To charges that he was promoting the shoes, Spitz insisted, "There was nothing further from my mind." He said he had been signing autographs after the race and did not have enough time to put on his shoes before the medal ceremony. Like many Olympians, Spitz had scoured showrooms in the Olympic Village and had received free track shoes, though, ironically, not the scuffed and faded pair he had with him on the victory stand. Spitz said he had bought them in Sacramento at a discount.
All of this the world's best swimmer explained and the IOC's five-man eligibility committee cleared him after an hour-long hearing. "I'm already a Jesse Owens," Spitz kidded. "Now they're trying to make a Jim Thorpe out of me." U.S. Olympic officials defended Spitz, questioning whether Shane Gould, by waving the kangaroo, might not have been promoting Australian tourism. Of such nonsense are Olympic squabbles made.
Spitz also found himself in a public feud with Genter, who questioned Mark's motives for suggesting, as he had before the 200 freestyle, that a fellow with a collapsed lung might be better off staying out of the pool. "He's trying to psych me," said Steve. But Genter and Spitz soon smoothed the waters, which freed Spitz to dwell on such matters as a movie career. "They've got all those nude scenes nowadays," he said. "That's great." He brooded, too, about the inequities of life. For example, Gunnar Larsson strolled the pool deck after his win in the 400 individual medley, waving his track shoes—a Swedish brand—at the crowd. "You know why they didn't make anything of that?" said Spitz. "Because he's not Mark Spitz."
But then there has never been a Mark Spitz in Olympic history before, which explains why Rainer Barzel, leader of West Germany's opposition Christian Democratic Party, provided a helicopter to fly Mark's parents into Munich from Garmisch, where they were staying. As for the son of Arnold and Lenore Spitz, he seemed to be coping with all the attention well enough. Working out in a training pool a couple of hours after he had been summoned before the IOC officials, Spitz paused to chat with a friend.
"You know what I think," Mark asked in a loud voice, not caring who heard. His eyes brightened, and that brilliant smile lit up his face. "I think those IOC guys at the hotel just wanted to meet me."