Vanoc takes down video called "incredibly offensive" by Jewish torchbearer

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      A Jewish 2010 Olympic torchbearer who swam for Canada in the 1972 Munich Olympics is “disturbed” by Vanoc’s inclusion of footage from Adolf Hitler’s favourite propagandist in a promotional video.

      Today (February 3), Vanoc removed the film from its Web site. This afternoon, Karen James had spoken out against Vanoc’s use of the Leni Riefenstahl footage, and demanded that it be removed.

      (The Straight broke the story of Vanoc's video including Riefenstahl's footage on a week ago; the story was subsequently covered by the National Post and the Globe and Mail.)

      “The torchbearers, when they are being bussed to their spot where they are going to run from, they show a film on the origins of this torch relay,” James, 57, told reporters at the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. “They actually show a clip, apparently, from Leni Riefenstahl’s film [Olympia] on the 1936 [Berlin] Olympics, blacking out some of the symbols....So I called the office for the torchbearers and made a point about asking that that film be removed. I am not sure if it will, but it is quite offensive.”

      The Straight previously reported that, about 25 seconds into the video Lights Will Guide You Home, a runner holding the torch enters a huge sports stadium. The footage came from Riefenstahl’s movie shot during the 1936 Olympics, which helped cement Hitler’s rule over Germany.

      “To bring that back and to use the film from the ’36 Olympics is incredibly offensive,” James told the Straight shortly after the press conference. “Someone just wasn’t thinking when they put that in there. They couldn’t have been thinking and thinking how offensive it is. I know the history and what it’s about.”

      James said she will be one of the last bearers to hoist the torch before it is taken to the opening ceremony.

      She said she would not boycott her segment if Riefenstahl’s clip is not removed, but added, “I’m counting on them removing it.”

      Vanoc’s media relations department did not respond today to a message from the Straight.



      Terry Loewen

      Feb 3, 2010 at 6:49pm

      The people running the Olympics should take a good long look at history....real and graphic history of the Nazi regime and then stand in front of Canadians and make the choice in front of all of us which flag they'll bear....the Canadian flag...or Hitler's flag.

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      EVIL Patrick

      Feb 3, 2010 at 7:00pm

      So the plan is to ignore the history behind this big part of the Olympics because it had an ugly history... hmmm. i think the games should be shown in every light, good and bad.

      If she really cared that much about how offensive the torch relay's history is, then why is she participating in it?

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      Track Record

      Feb 3, 2010 at 7:26pm

      I think VANOC's actions depict which flag they are flying and it clearly has nothing to do with the citizens of Canada.

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      Peter Mussallem

      Feb 3, 2010 at 9:46pm

      First, Leni Riefenstahl was not a Nazi. She was a fine photographer-- so good, in fact, that Hitler's chief of communications, Josef Goebels, tried his best to sabotage her work out of jealousy. Second, The fact that Hitler recognized her high standards and creative genius does not, in my view, put the brand of "Nazi" on Riefenstahl. Hitler was a non-smoking vegetarian, and was very vocal on the subject. Should we be equating these two choices with Nazi-ism? "Oh my God, she's a vegetarian--just like Hitler--she must be a Nazi!" Leni Rienstahl lived to a great old age, producing wonderful photo essays on the Masai tribes in Africa, among other things. Does that sound like the work of a true Aryan Nazi? She was blackballed in Hollywood by companies whose directors were Jewish and held the same opinion of those who feel that Riefenstahl's genius in portraying Hitler's unbelievable power to turn Germans (as well as many people in many other countries) made her an enthusiastic follower of Hitler and the Nazis. That people accepted their opinion like sheep is apparently not gone. Again, Riefenstahl was NOT a Nazi, and her films are portrayals of history, NOT propaganda for the NSDAP.

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      Neale Adams

      Feb 3, 2010 at 10:08pm

      I can see why Karen wants to carry the torch despite its history. The Olympics, like many institutions, has a checkered past. It can inspire people - especially the athletes and their stories. The Jesse Owens story is part of the 1936 Olympics, too. But if we are to deal with the Olympics, and evoke its history, we should do it honestly, warts and all. What I really objected to in VANOC's "Lights will guide you home" video was not so much including film that Reifenstahl shot, but changing it, and taking out the Nazi salute the runner received when he entered the stadium, and you can see here: That was part of the Olympics, too. Why did VANOC alter the video? To be "non-political" they said. But of course the real reason is that even they realized that to include the original video they would have to admit that the Olympics has a very spotted history - bad as well as good - and they were afraid to do that. the ambiguity of truth doesn't sell Coca Cola and McDonald's hamburgers, I guess.

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      Feb 4, 2010 at 11:47am

      Of course they "were thinking" when they included the Riefenstahl footage. They don't care whether or not it is offensive. In this thoroughly postmodern period the Olympics are meant to symbolize exactly whatever the sponsors want it to symbolize. Like the Nazi ideal of 1936 embodied by special event and assembly areas in Berlin, the western economic-political utopian ideal is best symbolized by Vancouverism. The local citizenry is in perfect psychological denial regarding how their way of life destroys the lives of countless others, within the city itself as well as around the globe in equatorial regions - just as the citizens of Deutschland would be in the years following Hitler's Olympics. The Riefenstahl clip should be seen as a Freudian slip that exposes our deep (unconscious) affinities to the Nazi party of '36.

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      Dan Maitland

      Feb 4, 2010 at 12:41pm

      As the Olympic torch wends and circles its way through the streets of Canada and fades out so too goes the flame of Canada's moral compass.
      In 1980 Canada boycotted the glory of the Moscow Olympics deeming our participation in the games as "inappropriate" given the military occupation of Afghanistan, then described by the Conservative party as "international terrorism".
      In 2010 Canada embraces the glory of the Vancouver Olympics deeming our participation in the games as compatible with the military occupation of Afghanistan and collaboration with a venal regime of war lords and drug dealers.
      It would appear that the circuitous and aimless Olympic torch run back and forth , a protracted PR stunt, is a fitting symbol of the moral depravity of a nation which glories in games on occupied indigenous lands here and occupied foreign lands there.
      The politburo would be proud.

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      Feb 4, 2010 at 12:58pm

      Well if the symbology is all being freed up as per Peter Mussallem's comment then why not just dress our athletes in Swaticas too? They used to be for luck after all!
      Seriously though its not a matter of what the film maker intended its a matter of how it was used and what it represents to people currently. If one wants to be sensitive to other people, otherwise I'd recommend you to Durgan's post above which is definitely on point as bad as it might taste.

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      Eric Doherty

      Feb 4, 2010 at 1:31pm

      The torch relay in 2010 is being used as propaganda by people who are committing crimes against humanity, just as in 1936. The difference is now it is the Royal Bank (RBC), the key financier of the Tar Sand and torch relay sponsor, who is committing climate crime - now the greatest threat to our future. Things have not changed all that much. See for more on Olympic sponsors linked to the Tar Sands climate crime scene.

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      Bloated Sac

      Feb 4, 2010 at 4:04pm

      They missed one arm going up and down in the air in their masking efforts. at the 25 second mark just as she hits the stadium entrance just below the flame. Someone standing around the corner of the door she's entering to her right. You can see it in that pic above...

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