The Olympic Movement is a 20th-century religion. Here there is no injustice of caste, of race, of family, of wealth....
The Olympic Movement appears as a ray of sunshine through clouds of racial animosity, religious bigotry and political chicanery....
The Olympic Movement today is perhaps the greatest social force in the world. It is a revolt against 20th-century materialism—a devotion to the cause and not to the reward....
—FROM THE SPEECHES OF AVERY BRUNDAGE
The scene is the Holiday Inn, Luxembourg, on an afternoon last fall. The International Olympic Committee is in convention there and the members are about to leave the hotel for a film screening downtown, which will begin at 4 p.m. sharp. It is not so far away, but one must use the available conveyance—an army bus, courtesy of the Luxembourg government. Many members of the IOC climb aboard the bus: the sheikh from Lebanon, the rajah from India, the baron from Spain and, eventually, exiled King Constantine of Greece. When the bus rumbles off, it is about 3:30 p.m.
At 3:40 p.m. a sports car pulls up to the front of the Holiday Inn and Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg slides into the driver's seat. He waits for a motorcycle policeman to precede him, and then drives off to the screening.
Now it is after 3:50 p.m., and time is very short. A chauffeured limousine is waiting at the Holiday Inn, its motor idling almost inaudibly. There is a dignified flurry at the front entrance and Avery Brundage, president of the IOC for 20 years, emerges alone and enters the limousine. It is 3:55 p.m. and it will require a very quick, very direct route to make it to the screening room in time. But then four motorcycle policemen wheel into place, one at each fender. Their sirens shriek and Avery Brundage pulls away. He has time to spare, for he is traveling in the style to which he has become accustomed.
Avery Brundage is 84 now, but he has kept his spine straight, his stomach flat, his handshake dry and powerful. He moves with the briskness and authority of a man with a clear conscience, convinced of his blessings. There is often something close to radiance in his face.
Perhaps the kind of zeal and moral fiber that characterizes Avery Brundage is summarized best by his remarks about his own favorite sport—heel-and-toe walking: "That was a beautiful event. And I excelled in it. It puts an enormous strain on nearly every muscle in the body. It is the closest a man can come to the pangs of childbirth."
Though there is still much vigor in Avery Brundage, it does not always flow in a strong, steady current. His voice is clear at times, but then it will fade slowly, slowly, as if it were a deep color being gradually bleached. At such times, it sounds as if it comes from a place much farther away than that where Avery Brundage is sitting. And sometimes his voice simply stops and there is silence. The eyes of Avery Brundage seem fixed behind his spectacles; there is even a suspicion of tears. But then he will blink and begin to speak again. Usually he picks up precisely where he left off. But sometimes he will begin to speak about something quite new.
Avery Brundage is worth about $25 million. It is said that he spends $50,000 of his own money each year in pursuit of his obligations to the Olympic Games. One does not ask him about money matters because it would be unmannerly. However, he once volunteered: "You didn't have to be a wizard to make a fortune in the Depression. All you had to do was buy stocks and bonds in depressed corporations for a few cents on the dollar and then wait."