Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Olympics

Haven't been much enthused about the Olympics this year. Snowboarding as an Olympic sport just doesn't make it for me, and everything seems tawdry. And how about those Cossacks? Reminds me of the alley scene from Cabaret.

Oh, well – to a wet philosopher, all is wetness.

Maybe my opinion is being influenced by the passage below from Those Angry Days by Lynne Olson, a recent book about the lead-up to American involvement in World War II.

People my age will remember Avery Brundage, who was president of the International Olympic Committee from 1952 to 1972. He was treated with such respect and deference. Speaking of an organization called America First, which tried to keep America neutral while Hitler was bombing London, Olson writes:
[America First's] leaders created some of their own problems by appointing to the national committee two men who were regarded as flagrantly anti-Semitic.
The first was Avery Brundage, a wealthy Chicago construction executive who was also president of the U.S. Olympic Committee. In 1936, Brundage had created a national furor as a result of his actions at that year's summer Olympic games in Nazi Germany. Not only did he reject proposals from American Jewish organizations and other religious groups to boycott the Berlin Olympics, he gave in to German pressure to prevent Jewish athletes from participating in the games. At Brundage's insistence, the only two Jews on the U.S. teams – both of them track and field athletes – were replaced just before the 400-meter relay race. Shortly after the Olympics were over, Hitler's government awarded Brundage's construction company a contract to build a new German embassy in Washington.

(Incidentally, the second "flagrant anti-Semite" on America First's national committee was Henry Ford, who was certainly that.)

Lest we be too miserable about the Brundage Olympics poo, Olson adds a footnote:

"One of the substitutes was Jesse Owens, the black track and field superstar who won four gold medals in Berlin, including one for the 400-meter relay."

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