After the horrors of World War II, the Olympic Movement reemerged after a 12-year break, and St. Moritz stepped up to host the Winter Games again. Towards the end of the official film of these Games, Fight Without Hate, the narrator, “Gaston,” referring to the athletes, says, “Someday they may appear naïve and old-fashioned.” Decades later, this description more accurately applies to the film’s narrative itself.
After a five-minute history of the Olympics, we are shown athletes training for various sports. The narrator tells us, “Only men. A little patience. The women are resting, doing themselves up, getting ready to present themselves before you.” During the Parade of Nations, Gaston’s wife interrupts to comment on how sexy the American men look. Gaston admonishes her by saying that we don’t judge sportsmen by their sexual appeal. But later, during the women’s figure skating, Gaston asks, “Can a judge focus on skates without ogling ankles and thighs.” His wife reminds him (in terms appropriate to 1948) that sexism works both ways.
The theme of the film is that the return of the Olympics represents “combat without hatred”. We are reminded that just a few years earlier, nations represented in St. Moritz were fighting against each other, and that now they are competing in harmony, not as enemies. This is true, but left unsaid is that the IOC banned Germany and Japan from taking part in either the Winter or Summer Games of 1948.
As for the competitions themselves, we see a variety of events, and are even shown some of the technical preparations, such as waxing of skis, equipment checks before the bobsleigh events and laying out of the skeleton course. During the skeleton competition, we are treated to a close-up of “56-year-old Coats of Great Britain.” Actually, that would be Jimmy Coates, who was 53 years old. Despite his age, Coats took seventh place out of 15 competitors.
For some strange reason, of the three ice hockey matches that are shown, two are of the United States losing by one goal each. The US team was ultimately disqualified because of a dispute between the US Olympic Committee and the International Hockey Federation after two American teams showed up in St. Moritz. The narrator comments that “Ice hockey is not a sport for ladies.” One factual error: the narrator tells us that the Italian team gave up 140 goals in their eight matches. Actually, they gave up 156.
Although it was being included in the Olympic program for the first time, the men’s downhill is described as the highlight of the Games. We are shown numerous spills, including those of an unnamed Norwegian and an unnamed Italian who get up and continue the course anyway. Henri Oreiller of France, who won by four seconds, is described as attacking the course with an attitude of “the hospital or victory.”
Figure skaters earn extra coverage, in particular Barbara Ann Scott of Canada, who won the women’s event, and the men’s victor, Dick Button, who is described as “devilishly dynamic…and very American.” There is also a long sequence, staged for the cameras, of various figure skaters, even augmented with special effects.