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Template:Infobox President Avery Brundage (Template:IPA-en; September 28, 1887 – May 8, 1975) was an American amateur athlete, sports official, art collector, and philanthropist. Brudage competed in the 1912 Olympics and was the US national all-around athlete in 1914, 1916 and 1918. Rising to president of the AAU, he subsequently served as the fifth president of the International Olympic Committee from 1952 to 1972.

An opponent of professional athletes in the Olympics and pioneer in gender verification in sports, Brundage has been criticized for controversial decisions and statements relating to women and Jews in sports, primarily made during his earlier tenure as president of the United States Olympic Committee during the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany.[1][2][3] An opponent of mixing politics and sports, he was subsequently acknowledged for his even-keeled handling of the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich following the terrorist massacre of Israeli athletes there.

Early life

Template:Ambox/small Born in Detroit, Michigan, Brundage moved to Chicago at age six (shortly after which his father abandoned the family). He later studied civil engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, graduating in 1909.[4][5][6] A few years afterward, he founded the Avery Brundage Company, which was active in the building business around Chicago until 1947. His personal papers are located at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Archives. Brundage was an all-around athlete, competing in the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm in the pentathlon and decathlon events, finishing 6th and 16th, respectively, placing behind teammate Jim Thorpe. He also won the US national all-around title in 1914, 1916 and 1918.

Leadership in sport

In 1928, Brundage became president of the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU). He became the president of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) in 1929 and gained the vice-presidency of the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF) in 1930.

1936 Olympics

As USOC president, Brundage rejected any proposals to boycott the 1936 Summer Olympics to be held in the capital of Nazi Germany, despite the exclusion of German Jews by the policies of Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich. In fact, Brundage became a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) after the group expelled American Ernest Lee Jahncke, who had urged athletes to boycott the Berlin games.

On the morning of the 400-meter relay race, at the last moment, the only two Jews on the 1936 US track team, Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller, were replaced by Jesse Owens and Ralph Metcalfe. Brundage, a Nazi sympathizer had pressured to have the only two Jews on the track team removed at the last moment so as not to embarrass Hitler and the Nazis with a Jewish victory.[7][8][9][10][11][12][12] Brundage later praised the Nazi regime at a Madison Square rally.[8][9][10][13][14] Brundage was expelled from the America First Committee in 1941 because of his pro-German leanings. After the 1936 Olympics, Brundage's construction company was awarded a building contract to build the German Embassy in Washington, D.C. Brundage was notified in a letter from Nazi authorities acknowledging Brundage's pro-Nazi sympathies.[8] As late as 1971, after many revelations over Nazi Germany's use of the 1936 Olympics for their own propaganda,[citation needed] Brundage still claimed "The Berlin Games were the finest in modern history...I will accept no dispute over that fact".[9]

Brundage opposed the inclusion of women as Olympic competitors; he insisted they have no role in the Olympic Games beyond the ceremonial or decorative. He was quoted in 1936: "I am fed up to the ears with women as track and field competitors... her charms sink to something less than zero. As swimmers and divers, girls are [as] beautiful and adroit as they are ineffective and unpleasing on the track." [15] (Brundage also suspended Eleanor Holm from the 1936 Olympic Games) Brundage, at the time of the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, called for a system to be established to examine female athletes for "sex ambiguities", according to a contemporary article in Time devoted to what it called "hermaphrodites". He made this request after observing Czechoslovak runner and jumper Zdenka Koubkova and English shot-putter and javelin-thrower Mary Edith Louise Weston. Both individuals had sex change surgery and legally changed their names, to Zdenek Koubek and Mark Weston, respectively.[16] Gender verification in sports did not exist at that time, but it began during his tenure as president of the IOC.


Brundage became vice-president of the IOC after the death of its president, Henri de Baillet-Latour, in 1942. He was subsequently elected president at the 47th IOC Session in Helsinki in 1952,[17] succeeding Sigfrid Edström.

At the time he was being considered for this honor, Brundage, who had been married since 1927 to Elizabeth Dunlap Brundage, had two sons out of wedlock (with his Finnish mistress, Lillian Linea Dresden), in 1951 and 1952.[18] In order to avoid a political scandal, he requested that his name be kept off the birth certificates.[19][20] His affair with Dresden was one of many.[18]

Opposition to professionalism

During his tenure as IOC president, Brundage strongly opposed any form of professionalism in the Olympic Games. Gradually, this opinion became less accepted by the sports world and other IOC members, but his opinions led to some embarrassing incidents, such as the exclusion of Austrian skier Karl Schranz from the 1972 Winter Olympics. Likewise, he opposed the restoration of Olympic medals to Native American athlete Jim Thorpe, who had been stripped of them when it was found that he had played professional baseball before taking part in the 1912 Olympic games (where he had beaten Brundage in the pentathlon and decathlon). Despite this, Brundage accepted the "shamateurism" from Eastern bloc countries, in which team members were nominally students, soldiers, or civilians working in a non-sports profession, but in reality were paid by their states to train on a full-time basis. Brundage claimed it was "their way of life." It was revealed after his death that Brundage had been responsible for notifying the IOC of Thorpe's playing professional baseball years before. (Following Brundage's retirement in 1972, Thorpe was reinstated as an amateur by the Amateur Athletic Union the next year. The IOC officially pardoned him in 1982 and ordered that his medals be presented to his family.[21])

