Jesse Owens 1936 Olympic gold fetches record US$1.4m

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 December, 2013, 8:49pm
UPDATED : Monday, 09 December, 2013, 8:49pm


An Olympic gold medal won by Jesse Owens at the 1936 Berlin Games has sold for a record US$1.4 million at auction.

Ron Burkle, co-owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins ice hockey team, paid US$1,466,574, the highest price ever fetched by a piece of Olympic memorabilia.

"We just hope that it's purchased by an institution where the public could have access to it - a museum or something like that," Owens' daughter, Marlene Owens Rankin, of Chicago, said before the sale. SCP Auctions said Burkle, who also owns William Faulkner's 1949 Nobel Prize for literature medal, has plans for an educational tour of the historic pieces. The Los Angeles billionaire has stakes in a series of companies, as well as the National Hockey League team.

Owens won gold in the 100 and 200 metre sprints, the 400 metres relay and the long jump at the games, attended by Adolf Hitler. The Nazi leader used the Olympics to showcase his ideas of Aryan racial supremacy only to see African-American athletes dominate track and field events.

According to the auction house, based in Laguna Niguel, California, the medal is unidentifiable to a specific event.

It said Owens gave the medal to his friend, dancer and movie star Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, as thanks for helping Owens find work in entertainment after he returned from Berlin.

The medal was sold by the estate of Robinson's late widow, Elaine Plaines-Robinson. SCP Auctions Vice-President Dan Imler said the whereabouts of the other three medals is unknown.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale will be donated to the Jesse Owens Foundation.

Last month, IOC President Thomas Bach said the Owens medal is "part of world heritage".

He added: "It has an importance far beyond the sporting achievements of Jesse Owens, which is part of world history.

"To put this up for an auction is, for me, a very difficult decision to accept."