French Olympian apologizes for comparing Rio fans to Berlin games
(JTA) — A French Olympian apologized for comparing the booing he suffered at the Rio Olympics to what black American sprinter Jesse Owens went through at the 1936 Berlin games under Nazi rule.
“Yes, sorry for the bad comparaison [sic] I made,” pole vaulter Renaud Lavillenie tweeted Thursday. “It was a hot reaction and I realize it was wrong. Sorry to everyone.”
Lavillenie made the comparison at a news conference Monday after being booed by Brazilian fans, who apparently saw him as the biggest threat to the Brazilian pole vaulter Thiago Braz de Silva.
“For the Olympics, [booing] is not a good image. I did nothing to the Brazilians,” Lavillenie, 29, said at the news conference. “In 1936 [at the Berlin Olympics], the crowd was against Jesse Owens. We’ve not seen this since. We have to deal with it.”
On Tuesday night, Lavillenie won the silver medal and Braz de Silva took the gold. The crowd booed the French runner-up nonetheless, and Lavillenie was later consoled by Braz de Silva and former Ukrainian pole vaulter Sergei Bubka, a gold medalist and one-time record holder.
Owens earned four gold medals at the 1936 games, earning a hostile reaction from Adolf Hitler and many in the crowd at the Berlin Olympic stadium