In 1887 a boy was born in Chicago who "grew up fatherless and poor" in that windy city. At the age of 25 he participated in the pentathlon and decathlon in the "5th Olympiad" of 1912 in Stockholm. He graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in civil engineering and "made a fortune in the Chicago construction industry". In his climb up the social ladder Avery Brundage (that was the name of the boy) he became President of the American Olympic Committee (with US President Franklin D. Roosevelt as Honorary President of the Committee).
The American Federation of Labor (AFL) decided "to boycott the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany". In an AFL poster for their "March Against The Nazis" of November 21st, 1935 in New York we read: "Sixty-one year old Fritz Husemann, President of the German Miners Union was beaten to death in a concentration camp." (Susan D. Bachrach, "The Nazi Olympics", Little, Brown &Co., 2000). Note, that this was November 1935, that is only 8 months before the Nazi Olympics of August 1936 in Berlin (and a mere 2 months before the Nazi Winter Olympics of February 1936 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen). Almost one year earlier, in September 1934, Brundage "went to Germany to see for himself whether Jewish athletes were enjoying equal opportunity to compete for the German Olympic team. After only a brief tour of German sports facilities-carefully controlled by German Karl Ritter von Halt... Brundage stated publicly that Jewish athletes were being treated fairly..." Halt, a Nazi "major general of the SA storm troopers...regained a leadership role in the IOC (International Olympic Committee) after the war with the support of his old friend, then IOC president, Avery Brundage." (Bachrach, p. 47).
Ignoring the opposition, Brundage managed to push the US into participating in the 1936 Nazi Olympics. After the Olympics Brundage and his Committee published a 491-page "American Olympic Committee Report". On pages 22 and 23 we read: "THE GAMES of the XIth Olympiad at Berlin, Germany, was the greatest and most glorious athletic festival ever conducted - the most spectacular and colossal of all time...The 1936 Olympic Games were removed from their normal plane and lifted to a dazzling precedent which probably no country can hope to follow." Brundage himself writes: "These Games of the XIth Olympiad...were unquestionably the largest and most magnificent yet held...If more money were spent to promoting such sport and recreation, thus building character...and other Spartan qualities of the champion, perhaps it would be unnecessary to spend so much for relief, reform, charity and health." (If I am not mistaken, Brundage by "reform" means the prison system.)
Also, 3 months after the Nazi Olympics in a "German Day" speech at Madison Square Garden in New York City Brundage declared: "We (the Americans) can learn much from Germany. We, too, if we wish to preserve our institutions, must stamp out Communism. We, too, must take steps to arrest the decline of patriotism." (Bachrach, p. 107). Almost 70 years later Ashcroft made Brundage's (Nazi) dream come true.
A week before the opening of the 1936 Nazi Olympics the "World Congress for Leisure Time and Recreation" was held in Hamburg, Germany. President of the Congress was the New York born 60-year old American Gustavus Town Kirby, Treasurer of the American Olympic Committee. In his address to the Congress Kirby said: "I have been asked to discuss ... the most serious, the most important, the most difficult subject that confronts the world today. How far should governments, should the state...go in matters which have to do with recreation or leisure time." (Report, p. 367). That was said 32 months before the unleashing of WWII by Hitler! Kirby goes on rapturously: "Take your great organization, your 'Kraft durch Freude' (Strength through Joy). I know of nothing better, and why? Because the people are doing it themselves through their own organization... And would that we had in all countries in the world similar organizations!" (Report, p.368). Of course the "organization" is the Nazi organization and the "people" is the German people.
With so interesting personalities involved in the 1936 Nazi Olympics a brief account of these Olympics is worth the effort. But first, a few words about the Greek origin of the Olympics. Words that might be helpful and revealing.
Sparta and Olympia, at a distance of about 110 miles from each other, are closely associated in the geography and the history of Peloponnese, the southern part of Greece. "Sparta had become virtual mistress of the Peninsula of Pelops (Peloponnese) and emphasizing as a warrior race all physical exercises, it was her draconian administration which for a long time gave continuity to the celebration (of the Olympics)." (Report, p.357). Any reference to Sparta, whether in scholarship or elsewhere, contains expressions as follows: Sparta was a "military state", an "armed camp", a "war geared regime", a "military oligarchy", etc.
One of the most important elements of the Spartan society was the "agoge" (the education of the young), "which lasted from the age of 7 to the age of 30 in common quarters under the supervision of the state... It focused primarily on physical education and the art of war... It included occasional raids against the Helots (serfs) in which future citizens were allowed to kill slaves, to prepare them for war in actual conditions." (Bernard Suzanne). Were these the "Spartan qualities" that Brundage admired so much? The answer is that the culture of the west was (and is, at least in the US) based on this kind of Spartan ideals. How else can one explain the decision of Winston Churchill to use poison gas (on the recommendation of Lawrence of Arabia) against lesser races (the Iraqis) in 1918 to test the gas "in actual conditions".
