Jesse Owens (R) and Luz Long (L) chat together in the Berlin stadium 1 August 1936 during the Olympic Games (AFP / Getty Images) © Copyright
General News Berlin, Germany

Families of Jesse Owens, Luz Long to unite at World Championships

The families of Olympic legend Jesse Owens and German long jumping great Luz Long will be part of the 12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics, to be held 15-23 August in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium.

Thanks to a joint effort between the IAAF, USA Track & Field and the Berlin Organizing Committee, Marlene (Owens) Dortch and Kai Long will represent their families as they award the medals for the men’s Long Jump final on 22 August. Ms. Dortch is the granddaughter of Owens and Kai Long is Luz’s son. Ms. Dortch, Mr. Long and their families are also expected to take part in events at the KulturStadion, located at the Brandenburg gate, which will feature athletics celebrations throughout the championships.

At the World Championships, the U.S. team will wear a special uniform approved by the IAAF, which features the initials of Mr. Owens.

“These Championships provide a rare opportunity to honor the bond of international friendship formed between Mr. Owens and Mr. Long,” IAAF President Lamine Diack said. “It is our earnest hope that the power of athletics to unite the world in friendship can be displayed once again in Berlin during these World Championships.”

“To see the families of Jesse Owens and Luz Long, side by side, will provide the capstone to a yearlong celebration for USA Track & Field,” USATF CEO and General Secretary Doug Logan said. “Few athletes mean more to our sport’s international heritage than Mr. Owens, and it is our honour to assist in bringing the Owens and Long families together again.”

It will mark the first time since 1936 that a member of Mr. Owens’ family has returned to Berlin, where at the 1936 Olympic Games, Long played a pivotal role in helping enable Owens to achieve his historic four gold-medal performance. During Long Jump qualifying, Owens had fouled during his first two attempts. Facing elimination from the competition if he did not post a qualifying mark on his third attempt, Owens received assistance from Long, who set the Olympic record during qualifying. Long suggested to Owens that he move back the start of his run-up so he would take off well before the long jump board.

Owens followed Long’s advice and easily qualified for the final, where he won the competition with a leap of 8.06m/26 feet, 5.5 inches, with Long taking the silver. The two walked from the stadium, arm-in-arm, and in the more than 70 years since that moment, the two families have remained in contact.