Spain's Other Olympics

Paul K. Martin with an eyewitness account of Barcelona's rival Olympics of 1936.

The various events taking place this year in Spain are the most explicit sign yet of the country's full integration into the European club, seventeen years after Franco's death. One of these events, the World Olympics in Barcelona, will be the centre of attention for a vast international television audience, thus laying Spain open to the gaze of the world. It is timely then to recall the events surrounding another Spanish Olympic games, again in Barcelona, which marked the very eve of the closure of Spain to the outside world for so many years.

In 1936, Hitler was portraying Germany as a model member of Europe through the staging of the official Olympics in Berlin. Despite the international disquiet aroused as a result, the Berlin Olympics went ahead with the sanction of the official Olympic bodies. Amongst the significant numbers of athletes and others who objected to the holding of the Olympics in Germany were the workers' sports organisations who, on an international level, were a significant movement and could be found in most countries in the world. The Spanish Republican Government called for a demonstration against the Berlin Olympics by holding an alternative Olympiada Popular, at the sports stadium in Barcelona. This was done by appealing to workers' sports groups throughout Europe and elsewhere in the world to send teams for the competition and in so doing, presaging the appeal for international volunteers – the International Brigades – for a more desperate cause in the imminent future.

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