This past Friday afternoon, my sister invited me to go see an exhibition on the 1936 Nazi Olympics in Darrell K. Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium (It’s the gigantic UT football stadium, if you don’t recognize the name.) She told me to meet up inside Gate 16 on the north side. I asked her if that was the Red McCombs Red Zone, and she said yes. I’ve always wanted to explore the Red Zone.
As I entered Gate 16, I found myself walking into a small, empty food court. There were only three food establishments there: Starbucks, Boomerang’s, and Subway. It was about two in the afternoon and I was hungry, so I decided to try Boomerang’s, the handheld Aussie pies. The place used to be popular in Austin, but they closed down their main restaurant on Guadalupe Street. It was a pleasant surprise to stumble upon it again, of all places, here in the UT stadium. I ordered the Guinness Steak and Potato pie. The crust was buttery and satiating; the beef and potatoes inside were hearty and flavorful with a hint of Guinness bitterness. My sister and her friend joined me at the food court, and after taking a big bite of mine, they were convinced that they were hungry too.
The food court was suddenly filled with a group of people waiting around for the official stadium tour (My first time hearing about it, but it existed and it was not free.) After consuming our handheld pies, we headed to the northeast corner of the food court and walked into a corridor leading to a set of elevators. On our left, we found a sign that showed “The Nazi Olympics Berlin 1936” being on the fifth floor. We rode on the elevator.
As the doors opened, a sizable frame of H.J. Lutcher Stark greeted us. Apparently this floor is called The H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports (Now this one was free.) I had no idea such place existed even though I had been a student and an organization staff at UT for the past decade. Stark Center had an orange-toned reading room laden with aged posters of individuals displaying extraordinary physical strength. We also came across The Joe and Betty Weider Museum of Physical Culture, which mainly showcased bodybuilding and the Iron Game.
We spent the rest of the hour in The Nazi Olympics exhibit since that was the reason we came to Gate 16 in the first place.
Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany in 1933. He consolidated powers and became the sole Führer of Germany after the death of his appointor, the President of the Weimar Republic, Paul von Hindenburg. The 1936 Olympics location was already determined before Hitler seized power. But the celebrated event soon became a hotbed for controversies especially with the Nuremberg Laws passed in 1935 that excluded Jews from German civil society.
The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum provided photographs and records of what happened internationally on the eve of the unbelievable event. How could the Olympics be hosted by a country that clearly violated the Olympic Value of Equality? Inside Germany, Jews — and not only Jews but also Gypsies and Blacks — were expelled and prohibited from sports clubs. But Joseph Goebbels, Germany’s Minister of Propaganda, convinced the Führer that the Olympics would be perfect for Nazi propaganda so they attempted to show the world that Jewish athletes were given the opportunity to represent Germany and compete.
Across the globe, a handful of Jewish athletes boycotted the Olympics by refusing to participate. Eventually the argument that the Olympics should be carried out as strictly a sports competition without any political intervention settled the whole matter. The 1936 Olympics was to happen in Berlin, Germany. Many claimed that the United States and the other major political players of the world thereby missed a significant chance to subdue, at an earlier stage, the cruel ethnic cleansing and aggressive expansion policy of Nazi Germany.