine.

The German chancellor and his ministers made an appeal to the German youth to be loud and vociferous at the beginning of the Games. The rest of the world was ever-anxious about the rearmement of Germany while Hitler presented a peaceful and calming facade.

Although interrogated by a doubly-anxious IOC and the Americans about his theories on Aryan supremacy and anti-semitism in 1933, the German authorities replied that, ultimately, Berlin would be an unforgettable experience.

Hitler's glory

Everything was thus put in place for Germany's Nazi power to be demonstrated at the Games: the best engineers were called upon to construct a magnificent Olympic stadium at the cost of 77 million marks; Berlin itself was transformed, a swimming pool able to hold 20,000 spectators was built and other facilities including an Olympic village concluded the city's building programme.

German industry pulled together with one goal in mind: to make these Games a resounding success in the name of Hitler.

For this to be achieved, Berlin fell prey to severe military restrictions. The Gestapo were given the job of watching over the main routes into the city and the Olympic village, and a secret memo was circulated to all the Police and Secret Service bureaus on July 18, stating "A grand and flawless Olympic Games will be held in Berlin and is of the utmost importance for the image of a new Germany in the eyes of the competing countries".

Nazi propaganda

On August 1 at 8am, the streets of Berlin were closed off to traffic. The German crowds waited impatiently on their balconies.

At 9am the athletes left the Doeberitz Olympic village and filed in military fashion towards the Olympic stadium. At 5.45pm the final runner arrived at the stadium, torch in hand.

It was at this moment that Hitler made his entry into the official box dressed in his campaign uniform and accompanied by his generals, including Marshall Goering and Dr Goebbels.

Everything was ready. While the German hymn was about to be played, 120,000 arms saluted Hitler from the four corners of the stadium shouting "Heil Hitler".

This gave an indication of what would happen during the Games each time a German won an event, or when a high-ranking official from the Nazi regime appeared.

Copyright 2012 Agence France-Presse.