The International Olympic Committee issued a half-hearted mea culpa early Friday morning for a tweet featuring a video reminiscing about the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.
Obviously, those Games carry an infamous legacy due to the Nazi regime visibly in control of host Germany, but the IOC’s @Olympics account still made a post praising the first appearance of the Olympic torch at the event.
The video in question has since been deleted.
The tweet was posted in reply to a “One Year to Go” thread started by the Olympics on Wednesday with a montage of the opening ceremony of the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam. Team USA replied with a similar video of the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles, followed by Belgium’s 1920 Antwerp video.
And then, the Olympics account responded with this:
Le compte officiel des Jeux Olympiques a finalement supprimé son tweet en hommage aux jeux berlinois de 1936. @Olympics célébrait le premier relai de torche enflammée jusqu'au chaudron, oubliant de préciser le contexte nazi de l'époque... pic.twitter.com/A7XdJh9BF9— Jacques Pezet (@Jacques_Pezet) July 24, 2020
This is turning out to be quite a #ThrowbackThursday already! Berlin 1936 marked the 1st Olympic torch relay to bring the flame to the cauldron.
We can’t wait for the next one in [Japan]. #StrongerTogether
You can probably imagine why some people had a problem with a tweet celebrating an Olympics that was infamously heavy in Nazi imagery.
The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum was among those questioning the decision.
For 2 weeks the Nazi dictatorship camouflaged its racist, militaristic character. It exploited the Games to impress foreign spectators with an image of a peaceful, tolerant Germany. Later, Germany's expansionism, the persecution of Jews & other "enemies of the state" accelerated.— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) July 24, 2020
That backlash was enough for the IOC to eventually delete the tweet, then explain why it wanted to celebrate an event the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has called “a huge propaganda success” for Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime.
IOC’s apology for Berlin Olympics tweet
In an eight-tweet thread, the IOC conceded its video did not land as intended, then argued the film was specifically meant to recall the story of the friendship between Jesse Owens and Luz Long. Notably, the organization focused its apology only to “those who feel offended by the film.”
However, we understand from specific reactions on social media that the film about the Olympic Games Berlin 1936, which includes Jesse Owens and Luz Long as well as the Olympic flame, was interpreted in the opposite way to that intended. (2/8)— IOC MEDIA (@iocmedia) July 24, 2020
The story of Jesse Owens and Luz Long represents an iconic, historical moment, where the spirit of fraternity was demonstrated at the highest level. Jesse Owens, the legendary four-time Olympic champion, had to suffer at home from the painful reality of racial segregation. (4/8)— IOC MEDIA (@iocmedia) July 24, 2020
Through his outstanding sporting achievements, he taught a resounding lesson to the Nazi regime, shattering its despicable fascist claims of racial superiority. He befriended his German competitor Luz Long, creating iconic Olympic moments of respect and solidarity. (6/8)— IOC MEDIA (@iocmedia) July 24, 2020
We apologise to those who feel offended by the film of the Olympic Games Berlin 1936. We have deleted this film, which was part of the series of films featuring the message of unity and solidarity, from the @Olympics Twitter account. (8/8)— IOC MEDIA (@iocmedia) July 24, 2020
The sixth tweet of that thread is certainly an interesting claim. According to the IOC, Owens’ legendary performance was so powerful that it shattered the Nazis’ claims of racial superiority.
The IOC declined to mention what happened after the Nazis’ supposed lesson: world war and a genocide that killed 11 million people, the majority of whom were members of racial, ethnic and religious groups deemed inferior.
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