The People’s Olympics in Barcelona

    The People’s Olympics (L’Olimpíada Popular – Catalan; Olimpiada Popular – Spanish) was to be organised in Barcelona as a protest event against the 1936 Summer Olympics planned for Berlin under Nazi rule, and widely seen as an apology to Nazi power and ideas. Barcelona had originally been a candidate for the games but had lost out to Berlin, which  was chosen before the Nazis came to power. Following its election in February 1936, the Popular Front government decided to boycott the Berlin Olympics and host its own games inspired by more egalitarian principles. The games were scheduled to be held from July 19 to July 26 and would have ended six days before the start of the Berlin games. In addition to the usual sporting events, the games were to feature chess, folkdancing, music and theatre.

    A total of 6,000 athletes from 22 nations registered for the games. The largest contingents of athletes came from the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and French Algeria. There were also German and Italian teams made up of exiles from those countries. In addition some 20,000 visitors came to the city to watch the games, creating considerable problems with accommodation.

    Many of the athletes were sent by trade unions, workers’ clubs and associations, socialist and communist parties and left-wing groups rather than by countries.

    Most of the athletes were already in the city on the eve of the 19th June. On the 18th there was a test run of the opening ceremony and that night many of the athletes slept in the stadium itself. But the Games never took place. The military uprising broke out on the day when they were set to begin and so they had to be cancelled. The Spanish Civil War  had begun. Some athletes never made it to Barcelona as the borders had been closed while those who were in the city for the beginning of the games had to make a hasty exit. However, at least 200 of the athletes remained in Spain and joined workers’ militias that were organized to defend the Spanish Republic.

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