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5 sports films that slam racism

Bettina Baumann / dbJuly 28, 2016

Sports bring people together. But history shows that, tragically, they've also been used as an arena for racism. Ahead of the Olympics, these five must-see films are based on true stories of racism and heroism in sports.

Film still from 'Race', Copyright: picture-alliance/dpa/SquareOne/Universum
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/SquareOne/Universum

As Rio gears up for the 2016 Summer Olympics, the Hollywood film "Race" by Stephen Hopkins makes it debut in Germany. The film tells the true story of African-American track legend Jesse Owens (played by Stephan James), who competed for the US in the 1936 Olympic Games in what was then Nazi-ruled Berlin.

Most successful athlete in Berlin

An audience of 150,000 watched in 1936 as Owens won the 4x100 meter relay, the 100-meter and the 200-meter race. He beat the German contender Carl Ludwig "Luz" Long on the long jump, setting up new Olympic record.

Owens' four gold medals made him the Berlin Games' most successful athlete. The decision to compete in Germany at all wasn't an easy one for the 23-year-old, who wondered whether he shouldn't in fact boycott the Olympics, since they were taking place under the Nazi flag.

Later, Owens said he actually faced much greater racist hostilities at home in the segregated US than in Germany. He and his German opponent Long became close friends. The summer of 1936 - those were "the happiest days of my life," the US athlete later reminisced.

Tackling racism in sports

"Race" is more than a haunting sports biography, it shines light on how sports and politics are intertwined, and it spotlights an issue that is still an issue today: racism. It's not the only film to tackle racism in sports. Click through the gallery above for a look at other worthwhile films based on true stories.