Tag Archives: olympics

On This Day in Olympic History…

August 3, 1936 – The day that Jesse Owens won his first gold medal at the Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany. This first medal, of the eventual four gold medals that he would win, was for the 100 meter sprint. With this achievement, Jesse Owens began the unraveling of Hitler’s “Aryan racial superiority” theory.

But this triumph (one that wasn’t equaled until Carl Lewis won his gold medals in the 1984 Summer Olympics) wasn’t Owens’ greatest. That would be the day in 1935 that he broke 3 world records and tied a fourth in ONE DAY at a Big Ten meet where he was representing Ohio University. This is the day that sportscasters have selected as one of the best athletic achievements of all time.

This is just one of the numerous fascinating things I learned about Jesse Owens when researching materials for this blog post. Did you know that his real name is James Cleveland and he went by JC until a teacher in his new school in Ohio misunderstood his southern accent and wrote his name down as “Jesse”? How about the fact that Hitler sent him a commemorative photograph after the 1936 Olympics, but Owens never received recognition from Presidents Roosevelt or Truman? Or that he married his high school sweetheart and they stayed together for the rest of his life?

To learn more about this great figure in African-American and sports history, try one of these:

Jesse Owens: An American Life by William J. Baker – After his stunning victories at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Jesse Owens seemed to be living the American rags to riches dream. But once he was banned from amateur sports for declining to be involved in a post-Olympic event, the lucrative sponsorships and deals dried up in the face of prejudice. Owens used all of his wits and talents to earn money, but spent more than he earned, eventually running afoul of the IRS. His social and political beliefs did not always coincide with those around him, but his big personality made him popular in many circles. Owens led an extraordinary life.

Heroes without a Country: America’s Betrayal of Joe Louis and Jesse Owens by Donald McRae – These two friends had lives that followed similar unfortunate paths. Both received recognition in the mid-1930s for their outstanding athletic achievements. But due to the rampant racism in America at the time, neither was able to parlay that into financial success. Periods of poverty and working menial jobs punctuated their lives. Owens was able to keep it together but had to watch his friend, Louis, struggle with addiction and mental illness. This book tells their story honestly.

Blackthink: My Life as a Black Man and a White Man by Jesse Owens – Owens story in his own words. He writes about his triumphs at the Olympic Games in Nazi Germany and his struggles when he returned to the United States. But this is also his views on racism and effecting change for racial equality. His life and beliefs in his own words.

Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler’s Olympics by Jeremy Schaap – What happens when sports and world politics collide? The 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany. This tell-all book goes behind the scenes to uncover the real story of the games, the participants, and those pulling the strings. More happened at these Olympics than you could ever imagine!

Hope you enjoy all the Olympic moments this year’s games have to offer.
-Melissa M.

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A Short Ode to Danny Boyle

Danny Boyle has directed some great movies over the past twenty or so years, plus countless theatre productions (Did anyone else get a chance to see his National Theatre Frankenstein in movie theaters? It was awesome.), so I was really excited when it was announced he was going to be the guy behind the Opening Ceremonies of this summer’s Olympics games.

Danny Boyle with Olympic Organizing Committee Chairman, Sebatian Coe, and Executive Producer of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, Stephen Daldry. Photo credit – AP

In honor of the hard work he put into the Opening Ceremonies on Friday night, here’s a quick look at my two favorite Boyle films.

  • I think that Sunshine is a completely underrated sci-fi flick. Written by Boyle’s 28 Days Later collaborator, Alex Garland, it manages to balance the mission at at hand – drop a bomb to re-ignite the sun – with being a psychological thriller about highly intelligent scientists facing their worst fears. The cast is a solid mix of international actors including Cillian Murphy, a pre-Captain America Chris Evans, Michelle Yeoh, Rose Byrne, and Cliff Curtis.
  • Slumdog Millionaire was one of the biggest movies of 2008 and with good reason. Starring Dev Patel (who will always be Anwar to me) as Jamal, a young man who has made it to the final round as a contestant on India’s Who Wants to  Be a Millionaire. When he’s accused of cheating, Jamal recounts the events in his life that have led him to knowing answers he, a kid from the slums, shouldn’t know. The movie is based on the book Q&A by Vikas Swarup and features a fantastic score by AR Rahman, who also contributed to the music during the Opening Ceremonies

Some of his other films to check out:

Shallow Grave 
A Life Less Ordinary 
The Beach 
28 Days Later 
127 Hours 

–  Jess, who is on her first beach vacation in about fifteen years this week


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