Thursday, 26 July 2012

Jessie Owens and Luz Long

I guess like every minister I constantly find  that more people talk to me after the service about the ‘Children’s Talk’ than the sermon!  We sometimes hear God speaking to us in the simpler thing.

Well this week I’ve been preparing a number of talks for next week’s Boys’ and Girls’ Brigade Camp at Corfe Castle and inevitably they’ve had an Olympic theme.  One talk has got to me – so I hope it makes a similar impression on the youngsters as they hear it stood around the flagpole in a Dorset field next week! It isn’t exactly a simple story because it contains some of the most complex issues any society has to cope with – namely those connected with racism.

It’s about the remarkable friendship which grew between the black American athlete Jessie Owens and his long-jump competitor, the German Luz Long during the Berlin Games of 1936. 

Hitler wanted to prove Aryan supremacy but that didn’t stop Luz Long giving Jessie Owens a tip about starting his jump six inches back so he didn’t foul.  That one piece of advice probably cost Long the gold medal because even though he broke the Olympic record on his jump, Owens followed with the jump of his life at over 26 feet and beat Luz. 

The first to congratulate Owens was Luz Long – the friendship these two men had built up during the games went deep and to show just how deep the next thing Long did was stunning.  He took Owens by the hand and led him – the man who had just robbed him of the title – over to the German crowd and held up Owens’ arm in victory.  To Hitler’s intense annoyance the crowd, egged on by Luz Long, started chanting Owens, Owens, Owens!

It must rank as one of the greatest Olympic moments of all time – a testament to true friendship and respect at a time when the menace of Nazi prejudice was growing by the month

Tomorrow the 2012 Games start – and sometime over the weekend – in a field by the south coast - I’ll have the privilege of telling this story from 1936 – a story about values and ideals for any year and for every person.

Best wishes,


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