- History & Culture
The brutal story of the 1936 Popular Olympics: a boycott of fascism and Hitler
Athletes took up arms when alternative games protesting the Olympics in Nazi Germany were overtaken by war.
On July 3, 1936, a month before what’s come to be known as the Nazi Olympics in Berlin, a group of American athletes boarded a ship bound for Europe. The U.S. team included Black sprinters from Harlem, Jewish gymnasts from Manhattan, and a biracial boxer from Pittsburgh. Their coach was Abraham Alfred “Chick” Chakin, an immigrant whose family had fled pogroms in Russia. Chakin, retired from wrestling, had returned to the mat to lead the athletes, but they weren’t going to the official games in Germany. They were headed to Spain for the inaugural Popular Olympics, which promised to be the “greatest anti-fascist spectacle yet seen.”
While the 1936 Olympics is remembered as the games