Kirby seems to agree on this "macho" tradition of the western culture when he admits that "in the olden days of four or five generations ago, the warrior considered it effeminate... to know how to read and write. When he needed to send a message, he called the scribe or the priest." (Report, p.67, 68)
[Note: In 1938, while in the third grade, the teacher at my elementary school in Athens with great enthusiasm and gravity tried to instill in us 8-year old pupils Brundage's "Spartan qualities" by relating to us the story of the Spartan kid who had hidden a stolen puppy or fox under his tunic and while standing at military attention did not budge an eyelid as the puppy or fox was eating his liver or something. In the next breath the teacher was telling us that a healthy mind dwells in a healthy body. It never occured to him that only a perverted mind will have his liver eaten without screaming. In western scholarship this is explained by saying that: "The Spartans specialized in pain; they considered it heroic to be stoic". (Richard Armour). Hollywood respected this tradition by having Schwarzerneger types crush wine glasses in their fists, or burn holes in their palms, etc.]
All this point to the fact that the Olympics in their origin had the Spartan influence of emphasis on physical strength as means to building a strong military force.
The 1936 Nazi Olympics
"In his newspaper articles Winston Churchill praised Benito Mussolini and Adolph Hitler as preferable to the specter of Communism..." (Richard D. Mandell, "The Nazi Olympics", U. of Illinois Press, 1987, p. 67, 68). Yet, Hitler carried a minor imperfection, he "was entirely unathletic..." (Mandell, p. 291). So, "(at) first Hitler... held the Olympics in low regard, but he became a strong supporter after Joseph Goebbels, his Minister of Propaganda, convinced him that the Games were an excellent opportunity to show the world the "new Germany". (Bachrach, p.32). And the world flocked to Berlin to admire the Olympics and the "new Germany".
But, the world knew what was going on in Germany. They knew that in March 20, 1933, only 51 days after the nomination of Hitler as chancellor, he established the concentration camp at Dachau. They knew that in November 1935 Hitler had proclaimed the "Nuremberg Laws" which deprived German Jews of their citizenship and the protection of the law. They already knew of the insanity of the Nazi Nuremberg rallies of hundreds of thousands Nazis since 1923, even, if they did not know that Hitler had "chosen Nuremberg for (his) rallies (to) give the city for ten days the atmosphere of the Olympic Festival of ancient days". (Mandell, p. 50, 51). Also, they should have known that while they were enjoying the Games in Berlin, Sachsenhausen, the notorious concentration camp, was being built a few miles away to house the political opponents of the Nazi regime and Jehovah's Witnesses. And, they knew that German teenagers used to do things as throwing mock hand grenades during sports festivals. And on and on.
Then the rather magnificently silly fiesta of the 1936 Olympics started, which dazzled so much Brundage et al. By now it is a historic fact that Jesse Owens and the other US blacks dominated the 1936 Nazi Olympics. All one has to do is check the international press in relation to the 2004 Olympics which will start in 48 hours here in Athens. Sixty-eight years after the Nazi Olympics the single photo that accompanies these articles is the photo of Owens (usually taken from page 125 or page 129 of the above US Report). The assessment that even with this kind of superiority of the US blacks, nothing changed in the racist behavior against them is correct. However, the fact that more than one hundred thousand Germans shouted "Yessy Ovens" whenever the black man entered the stadium made the Nazi leaders rather uncomfortable. Goebbels "wrote in his private diary after the second day of competition, 'We Germans won a gold medal, the Americans three, of which two were Negroes. That is a disgrace. White people should be ashamed of themselves' ". (Bachrach, p 97, 99). Also, the only speech that was made during the opening ceremony (besides the few words by Hitler announcing the start of the Games) was that of the Nazi Dr. Theodore Lewald, President of the German Organizing Committee, which speech he closed as follows: "... the Olympic fire (sic)... creates a real and spiritual bond between our German fatherland and the sacred places of Greece founded nearly 4,000 years ago by Nordic immigrants". (Mandell, p. 151). One should be charitable with Dr. Lewald, as Martin Bernal's "Black Athena" was published more than a half century later.
The Nazis were ridiculously "polite" towards the athletes and towards the visitors that flocked to Berlin. On their part, most of the athletes and the visitors hypocritically pretended that they believed that "politeness" to be genuine. Even Matthew Robinson, the black US athlete who took second place to Owens in the 200 meters, said: "There (in Berlin) at least we didn't have to sit in the back seat of the bus". One of the rare genuine reactions to the hypocritical barbarity of the Nazis could have been that of Werner Seelenbinder, the German wrestler, who finished fourth in the 1936 Olympics and "missed the opportunity to mount the winners' podium and defy the Nazis by not giving the 'Heil Hitler' salute as he had planned." (Bachrach, p. 115). Seelenbinder, a Communist, was beheaded by the Nazis in 1944 for treason. (The place of the beheading was, of course, in Europe not in Iraq or some other barbaric place). Let the clenched fist salute of Tommy Smith and John Carlos, the two courageous black US athletes in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico, be a tribute to the memory of Seelenbinder!
