West Berlin’s Olympic Stadium hosted the 1936 Summer Olympics, notorious for Adolf Hitler’s intentions to showcase Aryan superiority. But on August 17, the stadium, within sight of the Berlin Wall, became a symbol of Eastern Europe’s newfound openness to the gospel, as some of the world’s top track athletes spoke about their Christian faith to East and West German fans.

The program was sponsored by Lay Witnesses for Christ, a Texas-based sports ministry that works mainly with Olympic athletes. Participants included Roger Kingdom, two-time Olympic gold medalist in the 110-meter hurdles; Leroy Burrell, whose victory at the Goodwill Games in Seattle last July earned him the title “world’s fastest human”; and David and Sandra Farmer Patrick, the only husband-and-wife pair to win world championships in the same track event (the 400-meter intermediate hurdles).

According to Bob Carey, Lay Witnesses’ senior international vice-president, an estimated 8,000 track enthusiasts stayed after the conclusion of the meet to hear the athletes speak. As the fans left, 30 volunteers stationed at exits handed out German-language tracts explaining the gospel.

A similar program was held two days later at a meet in Cologne, this time featuring Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis. There, Lewis spoke to an estimated 10,000 fans. “It’s hard for Americans to imagine Carl Lewis’s popularity in Europe, because we are inundated with superstars,” Carey said. “But when Carl began to speak, fans literally climbed over fences to stand closer to him.”

In Berlin, the track meet marked the first time since the opening of the Berlin Wall that East German fans could travel unrestricted ...

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