Today marks the opening of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, the 22nd Winter Olympics. This will be the first time that the Russian Federation have hosted the Winter Olympics (they hosted the Summer Games in Moscow in 1980).
This year also marks 90 years since the first ever Winter Olympics, held in Chamonix, France, and 78 years since the 1936 games in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Within our Special Collections we hold a souvenir publication, ‘Olympia 1936’, which was produced to mark these games by the “Cigaretten-Bilderdienst Altona-Bahrenfeld”, a subsidiary of the Reemtsma tobacco company. A series of these albums were produced in the 1920s and 1930s – the unillustrated album was fairly cheap to buy, and the pictures to stick inside could be bought with coupons given away with their cigarettes. The 1936 album was a particularly deluxe production in two volumes, with royal-blue binding and many illustrations already provided.
The first volume of Olympia 1936 begins with a full account of the Winter Games, followed by a general history of the modern Olympic movement and the Games since 1896, an overview of the countries competing in 1936 and a description of the preparations and the German team’s training for the summer games. The second volume covers the Summer Games in detail from the start of the torch relay, through the different events, to the final carving of the victors’ names on the stadium’s Marathon Gate, “to immortalise them for all time”.
The pages shown in our Photo Friday illustrations show some of the figure skaters – Viktoria Lindpaintner (Germany), Montgomery Wilson (Canada), Vera Hruba (Czechoslovakia), and Jack Edward Dunn (Great Britain), along with Sonja Henie (Norway) shown in a separate photograph. Sonja Henie won her third consecutive Olympic gold medal in women’s figure skating in the 1936 games, and following the games she turned professional and toured the world achieving great popularity, especially in the US.
The 1936 games was the 4th Olympic Winter Games, and this was the last year in which the winter and summer games were held in the same country (the summer games of 1936 were held in Berlin). Although opposed to the Olympic ideals, Adolf Hitler opened the 1936 games. The German games caused controversy because the Nazi regime tried to use them for propaganda purposes. The IOC President had to demand that all anti-Semitic posters and pamphlets be removed just the day before the opening.
To find out more about the Winter Olympic Games, past and present, visit the official website of the Olympic Movement at http://www.olympic.org/olympic-games
Access to all material in our Special Collections is by arrangement with the LJMU Archivist