Of the "collateral" events that one should note in the 1936 Nazi Olympics are the antics of Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler's film-making "hetaera", Sonja Henie's, the Norwegian figure skater's, adoration of Hitler, and Helen Stephens', the white US champion's, eagerness to get Hitler's autograph. Riefenstahl survived the denazification procedures rather lightly and went to Africa to photograph the blacks of the Nuba! Sonja Henie became a multimillionaire in Hollywood, and Stephens had a ticker tape parade in New York city.
What followed the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, organized by the extremely efficient and extraordinarily courteous Nazis, is usually referred to as World War Two.
The 2004 Greek Sequel
The 2004 Olympics in Athens are going to open on Friday, August 13, about 3/4 of a mile from my place. (This is written on Wednesday morning). These Olympics have three pivotal characteristics: a) the story of the selection of Athens as the site for the 2004 Games, b) the "saga" of the Olympic flame, and c) the post-9/11 hysteria about security.
Gianna Angelopoulos (nee Daskalaki), studied Law, was elected in the Greek Parliament with the Rightist New Democracy party, and married Theodore Angelopoulos, a multimillionaire scion of a wealthy Greek family. Theodore's father took part in the Resistance of 1941-44 against the Nazis by the Greek Left. After the liberation from the Nazis he built "Halyvourgiki" a steel producing company that grew to become one of the dominant corporations of the Greek industry. At that time the steel market grew immensely because of the need for steel in the steel-reinforced concrete. Concrete used in the construction of tens of thousands of mostly 6-story apartment buildings, first in Athens and later all over Greece. This road to building these monstrous (but immensely profitable) buildings was opened by Karamanlis (the elder) under the supervision of the US State Department.
Constantine Mitsotakis is a veteran Greek politician who in the early '60s "overthrew" the democratically elected Greek government by disbursing hundreds of thousands of US taxpayer dollars to a number of deputies in the Greek parliament thus preparing the path for the military dictatorship of 1967. For almost 20 years Mitsotakis lay low as he was the most despised politician in Greece. Then gradually he entered the political arena and ended up as Prime Minister. Mitsotakis's strong points are his special relationship with Bush (father) and his daughter Dora, currently mayoress of Athens, who seems to be the object of "sympathy" of the same Bush (father). For years the Bushes spend some vacation time with the Mitsotakises in the latters' place in Crete. The day before yesterday Bush plus Barbara plus the two daughters of Bush (son) arrived in Greece for the Olympics with final destination, as usually, the Mitsotakis place in Crete.
Greek politicians for years have being talking about their patriotic duty of seeking to have Athens as the site for the Olympics. Of course, they did not believe that this was attainable. Then Mitsotakis told Angelopoulos: "Theodore, at this moment your country needs you and you should try to outdo yourself and succeed" in bringing the Olympics to Athens. And turning to his daughter Mitsotakis said: "Dora, you also, at some point, should get involved with the Olympics". (Words in quotation marks taken verbatim from an interview of the Angelopoulos couple by Thanasis Lalas of "Vima", the politically most powerful paper in Greece).
Then, as the Greek state had not even applied for the candidacy of Athens for the Olympics or paid the pertinent US$ 100,000 fee, Angelopoulos paid the fee at the last moment of the expiration date. Contrary to the accepted reality, the choice for the site for the 2004 Olympics was not a city of powerful nations as the US, Germany, Japan, or England, but Athens the capital of a nation with the magnitude of a "flea", according to Lyndon B. Johnson the (great) President of the US. Rightfully, the Angelopoulos couple was jubilant. For almost a decade the Greeks watched Gianna Angelopoulos on their TV screens as she was organizing the Olympics. Today, Gianna is the most hated person in Greece, besides George W. Bush. One thing is certain: the next 2 or 3 generations of Greeks will pay for Gianna's Olympics.
Brundage in his Report writes: "... there appeared in the stadium the last of a relay team of 3,300 runners who had carried the Olympic fire (sic) day and night across seven countries... from the fields of Elis, Greece, site of the ancient Olympic Games". It so happens that the ancient Greeks had no Olympic fire, torches, relay teams, etc.