Politicization of sport

Brundage also opposed anything that he viewed as the politicization of sport. At the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, US sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists to show support for the Black Power movement during their medal ceremony. Brundage expelled both African American men from the Olympic Village and had them suspended from the US Olympic team. Brundage had made no objections against Nazi salutes during the Berlin Olympics.[9]

Munich massacre

He may be best remembered for his decision during the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, West Germany, to continue the Games following the Black September Palestinian terrorist attack which killed 11 Israeli athletes. While some criticized Brundage's decision,[22][23] most did not, and few athletes withdrew from the Games. The Olympic competition was suspended on September 5 for one complete day. The next day, a memorial service of eighty thousand spectators and three thousand athletes was held in the Olympic Stadium. Brundage gave an address in which he stated

"Every civilized person recoils in horror at the barbarous criminal intrusion of terrorists into peaceful Olympic precincts. We mourn our Israeli friends [...] victims of this brutal assault. The Olympic flag and the flags of all the world fly at half mast. Sadly, in this imperfect world, the greater and the more important the Olympic Games become, the more they are open to commercial, political, and now criminal pressure. The Games of the XXth Olympiad have been subject to two savage attacks. We lost the Rhodesian battle against naked political blackmail. I am sure that the public will agree that we cannot allow a handful of terrorists to destroy this nucleus of international cooperation and goodwill we have in the Olympic movement. The Games must go on."

Avery Brundage, quoted in "One Day in September" by Simon Reeve

Exclusion of Rhodesia

Brundage strongly opposed the exclusion of Rhodesia from the Olympics due to its racial policies: after the attacks in Munich, Brundage linked the massacre of the Israeli athletes and the barring of the Rhodesian team (see above).[24]


Brundage retired as IOC president following the 1972 Summer Games, having had the job for 20 years, and was succeeded by Lord Killanin. He is the only American to hold the IOC presidency.


In addition to his role in sports, Brundage was a noted collector of Asian art. During his lifetime, and by bequest on his death, he gave much of his collection to the city of San Francisco, California. This formed the nucleus (and, as of 2003, still accounts for over half the contents) of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, initially founded to house and display his donation.

Private life

When Brundage was 85 he married a 36-year-old German, Marianne Charlotte Katharina Stefanie Princess Reuss.[19] Brundage died on May 8, 1975, aged 87 years, three years after his retirement as IOC president, in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, West Germany. A long time Chicago resident, he is buried in the Rosehill Cemetery.


  1. Encyclopedia of the Great Depression ... – Google Books. December 21, 2006. ISBN 9780765680334. Retrieved June 7, 2010.
  2. International encyclopedia of women ... – Google Books. 2001-01. ISBN 9780028649542. Retrieved June 7, 2010.
  3. The games must go on: Avery Brundage ... – Google Books. 1984. ISBN 9780231054447. Retrieved June 7, 2010.
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  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 Churchill, Jr., James E. (1983). The Olympic Story. Grolier Enterprises Inc..
  10. 10.0 10.1 Ellis Island to Ebbets Field: Sport ... – Google Books. 1993. ISBN 9780195085556. Retrieved June 6, 2010.
  11. Jews and the Olympic Games: the ... – Google Books. 2004. ISBN 9781903900871. Retrieved June 6, 2010.
  12. 12.0 12.1 More Than a Game – Google Books. 2009-10-19. ISBN 9781741961355. Retrieved June 6, 2010.
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  14. "Accuracy Gap Of Olympic Proportions – Page 6 – Hartford Courant". March 5, 2006. Retrieved June 6, 2010.
  15. Postman, Andrew; Larry Stone (1990). The Ultimate Book of Sports Lists. ISBN 0-553-328540-8.
  16. [1] "Change of Sex" Aug 24, 1936 Time
  17. Comité International Olympique (September 1959). "Extract of the minutes of the 47th session — Helsinki 1952 (Palais de la Noblesse" (PDF). Bulletin du Comité International Olympique (34–35): 22. Retrieved July 19, 2007.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Rome 1960: the Olympics that changed ... – Google Books. April 21, 2008. ISBN 9781416534082. Retrieved June 7, 2010.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Johnson, William (August 4, 1980). "Avery Brundage: The Man Behind The Mask". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved October 11, 2008.
  20. Tax, Jeremiah (January 16, 1984). "An In-depth Look At Both The Seemly And Seamy Sides Of Avery Brundage". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved October 11, 2008.
  21. "Retrieved 2008-08-13". Retrieved June 6, 2010.
  22. Encyclopedia of the modern Olympic ... – Google Books. 2004. ISBN 9780313322785. Retrieved June 7, 2010.
  23. The games must go on: Avery Brundage ... – Google Books. 1984. ISBN 9780231054447. Retrieved June 7, 2010.
  24. All Those Mornings . . . at the Post ... – Google Books. 2006-05-01. ISBN 9781586483852. Retrieved June 7, 2010.

Further reading

  • Guttmann, Allen (1984). The Games Must Go on: Avery Brundage and the Olympic Movement. Columbia University Press. ISBN 0231054440.

External links

Template:Presidents of the International Olympic Committee

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