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It is doubtful that fans, officials and participants in U.S. amateur sport have ever been stirred, en masse, to quite the sort of baffled indignation which was set off this month by the publication of the new Olympic amateur oath. Under its terms an Olympic Games competitor must promise to "remain" an amateur, apparently for life. Last week, as officials in Melbourne began sending pledge forms to athletes around the world, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED's James Murray, acting as a sort of surrogate for U.S. Olympic athletes, sought out Avery Brundage of Chicago, president and philosopher in chief of the International Olympic Committee, who gallantly took the stand, as follows:
Q Mr. Brundage, you are aware of the uproar over the revision of the Olympic oath. Are the critics correct in blaming you for it?
A Let me tell you the whole story. It begins with the question, "What is an amateur?" Now, the Olympic Games have had the amateur rule since 1896. I didn't write that rule in the first place. But over the years there have been amplifications and amendments. A half dozen years ago we had committees set up to go over all the rules from beginning to end with a view to making clarifications—nothing very substantial but enough to keep the Games in accord with the fundamental principles. Suggestions were had from all member nations, and finally, after the Winter Games at Cortina, the rules were handed to the printer, and here they are.
Q Yes, but did you actually lobby for or author this particular revision?
A These deliberations were conducted in French and English, with suggestions from Japan, Russia—all kinds of places. I don't know whether I was or was not the instigator. I certainly supported it, and a letter was written by me over a year ago to all Olympic committees calling attention to the fact it was their duty to screen out those athletes who intended to turn professional.
Q What do you hope to accomplish with this oath?
A We hope to save the Olympic Games. Do you know the ancient Olympic Games collapsed because of the same things that are happening here today?
Q How does this oath save the Games?
A Do you realize it would be impossible to hold the Olympic Games without the enormous contribution of time and money by committee members all over the world? Now, if the Olympic Games become—as many of our universities and institutions of higher learning have—merely training camps for professional promoters, how are we going to persuade these men to continue to give their time and energy—and money? The U.S. is one of the few countries where the expense is borne by the general public. But if someone comes to you 10 years from now and wants a $1,000 contribution to the Olympic fund, what are you going to do when you know that the Olympic Games have just become breeding grounds creating international champions so professional promoters can make fortunes on them?
Q I see. In other words, you'll tell him to get it from the ice show promoter or the pro football league president?