Jesse Owens’ Room, Meissen House, 1936 Olympic Village

by Leslie Hossack

75 years ago this week, Jesse Owens won four gold medals at the Berlin Games.

Jesse Owens’ Room, Meissen House, 1936 Olympic Village, Berlin 2010

© Leslie Hossack

During the Berlin Olympics, male competitors were housed in the Olympic Village, located about 14 km west of the Olympic Stadium. There were 140 houses for the athletes, and each house was named after a German city. Jesse Owens stayed in Meissen House. The white bungalows with red tile roofs contained 13 bedrooms, with two athletes per room. According to the official report of the 1936 Games, “the double-bed rooms were spacious, elegantly designed and lavishly decorated and furnished.”

Soon after he moved into the Olympic Village, Jesse Owens was visited by a German shoe manufacturer named Adi Dassler. Owens was persuaded by Dassler to compete wearing the athletic shoes that he was producing in a small company in Bavaria. This was the first sponsorship for an African-American athlete. As a result, Adi Dassler’s business expanded, and he eventually founded Adidas in 1948.

American Olympian Jesse Owens was born James Cleveland Owens, in 1913 in Alabama. The son of a sharecropper and the grandson of a slave, he went on to become the star of the Berlin Games. There he won four gold medals: the 100 metre sprint on August 3rd; the long jump on August 4th; the 200 metre sprint on August 5th; and the 4 x 100 metre relay on August 9th. Owens’ record of four gold medals at a single Olympic Games stood for almost 50 years, until Carl Lewis won gold medals in the same four events in 1984.

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