Olympia Part One: Festival of the Nations (1938)
"Olympia 1. Teil - Fest der Völker" (original title)

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The document of the 1936 Olympics at Berlin.


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Uncredited cast:
David Albritton ...
Himself - High Jump, USA (uncredited)
Arvo Askola ...
Himself - 10000 Metres, FIN (uncredited)
Jack Beresford ...
Himself - Carries British Flag (uncredited)
Erwin Blask ...
Himself - Hammer Throw, German (uncredited)
Sulo Bärlund ...
Himself - Shot Put, Finland (uncredited)
Ibolya Csák ...
Herself - High Jump, Hungary (uncredited)
Henri de Baillet-Latour ...
Himself - IOC, Stands with Hitler, with Hurdlers (uncredited)
Philip Edwards ...
Himself - 800 Metres, Canada (uncredited)
Donald Finlay ...
Himself - 110m Hurdles, GB (uncredited)
Tilly Fleischer ...
Herself - Javelin Throw, Germany (uncredited)
Wilhelm Frick ...
Himself - Spectator (uncredited)
Joseph Goebbels ...
Himself - Spectator (uncredited)
Hermann Göring ...
Himself - Spectator (uncredited)
Ernest Harper ...
Himself - Marathon, GB (uncredited)
Karl Hein ...
Himself - Hammer Throw, Germany (uncredited)


After being commissioned by the 1936 Olympic Committee to create a feature film of the Berlin Olympics, Riefenstahl shot a documentary that celebrates the human body by combining the poetry of bodies in motion with close-ups of athletes in the heat of competition. Includes the marathon, men's diving, and American track star Jesse Owen's sprint races at the 1936 Olympic games. The production tends to glorify the young male body and, some say, expresses the Nazi attitude toward athletic prowess. Includes the lighting of the torch at the stadium and Adolf Hitler looking on in amazement as Jesse Owens wins an unprecedented four Gold Medals. Written by Fiona Kelleghan <fkelleghan@aol.com>

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Parents Guide:




Release Date:

8 March 1940 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Olympia Part One: Festival of the Nations  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Leni Riefenstahl's visit to the United States in 1938 was mainly aimed at finding a US distributor for the film. Faced with fierce protests from many American organizations, in particular the 'Anti-Nazi League', her plan never came to fruition. The first screening in the United States was organised in Chicago in November 1938 by Avery Brundage, president of the US Olympic Committee and an ardent Nazi sympathiser. The private reception was hosted by Mrs. Claire Dux Swift, ex-wife of the German film star Hans Albers. The second screening (also private) took place on 14th December 1938 at the California Club in presence of Olympic medalists and screen Tarzans Johnny Weissmuller and Glenn Morris (Riefenstahl's ex-lover), as well as Olympic diver Marjorie Gestring. For this screening, Riefenstahl submitted a copy where she had edited out almost all the scenes featuring Hitler. See more »


Referenced in Year of Enlightment (1986) See more »


Olympische Hymnne
Richard Strauss
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User Reviews

The evil this reveals lies precisely where we least expect it to - here and now
7 November 2001 | by (Canberra, Australia) – See all my reviews

It was the 1936 Berlin Games that introduced the opening ceremony, the torch relay, the three-tiered presentation ceremony, and the overall sense of lavish, religious spectacle. In a way these are the first modern games. Does it worry you that most of the stuff we most fondly associate with the Olympics originated with the Nazis? It doesn't worry me: the Nazis' moral sense may have been deplorable, but their aesthetic sense was not nearly so bad as people like to pretend.

The most striking thing about Riefenstahl's documentary, viewed today, is its good taste. I admit I haven't seen the whole thing. Split into two parts for German release, it was edited somewhat and released simply as "Olympia" elsewhere, and it's "Olympia" that I've seen. I mention this because it's quite possible that "Olympia" is the version with the jingoism edited out. But I don't think so. (Surely if the film were to wave the swastika offensively, it would do so around the beginning, and the introductory sequence is just marvellous - it no more deserves to be associated with Nazism than Orff's "Carmina Burana".) In any case, if they edited all the jingoism out of a modern, two-hundred-hour Olympic telecast, it would last about ten minutes. It's amazing how much more crass and brazenly nationalistic modern coverage is when compared with Nazi propaganda. Riefenstahl shows races won by people other than Germans (and yes, some of them are non-Aryan) - she even shows us enough of the presentation ceremonies afterwards for us to be able to hear other national anthems! During the local coverage of the Sydney games I heard NOTHING but "Advance Australia Fair". Only other Australians can fully appreciate the horror of this.

Australian sports coverage, of course, was much better when it was in the hands of the state (or rather, the state-owned ABC network) ... but then, Australia is a democracy; the real shock is finding out that even HITLER'S regime could produce more even-handed, tasteful and intelligent Olympics coverage than we'll ever see from a modern commercial network.

Riefenstahl's footage is also more beautiful and better edited, and the athletes in general look LESS like fascist monuments and more like human beings than they do today. But that goes without saying.

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