The Tyrant Games

Sunday, 9 February, 2014

The Olympic Games have a long and ignominious history as a glossy brochure for evil regimes, from the Nazi Games in Berlin in 1936 to the Communist Games in Moscow in 1980. Now, we have the Putin Winter Games in Sochi, an enormously expensive show that’s an ideal metaphor for the current Russian regime: corrupt, oppressive, ruthless and brutal.

There’s a precedent for this wintry spectacle, of course, and it’s called Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The Bavarian ski resort was the site of the 1936 Winter Olympics and although the anti-Semitic Nuremberg Laws had been passed only five months earlier, for 10 days in February Hitler presented himself to the international public as the friendly face of a totalitarian system. So welcoming and efficient were the Nazi hosts that the IOC awarded the 1940 Winter Games to Garmisch-Partenkirchen once again. But Germany invaded Poland in 1939 and the world had to wait until 1948 for the next Winter Olympics, which were held in St. Moritz in Switzerland.

1936 Winter Olympics

This 1936 Winter Olympics pin was once the property of Elisabeth Felber, who was born in 1915 and died in October last year. Today, it is owned by Jim Martin, originally of Hamburg in Erie County, New York, and now of Munich.

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