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Avery Brundage

Full name: Avery Brundage
Gender: Male
Height: 6-0 (183 cm)
Weight: 201 lbs (91 kg)
Born: September 28, 1887 in Detroit, Michigan, United States
Died: May 8, 1975 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bayern, Germany
Affiliations: Chicago AA, Chicago (USA)
Country: USA United States
Sport: Art Competitions, Athletics

Biography

Avery Brundage served as the 5th President of the International Olympic Committee from 1952 to 1972. His reign was the most controversial of any IOC President. He served during a very difficult, tumultuous time politically, but his autocratic methods won him few friends.

Avery Brundage was born on 28 September 1887 in Detroit, Michigan, but his family moved to Chicago when he was young. He attended the University of Illinois, graduating with a civil engineering degree in 1909. While in college he competed on the track & field team, winning the conference discus championship in his senior year. After college, Brundage worked as a construction superintendent in Chicago. Using borrowed money he was able to start his own construction company in 1915, an enterprise at which he was eminently successful and which made him a wealthy man.

But Brundage continued competing in track & field athletics after college. He joined the Chicago Athletic Association in 1910 and specialized in the all-around event, a 10-event competition that was a precursor to the decathlon. With his all-around talents, Brundage qualified for the 1912 U.S. Olympic team in both the decathlon and pentathlon. He finished 5th in the pentathlon at Stockholm but did not finish the decathlon. He was the first IOC President to have actually competed in the Olympic Games. Continuing to compete even after forming his own company, Brundage eventually won three national championships in the all-around – in 1914, 1916, and 1918.

When his track & field career wound down, Brundage turned to handball (the American individual version) and became one of the best individual players in Chicago. By the mid-1920s, Brundage had already made a fortune in the construction business, allowing him the freedom to pursue sports administration, and handball was the sport in which his avocation began. After working for several years with the Central Association of the AAU (Amateur Athletic Union), he served as chairman of the national handball committee of the AAU from 1925 to 1927. In 1928 he was elected president of both the AAU (serving until the fall of 1935, except for 1933) and its Olympic arm, the American Olympic Association (AOA), the forerunner of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). He continued as President of the American Olympic Association, and its successor organizations, until his election as IOC President in 1952.

Brundage benefited politically from the furor over the proposed American boycott of the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. A staunch believer that sport should be kept apart from politics, Brundage took the pro-participation stance. One of the American IOC Members, [Ernest Lee Jahncke], supported the boycott, which met with great disfavor from the IOC. In an extremely close vote of delegates at the AAU convention held at the Commodore Hotel in New York City in December 1935, Brundage's point of view prevailed, and the Americans agreed to participate in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. In June 1936, [Charles Sherrill], one of the other U.S. IOC Members, died. Almost concurrently, Jahncke was ousted from the IOC because of his stance in favor of boycotting the Berlin Olympics. Brundage was the obvious choice to move onto the IOC and he was confirmed at the 35th IOC Session in Berlin in July 1936. Within one year, Brundage was named to the Executive Board of the IOC. Brundage himself also took part in the 1936 Olympics, entering the art competitions, which he had also done four years earlier.

When IOC President [Henri de Baillot-Latour] died in 1942, the Swede, [Sigfrid Edström], stood in as de facto President until the end of World War II. One of his first actions was to appoint Brundage as Vice-President. Together, Edström and Brundage kept the IOC together by letters written to the members throughout the world. In 1946, at the first post-war IOC Session, Edström was chosen as IOC President by acclamation. He then appointed his friend, Avery Brundage, 1st Vice-President. In 1952, when Edström stepped down as IOC President, Avery Brundage was elected President of the IOC in a very close vote over David, Lord Burghley, of Great Britain, a former Olympic gold medalist in the 400 metre hurdles.

Brundage's term as IOC President was a difficult one politically for the IOC. The IOC was faced by the question of the two Germanies, the two Koreas, the two Chinas, the apartheid problem in sport in South Africa and Rhodesia, rising problems with professional encroachment on the Olympic Movement, political demonstrations by American blacks, and finally, in the last days of his term, by the horrible massacre of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches in Munich at the 1972 Olympics. Fortunately to some and unfortunately to others, these problems were addressed almost solely by Brundage, who believed in an autocratic, one-person rule of the IOC, who had little diplomatic skills, and who knew nothing of the word compromise. His mores were anachronistic and he refused to admit that any of his 19th century ideals could be wrong.

Brundage was proud of the way in which the two Germany question was handled. Early on, the IOC was able to get the two German states to enter a combined team, and Brundage crowed, “We have succeeded where the politicians could not.” But East Germany continued to press for independent representation at the Olympics and eventually this was granted. Concerning the two Koreas, Brundage also brokered a compromise in which a combined Korean team would compete, but this never occurred as the two Korean states refused to do so. Brundage never made any inroads into solving the problem of the two Chinas, leaving that situation to his successors, [Killanin] and [Samaranch], who were eventually able to produce a solution.