"The man who was most responsible in 1936 for such pseudo-classical trappings... as the torch run... was Dr. Carl Diem, the internationally renowned scholar and administrator". (Mandell, p. 283). Diem's contribution to the success of the 1936 Nazi Olympics, especially the torch run with the Olympic flame, was tremendous, which consequently resulted in a tremendous triumph for Hitler and his Nazi scum. Diem was never a member of the Nazi party, probably because his wife had a Jewish grandparent. Of course, Goebbels and Leni Riefenstahl contributed their utmost to Hitler's flame-and-torch theatrical propaganda triumph. Leni Riefenstahl had posted cameramen along the route of the flame, though (unfortunately) her recommendation to have the runners in the nude was not approved. However, the Bulgarians succeeded in solving the sartorial problems of the flame festivities. In Sophia, Bulgaria's capital, "Jeweled, brocaded metropolitans of the (Christian) Orthodox Church somehow contrived a religious ceremony out of the arrival, sojourn, and departure of a bogus symbol of classical paganism". (Mandell, p. 133).
The success of the "flame" trick of the Nazis would not have been possible without the contribution of the advanced technology of the Friedrich Krupp Firm in Essen (the war criminals that made Hitler's cannons) which built a complicated stainless steel torch with a chemically sophisticated system of ignition. Also, the optical firm Zeiss of Jena built the spherical mirror that used the rays of the sun to start the flame in Olympia of Greece. (I wonder if the mirror used for the 2004 Olympics was the original Nazi one).
Enter Gianna of 2004! Diem, Goebbels, and Riefenstahl could not in their dreams have "produced" a planetary spectacle comparable to that of Gianna's. It is unbelievable how she did manage to force the flame (and her aesthetics) down the throats of the populations (or better of a certain part of the populations) of the planet. In Greece itself the "spectacle" has reached the domain of the absurd. For weeks now the "flame" has been criss-crossing the entire country in hundreds of towns and villages ad nauseam. But the peak has been reached in Athens, where during the last days the "flame" has lighted the souls of the Greeks of almost every city block. To accomplish this, Gianna has "utilized" humans of every shape, age, weight, etc., even Albanians (baptized Christian Orthodox Greeks) now presented for years as Greek athletes. We all should be deeply ashamed for succumbing to Gianna.
After 9/11 Gianna and the Greek government had an additional problem (or an additional business opportunity, as the cost for security reached the height of 1.2 billion Euros or US $ 1.45 billion). In the Nazi Olympics in the sky above Berlin there was a Zeppelin (the "Hindenburg", later of New Jersey explosive fame) carrying Rifenstahl's cameras for her film-making purposes. In Gianna's 2004 Athens Olympics there are TWO Zeppelins (each continually accompanied by three copters) bristling with cameras of all kinds in an effort to attain post 9/11 security. One of the Zeppelins (plus the copters) was stuck over a school adjacent to my place until deep in the night. Gianna would say that a sacrifice of a little lost sleep is worth (her) Olympics. However, some Greeks sued Gianna for infringing on their civil rights by spying on them from the sky.
Yet, the silliness of the Olympic project aside, it is encouraging that the Greek government does not dare to admit publicly that there are armed men of other nations (especially of the US, Israel,and Britain) roaming on Greek soil. The government (and its US patrons) are still conscious of the angry power of the Greek people. That the armed men are here does not diminish the meaning of this fear of admitting the truth.
A few weeks ago the Greek soccer team won the European soccer cup. When the soccer players returned to Greece they were given the treatment of the Olympian heroes of classical Greece. There were no ramparts to tear down, but the Greek state did the closest thing. The 1986 Olympics (the first ones of modern times) were held in an all white-marble stadium built for that purpose. So, this stadium of 64,000 seats was filled with cheering Greeks, while about half a million Greeks were in a delirious state in the streets around the stadium. The entirety of the Greek political leadership was there with the Christian Orthodox Archbishop at its apex (who also gave the first congratulatory speech). This shameful event was explained away by the Greek left by means of all kinds of sophistries about "pent up anger" against the state, etc. One thing is possible, that was a prelude to Gianna's Olympics. (By the way, the money to build the marble stadium of 1986 came from the extremely poor people of Egypt through the business "skills" of Averof, a Greek philanthropist.)
Richard D. Mandell writes: "The Nazi success would have been inconceivable without the application of the contrived festivity which enveloped Hitlerism from beginning to end." (Mandell, p. 49). This "contrived festivity" of Gianna's flame, etc, is much more advanced (as a result of the advance of the "art" of propaganda) from that of the Nazis. To what purpose?
Sofia Sakorafa a veteran (47 years old) Greek woman javelin -thrower and former world record holder, and member of the Greek left, sought and got Palestinian citizenship and decided to compete in the Athens Olympics under the flag of Palestine in a "peace and solidarity" gesture. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) turned down Sakorafa's request because of "a technical problem". ("Kathimerini", inside The International Herald Tribune, August 11, 2004). The magnanimous son of Barbara Bush won once more!