Olympic scandals are nothing new. In 2021, for example, despite the fact that Tokyo is currently under a fourth state of emergency, expected to last through August 22, in response to its growing number of COVID-19 cases and slow vaccination rates; despite polls indicating that a majority of residents want the Summer Olympic Games canceled or postponed; and despite protests erupting across the country, the Games are set to begin in the Japanese capital on July 23.
The Games, originally scheduled for summer 2020, had been postponed for the first time in history due to the pandemic. Over the decades, the Olympics have pressed on through history, despite international conflicts, doping scandals, boycotts, and even massacres. Now they’ll continue through a pandemic that isn’t yet under control.
Teen Vogue looks back at eight of the biggest Olympic scandals and controversies in history.
1. The 1936 Olympics in Berlin held amid the Nazis’ rise to power
Three years into Adolf Hitler’s horrifying reign as dictator of Germany, the country hosted the Summer Olympics. Berlin was chosen as the site of the 1936 Olympics before Hitler had come to power and there were questions about whether he would go through with hosting the Games. In the end, he did; historians say he and his comrades saw the Games as an opportunity to spread propaganda and demonstrate the power of the Nazi regime on an international stage.
At the time, the Gestapo, the secret police of Nazi Germany, were gaining power, Jewish people were being persecuted in Germany and across Europe, and some American Jewish athletes had boycotted the Games in protest. Although Hitler is said to have thought of the Berlin Games as a perfect opportunity to spread his message of Aryan racial superiority, that message was usurped by Black American Jesse Owens’s stunning victories, for which he secured four gold medals.