Programming Offers Historical, Cultural Look at the Olympics

It’s that time again. The Olympic team uniforms have been revealed (and critiqued), the first athletes have arrived in Rio and Olympic tie-in campaigns are well underway. But if you’re still seeking context for these Games, tune to NPT beginning this weekend for a look at historical, cultural and even gastronomic aspects of the Summer Olympics.

View of a Rio beach, from Get Ready to Rio! with Chef Hubert Keller
View of a Rio beach, from Get Ready to Rio! with Chef Hubert Keller

Get Ready to Rio! with Chef Hubert Keller, is a four-part cooking and travel series set in the Summer Olympic host city. Chef Keller meets with chefs and locals to learn about traditional and innovative Brazilian dishes, while also showcasing Rio de Janeiro’s breathtaking scenery. The series airs on NPT Saturdays, July 30 through August 20, at 1 p.m. You can also watch Get Ready to Rio! on NPT2, Wednesdays at 10 a.m., August 10 through 31.

Tuesday, August 2, at 7 p.m. The opening ceremony of the Olympics doubles as a high-tech branding opportunity for the host country and includes a dramatic lighting of the Olympic flame. We’re all familiar with the torch relay leading up to the ceremony; the tradition began with the 1936 Summer Olympics held in Berlin, Germany. Those Olympics introduced much of the now-familiar pageantry, but there was also a sinister side to those Olympics. The Nazi Games – Berlin 1936 uses newly declassified documents and rarely seen archival footage to expose the darker story of the Berlin Games.

Tuesday, August 2, at 8 p.m. Everyone loves an underdog and in the 1936 Olympics, the American rowing team was just that. Boys of ’36: American Experience tells the story of the  team’s unexpected gold-medal performance and the obstacles they overcame in life as well as in sports. This new documentary is based on the best-selling book by Daniel James Brown.

Tuesday, August 2, at 9 p.m. Women competed for Olympic boxing medals for the first time during the 2012 London Games. Claressa “T-Rex” Shields won that first gold medal at age 17, but as the coming-of-age documentary T-Rex: Her Fight for Gold shows on Independent Lens, her toughest competition may come outside the ring. Shields is defending her medal in the 2016 Rio Games.

Thursday, August 4, at 8 p.m. After legendary boxer Muhammad Ali died this spring, many of the remembrances included footage that showed what an unusual a fighter he was. Other stories examined forgotten chapters in his rise from obscure Louisville kid to Olympic champion to icon. Independent Lens: The Trials of Muhammad Ali looks at Ali’s 1960s battle to overturn the prison sentence he received for refusing induction into U.S. military service during the Vietnam War.

Thursday, August 4, at 9:30 p.m. Jesse Owens: Enduring Spirit looks at the athlete’s long association with Ohio State University from the days of his record-shattering performances on the school’s track team to well after his retirement from competition.

Thursday, August 4, at 11 p.m. The modern Olympics had its darkest moment on Sept. 5, 1972, when 11 Israeli athletes were taken hostage and eventually killed by Palestinian terrorists during the Munich Games. Munich ’72 and Beyond, is a new documentary about those horrifying events and the development of a Munich monument to the slain Olympians.

Friday, August 5, at 9 p.m. Niko von Glasow would seem to be the perfect choice to make a documentary about the 2012 London Paralympics. But the disabled filmmaker had no interest in sports nor the Games – until he took the assignment and got to know the athletes profiled in My Way to Olympia on POV.

Friday, August 12, at 9 p.m. It’s not quite the Olympics, but for the senior athletes featured in POV’s Ping Pong, participating in the Over 80 World Table Tennis Championships is a chance to show off their combined 703 years of experience. Their stories are inspiring and poignant; one competitor, for example, received a diagnosis of only one week to live, while another uses the sport as a respite to dementia.

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