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In L.A., Berlioux criticized the manner in which the local committee had been treating the press. "She emphatically instructed us to make progress in our relations with the press," says Ueberroth. "She told us that it was our responsibility to let the Olympic committees of all the nations know of our preparations through the media. She said we worked too quietly."
When asked how the talks had gone in Los Angeles, Berlioux replied, "Not bad."
Madame has little time for privacy, but power and luxury are substitutes she can appreciate. She spends much of her time behind a huge antique English desk in her well-appointed office in the Château de Vidy, a 19th-century mansion that is IOC headquarters. At 55, she is a handsome woman of 5'7" and some 165 pounds, a few of which she attributes to too many business luncheons. She is commanding, vital, dignified, and she wears the right labels: the Hermès dress, the gold wristwatch by Les must de Cartier, the green-rimmed Christian Dior glasses that match her jade necklace. She moves easily among the members of the IOC and their elegant wives.
"These are women who have everything," says Meuwly. "It's a snob atmosphere. You have to conform to what is considered good taste, good ton."
In politics as well as dress, Berlioux's tastes run to the conservative: Charles de Gaulle is her favorite statesman. As a result, she is accused of being inflexible, one who doesn't care to weigh another person's views. She never reads newspaper editorials, she says, "because I like to make my own commentary."
Once when Brundage expounded his rigid stand on amateurism during a press conference, a journalist rose to tell him. "That's easy for you to say. You have a lot of money." Berlioux, who sat next to Brundage, answered for him, admonishing the reporter, "If you think money is that important, I feel sorry for you."
But Berlioux is also a realist when it comes to accepting the course "amateurism" has taken. "You cannot close the door now," she says. "The boat is taking water everywhere. We should not care if the athletes made money between the Games, but if it were at all possible, everybody should be equal at the Games, competing just for the glory of it. If I could, I would open the Games to everybody, but under the condition that maybe two months before and two months after the Games they must stay clean."
It is often said that if the IOC ever elects a female member, Madame Berlioux should be it. She views that possibility as a pragmatist rather than a feminist. As right arm to the IOC president, she is in a much more influential position than she would be as a member of the club. In subtle ways she can bring about changes in the IOC's policies or direct its president's thinking. "Sport teaches you to fight, but you have to last a little longer to win," she says. "Mr. Brundage looked strong, but he may have been a little weaker than he looked. You could make him do things, finally, by persuasion. Lord Killanin seemed weaker, but in the end he was more difficult than Brundage. So I sometimes did not convince him."
"Madame Berlioux's position is so strong," says Gérald Piaget, a sports-writer for the Tribune de Genève, "because she is aware of her place at all times. She shows her superb intelligence by observing the boundaries of her position and being very discreet.
"Her detractors say of her that she is a feminist or even a lesbian, those things that strong women are usually accused of being. She has to be tough in her position, where she is always up against those old guys. She has method and drive, imagination, maturity and spirit. She is positive. But most of all, I find that she is very womanly. She is always sensitive to flowers and compliments, to a jolie phrase. She is not a Valkyrie."