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Garmisch-Partenkirchen 1936 Getty Images
06 Feb 1936
Garmisch-Partenkirchen 1936

Garmisch-Partenkirchen sets the scene for Berlin 1936

Gathering at the 29th IOC Session in Barcelona (ESP) in April 1931, the members of the International Olympic Committee chose Berlin as the venue for the 1936 Summer Olympic Games, ahead of 12 other candidate cities. According to the rules in place at the time, the nation hosting the Summer Games was also required, if possible, to stage their winter counterpart six months earlier.

The Bavarian villages of Garmisch and Partenkichen, situated at the foot of the Zugspitze – German’s highest peak – were put forward as the host cities of the IV Winter Olympic Games, a choice that was accepted by the IOC at its 31st Session in Vienna on 7 June 1933.

Garmisch Partenkirchen 1936 Inside 01 IOC

Five months earlier, Adolf Hitler, the leader of Germany’s National Socialist Party, had become the country’s chancellor. Proclaiming himself Der Führer, Hitler and his Nazi party embarked on a series of hegemonic, expansionist, racist and anti-Semitic policies founded on the supposed superiority of the Aryan race, and saw the Olympic Games as an opportunity for Germany to showcase its greatness and power.

The Nazis invested a significant amount of money in organising what they hoped would be seen as the greatest Winter Games in history, an event that would also serve as a dress rehearsal for the summer edition in Berlin.

The two villages became one in 1935, with the newly-founded resort of Garmisch-Partenkirchen undergoing a transformation as the 10,000-capacity Olympia-Eissport-Zentrum and the Große Olympiaschanze ski jumping hill, which remains one of the venues of the famous Four Hills competition, came into being. Other facilities, such as the Rießersee bobsleigh run, were already in place.

Alpine skiing made its debut at Garmisch-Partenkirchen 1936, thanks in no small part to the sport’s British pioneer Arnold Lunn, who founded the first competitions in the 1920s and the world championships in 1931, and tirelessly lobbied the IOC for the its inclusion on the Olympic programme, despite opposition from the Nordic countries.

The first Olympic Alpine skiing event, open to men and women, was a combined downhill and slalom competition staged on the Kreuzjoch and Gudiberg mountains. A new cross-country event, the 4x10km relay, was also added to the programme.

A record total of 646 athletes (566 men and 80 women) representing 28 countries took part in the Games, with Australia, Bulgaria, Spain, Greece, Liechtenstein and Turkey all making their Olympic Winter debuts.

The Opening Ceremony took place on 6 February 1936 before a crowd of more than 30,000 at the Olympic Stadium. Greeted by falling snow, Greece were the first team to parade before the spectators and Germany the last, while cross-country skier Willy Bogner took the Olympic oath on behalf of all the athletes.

Garmisch Partenkirchen 1936 Inside 02 IOC

For the first time, the Olympic flame burned throughout the Games, with the cauldron containing it being situated at the top of the Große Olympiaschanze ski jumping hill.

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