Featured events

7-9 September 2012
Brussels Games

Brussels Gay Sports will offer a weekend of fun and fairplay in the capital of Europe, with volleyball, swimming, badminton, and tennis, as well as fitness and hiking.

Learn more HERE.
26-28 October 2012
Bern, Switzerland

The success of the first edition of the QueergamesBern proved the need for an LGBT multisport event in Switzerland. This year will be even bigger, with badminton, bowling, running, walking, floorball.

Learn more HERE.
17-20 January 2013
Sin City Shootout
Las Vegas
The 7th Sin City Shootout will feature softball, ice hockey, tennis, wrestling, basketball, dodgeball, bodybuilding and basketball.

Learn more HERE.

13-16 June 2013
IGLFA Euro Cup
After this year's edition in Budapest at the EuroGames, the IGLFA Euro Cup heads to Dublin for 2013, hosted by the Dublin Devils and the Dublin Phoenix Tigers.

Learn more HERE.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Notes on an exhibition: "European Sport Under Nazism"

Yesterday, along with fellow FGG board members Emy Ritt and Sonia Abécassis, I visited an enlightening and thought-provoking exhibition at the Memorial of the Shoah in Paris. The exhibition, entitled "European Sport Under Nazism", runs through 18 March 2012, and is worth a visit for those visiting Paris.

I was touched by the portraits of Jewish (and Roma) athletes excluded from sport, many sent to their death, a few rescued by the Just, sometimes thanks to their athletic career,  a few surviving, perhaps in part due to the discipline and solidarity of sport. Among these was Alfred Nakache, the greatest French swimmer of the 1930s, and whose name has been given to the new sports complex built in my neighborhood. These portraits brought the big-picture policies and horrors down to a personal level.

With regard to the Gay Games movement, from this period of history we can see the power of sport to be used as a force for evil: there is nothing inherently good about sport. People are good or bad, and they can use the world around them as tools for good or bad. When the fundamental principle of equality of all on the playing field are violated, sport ceases to be sport. 

Also of interest were the lingering effects of this period, and the total failure of the Olympic movement and the IOC in particular to ensure that sport remained free from politics and that athletes were protected. Indeed, the culprits in the fascist abuse of sport and destruction of athletes suffered almost no repercussions from their complicity. As just one example, Avery Brundage, who led the campaign against an American boycott of the Berlin Olympics (and the man who had no problem with Nazi salutes in Berlin, but expelled Tommie Smith and John Carlos in 1968), remained unsullied by his history, and instead was rewarded with the presidency of the IOC from 1952-1972, after replacing a fellow American expelled from the IOC for the "crime" of having decried the racist Berlin Olympics.

While the videos and documents are particularly moving, the Memorial has produced a detailed website, which offers much of the basic presentation text of the exhibition. You can find it (in English) HERE. Below is the introduction.

-- Marc Naimark

Totalitarian regimes not only harnessed schools, the army and leisure activities to fashion the new male body, and fire his spirit: they also used physical education and sport as a means to better the race and prepare for war – hence the regimes’ marked interest in swimming and athletics, which flexed the muscles and sculpted the body; in rugby and boxing, which strengthened the character; in high-speed sports like motor racing and aviation, which encouraged a taste for danger. Hence also their suspicion of football: a spectator sport which benefitted its professional players, and could send crowds into an uncontrollable frenzy.

The control and purging of the sports clubs and federations, the sporting indoctrination of the masses and the international celebration of the national champions and teams: these were the fundamental principles of sporting politics under the fascist and Nazi regimes, as well as their Vichyist and Francoist imitators, not to mention the USSR. Never in the history of the 20th century had the sporting body been subjected to such state control.

In keeping with its mission, the Shoah Memorial had no choice but to seize upon this aspect of our societies’ history – one that has been the subject of numerous academic studies in recent decades. The exhibition, website and catalogue of “European Sport under Nazism, from the Olympic of Berlin to the London Olympics (1936-1948)” give an account of these realities, with a view to scientific rigor and reaching a wide audience.

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