August 03, 2023

#ThrowbackThursday – 3 August

Ever wondered who created the elevator as we know it today? Perhaps you’re curious about what really went down between Jesse Owens and Adolf Hitler at the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics? Or maybe you want to find out which soccer club coughed up nearly a quarter of a billion euros for Neymar?

Well, take a gander at these three events that went down in history on 3 August to find out!

1811 – Happy Birthday, Elisha Otis

Today marks the 212th birthday of Elisha Otis, an American inventor credited with creating the first safety elevator.

Born in Montpelier, Vermont on 3 August 1811, Otis juggled many careers throughout his life: a wagon-driver, a carriage-builder, a toymaker and a bedstead-making factory owner. In the 1850s, he began tweaking with the idea of a lifting contraption – the initial design (which utilised a rope-and-cable system, complete with an automatic safety brake) would be used to carry and support freight.

Come 23 March 1857, Otis proved that his “elevator” could also carry and support actual people: he installed the first safety elevator at the E.V. Haughwout & Co. department store at 488 Broadway in New York City, New York. The cast-iron building stood at five-storeys, which meant that rather than traversing staircases, customers could now make use of Otis’ invention to travel between each floor.

Following this successful installation, Otis improved his design by incorporating a three-way steam valve engine, which allowed the elevator to move up and down, as well as be stopped.

Over the next few decades, the elevator industry boomed. The design of the contraption has seen various changes (elevator operators came and went, space widened to accommodate more than two or three people, steel ropes in place of actual ropes, etc).

Elevators also proved a boon for New Yorkers: rather than struggling to create buildings on smaller pieces of real estate, they could now take the buildings to the skies. Buildings became taller and taller, with elevators making for effective transportation for residents and renters alike.

So, if you’re using an elevator today, don’t forget to wish its inventor a very happy birthday!

1936 – Jesse Owens Runs into The Record Books (and In Front of Adolf Hitler, Too!)

As a man of colour, US track and field athlete Jesse Owens was no stranger to racism. As the grandson of a slave, he – along with other African-Americans – was forced to adhere to discriminatory laws that saw him being kept apart from white people throughout his daily life. Eating at “blacks-only” restaurants, sleeping at “blacks-only” hotels, and having to live off-campus while attending Ohio State University were just a few of the obstacles he faced.

Still, Owens managed to cultivate himself as a formidable athlete, famously setting four world records in track and field – including completing the 100-yard dash with a time of 9.4 seconds – at the Big Ten conference in 1935.

Unsurprisingly, he and other American athletes faced backlash on home soil when they decided to participate in the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics. The event was being held in Nazi Germany, where racial discrimination and anti-Semitism ran rife under the leadership of Chancellor Adolf Hitler, who sought to promote a pure and superior “Aryan” race at the expense of other non-white minorities.

On 3 August, Owens dazzled the crowd at Olympiastadion when the 23-year-old completed the 100-metre dash with a time of 10.3 seconds. This was the first of four gold medals he would win at the Olympics … and Hitler, who was in attendance (and who refused to shake hands with non-German victors), paid him the slightest hint of respect.

“I saw Herr Adolf Hitler salute this lad,” wrote Robert L. Vann, an African-American newspaper editor who was also in attendance, in a news report the following day.

“I looked on with a heart which beat proudly as the lad, who was crowned king of the 100 metres event, got an ovation the likes of which I have never heard before. I saw Jesse Owens greeted by the Grand Chancellor of this country as a brilliant sun peeped out through the clouds.”

Some eyewitnesses believe that Hitler shook hands with Owens afterwards; others, including Owens himself, claim that Hitler had simply waved at him and nothing more. What historians can agree on, however, is that the chancellor was annoyed by the fact that his German athletes were being outclassed and outshone by their non-white counterparts.

Regardless of the racial politics involved, Owens realised his dream that day: he had become the world’s fastest human being.

2017 – PSG Pays Big Money for Brazilian Star

There is serious money to be made in soccer, and players are often traded for eye-watering amounts – on 3 August, Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) made eyes water, pop AND explode when they coughed up a whopping €222 million in order to complete the signing of FC Barcelona’s star forward, Neymar.

At 25-years-old, Neymar had already proven that he had immense footballing talent: between 2013 and 2017, he had helped Barcelona win two league titles, three Copa del Rey championships and the UEFA Champions League trophy.

Plus, he was the jewel in the crown of the Brazilian national team, leading them all the way to the semi-finals of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. So, it was no wonder that PSG wanted Neymar to join them – however, Barca weren’t about to let him go without being paid the big bucks.

Per this Australian news report: “[On 2 August] Barcelona responded [to PSG] with a statement saying Neymar’s €222-million release clause must be paid in full, a scenario which until recently seemed beyond the reach of any rival … If PSG pays the clause, it would shatter the previous world record transfer of €105 million that Manchester United paid for France midfielder, Paul Pogba, last year.”

Les Parisiens wasted no time, paying the full amount the following day. Neymar subsequently signed a contract that would run until 2023 (he renewed his contract in 2021, thus ensuring he’ll stay at the club until 2025).

Since then, he has helped PSG lift a multitude of trophies, including four Ligue 1 championships between 2018 and 2023.

Guess every penny of that €222-million price-tag was well worth spending!

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