The XI, XII, & XIII Olympiads, the eleventh volume in The Olympic Century series, begins with the story of perhaps the most controversial Games ever held – Berlin 1936. The volume documents how the Nazi dictator Adolph Hitler tried to use the Olympics as a global stage to demonstrate the might of his fearsome Third Reich and to promote his hateful theories on racial superiority. But flying in the face of Hitler’s propaganda machine, there was the singular triumph of the black American Jesse Owens, the grandson of slaves, who made a mockery of the very idea of a “master race” by dominating the Games with four gold medals.
Following Berlin, the focus of the book shifts to the years just before and during World War II, when summer and winter Olympiads in 1940 and 1944 were sacrificed as the world plunged into darkness. After the war, the question remained whether enough goodwill existed among nations to sustain the modern Olympic movement. But the book ends on a hopeful note in 1948 at the Winter Games in St. Moritz, Switzerland, where a 20-year-old figure skater from Canada named Barbara Anne Scott charmed the crowds with her beauty, grace and precision and reminded the world of what the Olympics can be.
Juan Antonio Samaranch, former President of the International Olympic Committee, called The Olympic Century, “The most comprehensive history of the Olympic games ever published”.