London: Conservationists are in a race against time to save the abandoned Olympic Village built by Adolf Hitler for his so-called “Nazi Games” in 1936.
The site on the western edge of Berlin is where the athletes from all over the world had headed 76 years ago to take part in the infamous Olympic Games in history.
But the athlete’s accommodation has been largely left to rot since it had been abandoned by Soviet forces in 1992 with only 25 of the 145 original buildings remaining, including the crumbling swimming pool, gym, theatre and dining hall.
Jens Becker from the DKB Bank, which owns the site, talked about the ongoing struggle to save the historic site.
“This is the oldest Olympic village that exists and that is why it is important to save it. It is a part of German history which nearly disappeared and now we are trying to save it,” the Daily Mail quoted Becker as telling The Times.
“It was the first permanent Olympic village. The athletes were impressed - each house had its own steward and there had never been a swimming pool before at an Olympic village,” he said.
Around 4,000 athletes including Great Britain’s 208-strong squad had taken part in the Games in the summer of 1936 as Europe teetered on the brink of war.
Hitler had looked on with delight as his German “supermen” lived up to his dreams of glory, winning the Games with a medal count of nearly 90; Great Britain came tenth with just 14 medals.
The only real slap in the face for the Fuhrer had been the success of America’s black track-and-field athlete Jesse Owens.
He won four gold medals and had been the star of the Games in the world’s eyes even if Hitler regarded him as inferior because of his colour.
Owens’s tiny room No 5, in block 39 is so far the only athlete’s room that has been renovated.
A short walk from his quarters lies the ‘Restaurant of the Nations,’ the eating hall for the athletes.
The record books tell how in three weeks the participants had consumed 100 cows, 91 pigs, over 650 lambs, 8,000lb of coffee, 150,000lb of vegetables and 160,000 pints of milk.
Sven Voege, who is currently in negotiations to rent out some of the village sites as exhibition rooms, said “it’s a shame’ so little of the site has been restored.”
Only the salon where the Italians had dined alongside the Soviets has been preserved. The room where the British athletes ate is a shell filled with fallen masonry.
Hopes of refurbishing the building, which served in World War II as a hospital for wounded German troops, have fallen through.
In 1936 a huge steel-and-wood sign depicting the five Olympic rings had stood on top of the ‘Restaurant of the Nations.’
That sign is now propped up against a back wall, forgotten, in the off-limits gymnasium.
After the war ended in 1945, the Olympic Village had been occupied for nearly 50 years by the Soviet Army.
So far, 1.7 million pounds has been spent to re-roof the swimming pool but there is no money left for the conservationists to work on restoring the rest of the village.