South Africa vexed Brundage and the IOC throughout his term of office. South Africa was eventually evicted from the IOC and the Olympic Movement in the 1970s because of apartheid and, in particular, its use of apartheid in choosing its Olympic teams. South Africa would not return to the Olympic fold until 1991, after the fall of apartheid as a political system. Similar problems confronted Brundage in regard to Rhodesia, which led to a small boycott of the 1972 Munich Olympics. Brundage was enraged by this and it later led him, during the memorial ceremony for the Israeli hostages in Munich, to compare the African boycott of Munich to the Israeli massacres, a comment so inappropriate that it evoked outrage from many and brought only contempt for Brundage from even his closest allies, including Lord Killanin, who was to succeed him as President in just six days.

Brundage believed in amateurism, pure and simple, with no possible compromise allowed. He was especially bothered by the Olympic Winter Games, in which the alpine skiiers openly flaunted advertising on their skis, and many of them were known to be closet professionals. Brundage even proposed canceling the Olympic Winter Games because of the creeping professionalism, or at least canceling the alpine skiing events, often considered the highlight of the Olympic Winter program. In 1972 he succeeded in the token banning of Austria's Karl Schranz as a professional. Schranz was a favorite to win several medals and his ouster outraged the Austrian team, who stated that many skiiers were being paid by ski companies. Brundage commented that Schranz was the worst and refused to reinstate him.

Avery Brundage stepped down as IOC President after the Munich Olympics in 1972. Shortly thereafter, he married a much younger German woman whom he had met during his Olympic travels. His hypocritical self-righteousness was revealed when it was discovered that he had fathered at least one child out of wedlock, while married to his first wife, and had never admitted it. After retirement from the IOC, he lived only a few more years, dying in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, on 7 May 1975. He was a product of a different time and age, who seemed out of place in the Olympic Movement of the second half of the 20th century, and who, in his role as IOC President, definitely stayed far too long at the fair.

Personal Bests: DT – 40.63 (1912); Dec – 5630 (1915).

Results

Games Age City Sport Event Team NOC Rank Medal
1912 Summer 24 Stockholm Athletics Men's Discus Throw United States USA 22
1912 Summer 24 Stockholm Athletics Men's Pentathlon United States USA 6
1912 Summer 24 Stockholm Athletics Men's Decathlon United States USA AC DNF
1932 Summer 44 Los Angeles Art Competitions Mixed Literature United States USA HM
1936 Summer 48 Berlin Art Competitions Mixed Literature, Unknown Event United States USA AC

Mixed Literature

Games Age City Sport Country Phase Unit Rank Title
1932 Summer 44 Los Angeles Art Competitions United States Final Standings HM The Significance of Amateur Sport

Mixed Literature, Unknown Event

Games Age City Sport Country Phase Unit Rank Title
1936 Summer 48 Berlin Art Competitions United States Final Standings AC The Olympic Games

Men's Discus Throw

Games Age City Sport Country Phase Unit Rank D
1912 Summer 24 Stockholm Athletics United States Final Standings 22 37.85
1912 Summer 24 Stockholm Athletics United States Qualifying Round 22 37.85
1912 Summer 24 Stockholm Athletics United States Qualifying Round Group A 8 37.85
1912 Summer 24 Stockholm Athletics United States Qualifying Round Group A Round One 5 37.48
1912 Summer 24 Stockholm Athletics United States Qualifying Round Group A Round Two 8 37.85
1912 Summer 24 Stockholm Athletics United States Qualifying Round Group A Round Three NP foul

Men's Pentathlon

Games Age City Sport Country Phase Unit Rank O P(1912AT) P(1985T) D AO T
1912 Summer 24 Stockholm Athletics United States Final Standings 6 31 3,451.930 3.184
1912 Summer 24 Stockholm Athletics United States Long jump 4 6.58 4
1912 Summer 24 Stockholm Athletics United States Javelin throw 9 42.85 7
1912 Summer 24 Stockholm Athletics United States 200 metres 15 11 24.2
1912 Summer 24 Stockholm Athletics United States 200 metres Heat Eight 2 24.2
1912 Summer 24 Stockholm Athletics United States Discus throw 2 34.72
1912 Summer 24 Stockholm Athletics United States 1,500 metres AC DNF

Men's Decathlon

Games Age City Sport Country Phase Unit Rank T P(1912AT) P(1985T) D H
1912 Summer 24 Stockholm Athletics United States Final Standings AC DNF
1912 Summer 24 Stockholm Athletics United States 100 metres 20T 12.2 666.8 567
1912 Summer 24 Stockholm Athletics United States 100 metres Heat Two 2 12.2 666.8 567
1912 Summer 24 Stockholm Athletics United States Long jump 9 735.40 675 6.40
1912 Summer 24 Stockholm Athletics United States Shot put 8T 632 553 11.12
1912 Summer 24 Stockholm Athletics United States High jump 7T 720 544 1.70
1912 Summer 24 Stockholm Athletics United States 400 metres 13 55.2 744.32 585
1912 Summer 24 Stockholm Athletics United States 400 metres Heat One 3 55.2 744.32 585
1912 Summer 24 Stockholm Athletics United States Discus throw 7 719.18 545 34.07
1912 Summer 24 Stockholm Athletics United States 110 metre hurdles 10 17.1 800.50 589
1912 Summer 24 Stockholm Athletics United States 110 metre hurdles Heat One 2 17.1 800.5 589
1912 Summer 24 Stockholm Athletics United States Pole vault 10T 562.6 333 2.90
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