Burt Prelutsky

I didn’t want to spoil the Olympic Games for the rest of you, but now that they’re over and done with, I’d just like to say that I’ve always disliked them and wish that they’d just disappear.

Understand, I don’t begrudge Michael Phelps the millions of dollars he stands to make in endorsements. I do wonder, though, why it is that swimmers like Phelps and Mark Spitz get so many more opportunities to take home medals than all the other athletes. If I were a sprinter, for instance, I think I’d wonder why it is that I couldn’t compete in the 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 and 90-meter dash, and not just the 100 and the 220.

As far back as 1936, before I was even born, the Games were already a blight on humanity. That was the year that the International Olympic Committee, the IOC, decided to let Adolph Hitler play host even though the Nazis had officially excluded German Jews from competing.

Although 1936 is best-remembered because the great Jesse Owens embarrassed Hitler by showing the world that Aryans weren’t so superior, after all, at least when it came to running and jumping. What is often overlooked, however, is that the American Olympic Committee, at Hitler’s behest, replaced the two Jewish runners, Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller, in the 400-meter relay. The president of the IOC, Avery Brundage, was only too happy to comply. After the Games, he even went so far as to praise the Nazi regime at a German-American Bund event held at Madison Square Garden, and, in 1938, his company was awarded the contract to build the German Embassy, in Washington, D.C.

Brundage, by the way, was the fellow who refused to restore the Olympic medals to Jim Thorpe before Thorpe passed away. The medals had been taken away from him when it was discovered that he had been paid to play baseball prior to the 1912 Games. The fact that Thorpe died without his medals shouldn’t be too surprising, considering that it was Brundage who had blown the whistle in the first place. But why, you ask, would anyone care if Thorpe, who earned his medals in track and field, had played in a few professional baseball games? Could it possibly have been because one of the Americans he’d bested when copping the gold medals in the decathlon and the pentathlon was none other than young Avery Brundage?

Although Brundage professed that his only motivation for denying Thorpe the return of his medals was his belief in the purity of the Olympics as a venue for amateur athletes, he had no problem sanctioning “amateurs” from the Soviet Union and the rest of the Eastern bloc nations, all of whom were paid to train and compete by their governments. Apparently when it came to dictatorships, Mr. Brundage never played favorites.