Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Decathlete and the Nazi

Some crazy things went on at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, according to David Clay Large's Nazi Games. For instance, Large tells the story of Glenn Morris, a twenty-four-year-old automobile salesman from Denver who won the decathlon. He quotes the memoir of Nazi filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, who documented the games for the Third Reich:

"The dim light prevented any filming of the ceremony, and when Glenn Morris came down the steps he headed straight toward me. I held out my hand and congratulated him, but he grabbed me in his arms, tore off my blouse, and kissed my breasts, right in the middle of the stadium, in from of a hundred thousand spectators. A lunatic, I thought. I wrenched myself out of his grasp and dashed away. But I could not forget the wild look in his eyes; and I never wanted to speak to him again, never go anywhere near him again."

She did, however, see him again, because she needed his help in persuading the winners of the pole vault, whose last stage she had been unable to film, to vault again for her cameras. Morris complied with her request for help, and he and Riefenstahl went on to have a brief but torrid affair. "Never before had I experienced such passion," writes Riefenstahl.

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