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The Brundage Papers


Sir Rols

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An interesting historical story surfacing on the IOC pres, after Samaranch, who sems to polarise feelings the most. I know we have some Wilfrid Laurier alumni here - I wonder if any might wanna go for a peek:

Personal papers on display offer glimpse into mind of former IOC president

VANCOUVER - Former IOC president Avery Brundage would have felt mixed emotions had he visited Vancouver during February's Winter Olympic Games.

Brundage would have been furious that professional hockey players competed at the Olympics. The commercialism of the Games, and television's impact on their planning, would have troubled him.

But the former athlete would likely have been thrilled over the sold-out venues and the happy celebrations in the streets.

An insight into Brundage's thoughts and actions is contained in 40 years of personal documents, minutes of IOC board meetings, reports and correspondence obtained by Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont. The 146 reels of microfilm are open to the public in the special collections section of the university's library.

Stephen Wenn, a Wilfrid Laurier professor who has studied the Olympics, said the papers show the convictions and stubborn nature of the only American ever elected president of the International Olympic Committee.

"Along the path there were a good number of incidents where his particular choices and decisions were certainly open to historical debate," Wenn, who has written papers on Brundage, said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

"The interesting thing about Brundage is he never thought he was wrong. He was always right in his mind."

Brundage was IOC president from 1972 to 1972, through the tense, political time of the Cold War and the growth of television.

He has been criticized for his hard-line opposition to professionals competing at the Olympics; his views on separating sport and politics; and for allowing the 1972 Munich Games to continue after 11 Israeli athletes were killed by terrorists.

An art collector and philanthropist, Brundage has been accused of being a Nazi sympathizer. He also opposed women competing at the Games.

"I certainly don't agree with every single policy decision he ever made," said Wenn. "The truth is, he did keep the Olympics together during a very challenging, difficult leadership period.

"He was a very powerful individual and a character who probably, like most people in positions of power, stayed around too long. Brundage probably needed to move on at least four, maybe eight years before he did."

The self-made Chicago millionaire, who died in 1975 at the age of 87, would have been stunned with the size and shape of the Vancouver Games.

"He wouldn't recognize the Olympics today," Wenn said. "It would take him a little bit of time just to get caught up with the amount of change.

"The size of the Games, the involvement of commercial interests, those things would have concerned him. The performance there of professional athletes, that would be over the top for him. What he would have really enjoyed was the spontaneous celebrations on the streets and the fact the vast majority of people were really excited about the Olympics."

Wenn said reading Brundage's papers puts his IOC presidency in historical content.

"One of the things is to learn about the interesting political struggles that underpinned the early years of the Olympic movement," he said. "The challenges that presented themselves during Brundage's times in terms of simply keeping the Olympic movement viable and together.

"He was somebody that was a very principled person. Some debated his approach and philosophy. I sense the IOC probably needed an autocrat, a strong-willed individual just to keep the movement going."

During the early 1950s Brundage opposed television's involvement in the Games, fearing it would open the door to the Olympics becoming commercialized.

"He was worried about how that would change the Olympic Games and change the mind set of officials within national Olympic committees and international federations," Wenn said.

Eventually Brundage accepted television revenue was good for the Game's growth.

"The challenge for him . . . was trying to control how much (money) went to whom," said Wenn. "That was a battle he wasn't going to win.

"Once the money was there, everybody wanted more and more of it."

When American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists in Black Power salutes at the 1964 Mexico Games, Brundage expelled them from the Olympic Village and had them suspended from the U.S. Olympic team.

"He would have seen that incident as desecration of everything Olympic," said Wenn.

Brundage made the decision to suspend the Munich Games for just one day following the massacre.

"He was not going to permit that situation and terrorist intervention to derail the Olympic Games and the Olympic movement," said Wenn. "It was more important that the Olympics were seen to continue than give in and cancel them.

"I don't think he was proven wrong on that one."

What surprises Wenn is Brundage never edited his papers.

"This guy didn't spend a whole lot of time in his December years combing through the papers to pull things that might paint him in an negative light," he said.

"It's all there. I do think he was the right guy at the right time (for the Olympics). He would be viewed in even a more positive fashion had he not hung around too long. His views became outdated."

Winnipeg Free Press

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That very last statement in the article sums it up nicely. Of course the big difference between Brundage and the Wily Old Falangist is Brundage never tried to obscure his beliefs in a shroud of egotistical pronouncements or legal attacks on his critics to the same degree as JAS Snr did. Plus Brundage arguably never had the "I am the IOC and the IOC is me" approach to his presidency, coupled with an approach to stacking the membership like Juan did. Finally Brundage for all his anti-semitic and misogynistic problems had one redeeming feature; he understood that commercialisation of the Olympics would compromise core ideals that supposedly guided the modern Olympic movement. Juan was in so much of a rush to get in bed with big money he bequethed an Olympic movement that is still a byword in lack of public probity.

Oh, one thing that Brundage got right for the modern Olympics...continuing the games after the Munich massacre. It certainly hurt like hell and to some extent demonstrated that the IOC was not as sensitive to the tragedy as they should have been. Having said that if Munich had come to a screeching halt and then Montreal followed it's fiscally ruinous path combined with the African boycott public support for any Olympics would have been far harder to engender by the late 70s, early 80s.

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Brundage despised the concept of the Winter Games (the "frosty follies", as he once called them) and probably really wouldn't have enjoyed his time in Vancouver, he would have merely tolerated it.

When I think of Brundage, I think of someone who was totally out-of-touch with reality (as many idealists are). His blind eye towards the goings-on in Berlin prior to the 1936 Games (while USOC president) and then the order to drop Sam Stoller and Marty Glickman from the 4x100 m relay team are not doubt evidence that he was eager to placate Hitler.

The decision to continue the Munich Games was the right choice, but his comments during the memorial service describing the situation regarding Rhodesia's dismissal from the Games and saying the 1972 Games were subjected to TWO attacks was downright insensitive.

In the end the old philanderer got what he deserved, dying broke after his 30-something wife went out and spent all his money.

Sorry, I just didn't care for the guy.

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Brundage was IOC president from 1972 to 1972, through the tense, political time of the Cold War and the growth of television.

Somehow, I always thought Brundage was around a lot longer than a single year.

The problem with the guy is there is SO much negative that he did, it's hard to see the positive. Yes, resuming the Games after the massacre was essential if the Games were to survive, but Brundage just could not handle it with any level of grace or gravitas. Honestly, I'm not sure the man was even remotely capable of it.

I think the majority of my feelings on Brundage have already been said and well said by others, so enough to say I'm not a fan and, to my early 21st century progressive way of thinking, he's a relic of a bygone era that thankfully, most of the world and the Olympics are no longer a part of.

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