Olympic Stadium, Berlin, Then & Now.

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Olympic Stadium, Then & Now

Visitors photographed in 1936 and 2011.

It was a struggle to match these two photos, my position was slightly out. It doesn’t show much the way I have edited it. The extra bit on the left is the new roof added for the World Cup in 2006.

Built for the 1936 Olympiad, the stadium and its surrounds look much the same now as they did back then, having suffered very little damage during the war, although in 2002 an unexploded bomb was discovered beneath a section of seating.

The star of the 1936 Olympiad was Jesse Owens.

Hitler refused to shake hands with him after he won the Gold Medal for the 100m sprint as did US President Roosevelt. At the team’s welcome home reception at the Waldorf-Astoria, Owens wasn’t allowed to use the Hotel’s front entrance and had to use the freight elevator to get to the party.

Owens won 4 Gold Medals in all; 100m, 200m, long jump and was part of the American 400m relay team. He was asked by Nazi party member Adolf Dassler (hence; Adidas – his brother Rudolf by the way, created the rival company Puma) to wear his design of running shoes, thus becoming one of the first sponsored sports stars. Owens was well received by the German spectators, if not by the Nazi elite. There are now many places named after him, including Jesse Owens Allee, a main road to the south of this stadium.
Owens real name was James Cleveland, but after a schoolteacher misheard him give his initials (JC) it became ‘Jesse’.

The original photo in wikipedia commons


Below; High quality colour propaganda film selling Berlin to the world. It’s a fascinating video. During the games, the Nazis tried to play down their hatred of the Jews and many of the more public displays of anti-semitism, for instance the cases that displayed copies of the weekly tabloid Der Stürmer, were temporarily removed.

Famous photo of Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympiad from wikipedia commons


Original statues from 1936 of Aryan relay runners at the Reich Sports Field.


41 comments on “Olympic Stadium, Berlin, Then & Now.
  1. Air Frame Photography says:

    Another great show Ian…..great idea….has got me thinking!

  2. Ian D B says:

    You got some then and now ideas? Will keep an eye out for em!

  3. nondesigner59 says:

    Excellent technique.. Well done.

  4. amyrey says:

    I’m loving this series of old and new.

    I was listening to something on the TV recently that disputed the story that Hitler refused to shake Owens hand. It claimed, and I think the source was Owens himself, that while Hitler didn’t shake his hand, he did wave or acknowledge him in some way, which, as you say, was more than Roosevelt did. Ok Hitler was an evil little prick, but how would the world look upon "the leader of the free world" now if he refused to shake someones hand on the basis of colour.

    I just looked on Wikipedia (source of all knowledge) and it confirms the story, although it also states that Hitler believed coloured Americans should be excluded from future games.

    It is worth a read: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesse_Owens

  5. pasujoba says:

    Like this Ian , will have a look at the others in a while , just got in !

  6. Ian D B says:


    Cheers Amy, yeah saw that, I have been reading about Jesse Owens all afternoon!

    Hitler sent Owens a portrait of himself after the games while FDR totally blanked him. At the time, the International Olympic Committee told Hitler he had to shake hands with everyone or no-one, so he chose the latter after the 100m where he shook hands with the Germans and then left the stadium. About the only person to come out of it with any dignity was Owens himself.

    PS, it’s fashionable to slag off wikipedia but it really is the first place I look for everything. I’d struggle without it.


    Hello mate! Aye, go and get a brew first.

  7. SolarScot. says:

    Arsene Wenger refused to shake hands with Clive Allen after Spurs beat Arsenal the other week,i think it just makes them look the idiot, great shot Ian, i have an old postcard of Edinburgh i might try this idea with

  8. PeaceLoveScoobie says:

    Great work Ian! I hope to see it myself some day. There’s another great story from the 1936 Olympics and the Berlin Stadium that I think will get new coverage soon and you may know it. The Louie Zamperini’s story which was a recent popular book, "Unbroken", and is currently being made into a movie. Check out this CBS Sports 1998 Olympics report about his life, it’s incredible and has some personal accounts of the 1936 Olympics and the stadium.

    Louie is still alive and I would have to guess is one of the last athletes around that can tell first hand stories of the 1936 Olympics and the Berlin Stadium.


  9. Neal. says:

    We’ve come so far and yet in other things not very far at all.

  10. Ray~Watson says:

    Good work!!

  11. mick cooke says:

    great work ian

  12. C J Paul (chris) says:

    great set ian
    and brilliant pp again

  13. CORDAN says:

    Interesting Ian, it looks much like the the Sanskrit swastika on the right side instead of the straight edged one the Nazi’s used later. If that is a swastika. Good job on this!

  14. rob of rochdale says:

    This is one hell of a series of shots Ian!

    Really, really well done mate

  15. IANLAYZELLUK says:

    This collection of shots are so very well done. Interesting and great matching notes too. Very Cool and very interesting at the same time.

  16. Benoit Foisy says:

    Brilliant series, Ian. You are the most creative photographer I know. Not everybody can integrate creativity and photojournalism like you do. Impressive.

  17. Mark McKie says:

    Nice one mate…. I might give this a try.

  18. gastephen says:

    Another fascinating montage, Ian. And interesting items of trivia, too. That UXB must have been lurking there for a while!

  19. Mustang Koji says:

    Ian… You outdid yourself this time, sir. A wonderful job of bringing the past once again into the future.

    I, for one, had believed all structures associated with the Nazis had been destroyed or left to decay. Thanks for the history lesson once again.

  20. Tech Owl says:

    You must have done a fair amount of research to see what the original shots were – I am very impressed with these shot Ian. Top notch!

  21. het broertje van.. says:

    Simply excellent again Ian……………….such a great find!!!


  22. andyholmfirth says:

    Love these shots Ian.Your stream does give some compelling insights of this period.

  23. Ian D B says:

    Many thanks everyone.


    Cheers Keith, I’ll check it out.


    I’m touched.

  24. Mojumbo22 (Matt Pirecki) says:

    Thats a cool one.

  25. bandman12 says:

    Great history you couple with your art.

  26. Mary Liquid says:

    I like this alot. Superb.

  27. Reflective Kiwi %-) says:

    Another fantastic montage of the old and the new! I LOVE t he way you have composed these shots Ian. Very powerful and very effective! %-)

  28. Marc Melander says:

    Superbly done. Your Berlin images are excellent – I will have a more detailed look later.

  29. Chris D 93 says:

    Outstanding!! Really clever idea and brilliently done

  30. Ian D B says:

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/52901797@N02] [http://www.flickr.com/photos/31129060@N06] [http://www.flickr.com/photos/32955908@N04] [http://www.flickr.com/photos/51809269@N08]
    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/39660756@N07] [http://www.flickr.com/photos/10735438@N07]

    Many thanks everyone, pleased you like it. Of the Berlin Then & Now images, this I think is the best.

  31. Mustang Koji says:

    Great timing for bringing this piece back to the forefront. Bravo.

  32. stickotopia says:

    I heard that too on radio 4 I think – that Jesse Owens actually felt more snubbed by Roosevelt. There was another story on there that I caught recently – not war related but race related – about a Native American who excelled at an early Olympics but (I think) because he had in the past received some minimal payment and so was deemed ‘professional’ – some jobsworth had all his medals taken off him. Years after his death they re-instated the medals – was a really sad story. Would make a great film – like the one about the Indian princess who spied for us in France (another one I ‘caught’ on the tv recently).

    Got to find the links now. Found something so here goes:

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Thorpe#Controversy (I’ve linked straight to the controversy bit – which explains why they took the medals from him – but basically it was because he was part Native American)

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-20240693 Noor Inayat Khan: The Indian princess who spied for Britain

  33. stickotopia says:

    Talking about this reminded me of a bit of an American propaganda film on QI recently – showing a Black GI in Britain during WWII chatting to a little old lady on a train. It’s all very polite and they are getting on well and she says he must visit for afternoon tea (or something like that).

    The punchline at the end was so unexpected – along the lines of warning White soldiers that the British just don’t understand and are too friendly with the ‘wrong sort’.
    I’ve tried to find it since on the internet but had no luck.

  34. Ian D B says:

    The film reference is here, buried in this episode. Go to 39 mins 33 seconds for the start of the piece but they don’t show it, just Ronnie Ancona talking about the film advising white GIs to be aware that racial segregation is not the done thing in Britain.


    It was the same in the 60s, the Beatles in America refused to play concerts where black people were segregated, not least because rock n roll is black music! Paul McCartney said in that understated way that young people do when they summarise the ridiculousness of the whole thing, “We don’t like it if there’s any segregation or anything, because we’re not used to it, you know…it just seems a bit daft."

    Thanks for the Jim Thorpe links. Worth reading further down re; Racism and the reinstatment of his medals as you say.
    Noor Inayat Khan is a well known heroine of the war. Incredibly brave woman and well deserving recognition.

  35. Keir says:

    Terrific work. I’ve tried my hand on my own site devoted to Nazi sites then-and-now. I’m taking my students to Berlin next week and your pics will come in handy.
    Shame flickr became yet another casualty of corporate incompetence and greed…

    • Ian D B says:

      Hi Keir,

      Thanks for your comments – about the photos and flickr – and apologies for the late reply; my over-zealous spam filter shoved your comment to one side for some reason.

      I shall take a look at your site, hope you get some then and now photos. Don’t know if you are planning to go to the Reichstag? Last time I was there thay had changed admission to pre-booked visits only which prevented me from attempting a then and now composite of the red flag being raised on the roof.


  36. Koji D. Kanemoto says:

    I sure wish I had you, mate, when I went to Japan in November! Great stuff here. Been missing you and your work.

  37. David Sewell says:

    Ah, Berlin! What a city. I was stationed there with the RAF during the ‘chilly’ war, and your site has prompted a few memories, one of which involved the Olympic Stadium.

    I think it was in ’79, and we were putting on a display for the Queens birthday. We duly drove into the Stadium in our open-backed Land Rovers and took up position. As the speeches were about to start, all engines were turned off. Well, almost all. Unfortunately ours refused to stop, and for the first few moments of the speeches, our Landie put-put-puttered along with its own personal accompaniment before coughing itself into silence.

    Embarrassed? I felt small enough to crawl down the barrel of my SMG!

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