Brundage, the intractable, uncompromising, often tactless and undiplomatic
Chicagoan who had been head of the U.S. Olympic Association for 23 years, was
elected president of the International Olympic Committee in Helsinki in 1952,
he reached the absolute pinnacle of his remarkable career in athletic
officialdom. The International Olympic Committee—or Comit� International
Olympique, to give it its formal name—is the most important and most
influential sports governing body in the world—the proprietor, so to speak, of
the Olympic Games.
It is therefore
no exaggeration to say that the president of the IOC is the most powerful man
in sport. He gives advice to this international group and presides at its
meetings. He appoints members of its executive committee and guides that potent
body in its deliberations. He wields great influence over the entire
organization of international sport through his decisions, his counseling
letters, his public statements. He holds his office for eight years, and there
is ample precedent for re-election. In the 62-year history of the IOC only
three men other than Brundage have held the office, and one of these was the
patron saint of the Olympic movement, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who conceived
the idea of the modern Olympics, was instrumental in the organization,
execution and success of the first Games at Athens in 1896 and almost
singlehandedly kept the Olympic idea alive through its shaky early years.
For the IOC to
entrust this vital office to Avery Brundage was a tremendous compliment to his
integrity, for the job, dealing as it often does with ticklish matters of
national pride and international jealousy, might well have gone to a quiet
moderate from some pleasantly innocuous "small" country rather than a
controversial, outspoken American. But Brundage, who looks, as someone once
said, like Oliver Cromwell's idea of God, righteous and inflexible, was the man
the IOC wanted.
AT HOME IN THE
does not seem to have awed Brundage. An extraordinarily self-possessed and
confident man, he is very much at home as president of the IOC and absolutely
sure of his ability to be both correct and impartial.
"When I used
to represent the U.S. at meetings of the International Amateur Athletic
Federation," he said recently in his office in Chicago's La Salle Hotel
before leaving for the Winter Games in Italy, "I was out to get all I could
for the U.S. All right. But in the International Olympic Committee I am not a
representative of the U.S. I represent the International Olympic Committee in
the United States. It's not like the U.N., where each country is a member. In
our committee individuals are members, not countries. A country doesn't elect
its members to the committee. The committee elects a member from the
Brundage sat up
straight behind his desk, intent on making the distinction clearly
"As a member
of the committee, my first allegiance is to a principle—the principle of the
Olympic movement as stated by the Baron de Coubertin 60 years ago. Members of
the committee cannot be pre-instructed by their countries. We are all dedicated
to a principle and an idea."
Brundage sat back
and folded his hands over his abdomen.
said, "the principle, the idea, is simply this: that sport, in addition to
building strong and healthy bodies and developing a man's character—his
self-control, poise, perseverance and so on—has definite moral virtue. Fair
play and good sportsmanship are an integral part of sport, and what are they?
They're no more nor less than an expression of the Golden Rule.