bbc.co.uk Navigation


Part of an exhibition looking at the 1936 Berlin Olympics (left) and former International Olympic Committee president Avery Brundage

No Olympic countdown should be complete without mention of Avery Brundage.

The American is one of the most controversial sporting figures of the last century and for 20 years he was the most powerful man in sport.

He was not always a popular man, but that did not bother him.

Brundage was the man who fought hard to keep the Olympics amateur during his reign as president of the International Olympic Committee between 1952-72, saying: "Sport must be amateur or it is not sport. Sports played professionally are entertainment."

But he accepted the shamateurism going on in Eastern Bloc countries.

He stopped an American boycott of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, but was accused of being a pro-Nazi sympathiser.

He opposed women competing at the Games, saying: "The ancient Greeks kept women athletes out of their games. They wouldn't even let them on the sidelines. I'm not sure but that they were right."

He threw American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos out of the 1968 Olympics for contravening the Olympic charter after their Black Power salute - a documentary on BBC Four will look deeper into the issue on Wednesday, 9 July.

Brundage also famously declared: "The Games must go on," at the 1972 Munich Games following the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes.

But that barely begins to tell the story of a man who was involved with the Olympics from his time as a competitor at the 1912 Games, to his death in 1975 at the age of 87.

Brundage was a good athlete and finished fifth and 14th in the pentathlon and decathlon events in 1912, as well as 22nd in the discus.

His team-mate Jim Thorpe won both events, but had his medals stripped away by the IOC after they had been tipped off that he had played baseball professionally in an era when only amateurs were allowed to compete.

Many years later, when Brundage was IOC president, he refused to allow Thorpe's medals to be returned to him and it emerged after his death, that he had originally told the IOC about his professionalism.

Brundage was president of the United States Olympic Committee as the 1936 Berlin Games approached, and he opposed a proposed boycott, arguing that politics had no place in sport.

As the Olympics controversy heated up in 1935, Brundage alleged the existence of a "Jewish-Communist conspiracy" to keep the United States out of the Games.

America did go to the Games though and one Jesse Owens stole the show with his quadruple gold-medal winning exploits.

Brundage is a truly fascinating character and there are a seemingly endless number of stories around the man, such as him throwing Eleanor Holm off the 1936 American Olympic team for drinking champagne on the boat on the way to Berlin, to him wanting to get rid of the Winter Olympics.

This has been the briefest of looks into his life and there is no doubt he made a huge impact on the Olympics, but how do you think he would survive in today's climate?

Peter Scrivener is a BBC Sport Journalist. Our FAQs should answer any questions you have.


Comments

or register to comment.

View these comments in RSS

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites