Excerpt from the book “The Olympic Deceit of The ‘Divine Baron’ – Pierre de Coubertin” by Ljubodrag Simonović
OLYMPISM AND FASCISM
As early as 1929, at the time of the great recession, “father” of the modern Olympic Games Pierre de Coubertin expressed his inclination towards authoritarian regimes, namely his discontent with the inefficiency of the capitalist system in its dealing with the working class:
“First of all, it was necessary to establish the International Olympic Committee with its basic rights, that should have been acknowledged by all the nations. This was not easy, because the Constitution of the Committee was opposed to the ideas of the time. It discarded the principle of delegation, so dear to our parliamentary democracies - the principle which, having done some great good, seems to be less efficient every day”. (1)
It should also be noted that Coubertin was cordially accepted and his works published in fascist Germany, in spite of being “a great French patriot”, a fact important at the time of German revanchism. Theodor Lewald, the president of the Organizing Committee of the Berlin Olympics, wrote of Coubertin at the end of his Introduction to “Olympische Erinnerungen”, published in Berlin in 1938:
“He understood and enthusiastically saluted the development of the new Germany under her Great Führer”. (2)
The lecture on the Berlin Olympics delivered by Coubertin on German radio August 4, 1935, testifies that this is not merely a polite exaggeration:
“I was honoured to accept the invitation to give the first lecture on the importance of the Olympic Games, as their founder and the President of Honour. I think that the best way to answer the question is to explain my original ideas and the philosophical basis upon which I tried to build my work. With great interest I am following the preparations for the XI Games in this fourth year of the X modern Olympiad. These preparations are based upon an excellent plan and are executed after an absolutely clear total idea, with no less care paid to details. I am under an impression that the whole of Germany, from her Leader to the most humble participant, wishes with all its heart to make the celebration in 1936 one of the most beautiful that the world has ever seen, although London, Stockholm, Amsterdam and Los Angeles produced real miracles. In a year’s time, Christmas bells will announce the appearance of the athletes from all around the world at the Berlin Stadium. Today I wish to thank the German government and its people for their efforts in honour of the XI Olympiad.” (3)
Coubertin expressed his ultimate support to the Nazi regime in his broadcasted speech held at the closing ceremony of the Berlin Olympics, the speech that he, himself, later published. This is what he said:
“Guard the holy flame!
The XI Olympic Games will soon be a memory, but what a powerful and rich memory!
Above all, the memory of beauty. From that moment thirty years ago, when I summoned a conference on arts, literature and sport, aimed to establish a permanent relation between the renewed Olympics and the creations of mind and spirit, the realisation of this ideal has been helped by many prudent efforts, from Stockholm to Los Angeles. Now Berlin is sanctifying it by some daring innovations, completely successful ones, such as the relay carrying of the holy torch from Olympia and the magnificent celebration at the monumental stadium on the first night of the Games, whose creator is my ingenious friend and enthusiast Carl Diem.
Memory of courage, because courage was necessary to overcome the difficulties’ Führer met having posed the request “Wir wollen bauen!” (“We want to build!”), and to confront the disloyal and perfidious attacks that try to stop the progressive creative enterprise (referring to the boycott of the Berlin Games).
Finally, memory of hope, because understanding stronger than death itself was forged under the symbolical flag with the five circles... “Freude, Tochter aus...” (The opening words of Schiller’s “Ode of Joy” which was a part of “the artistic programme” at the Berlin opening). The history and the struggle will continue, but science will gradually replace dangerous ignorance; mutual understanding will replace blind hatred. Thus the building I built for half a century will be consolidated. And you, athletes, do not forget the flame lit by the Sun, brought to you from Olympia to light our epoch. Guard it deep in your souls, to make it reappear at the other end of the world, in four years time, when we shall celebrate the XII Olympics at the faraway shores of the great Pacific.” (4)
The reference is made to the fascist Japan. Another great gesture of the IOC!
When speaking of the “perfidious attacks” on the Nazi Olympic Games, Coubertin was also thinking of the attempt on the part of members of the international brigades, the Spanish republican combatants, to organize the “Olimpiada popular” in Barcelona in July 1936 as a response to the Nazi Olympic Games. The troops of fascist General Franco prevented these “Peoples Games” from being held.
Here is what Heinrich Mann said on the eve of the Nazi Olympic Games :
“Free peoples do not have the right to support the Berlin Olympic Games. (…) Nazism does not see man other than as an instrument for achieving its barbarian goals. Can such a regime, based on forced labour and slavery of the masses, a regime that is preparing for war and exists merely through mendacious propaganda, respect peaceful sport and free sportsmen? Believe me, those international sportsmen who go to Berlin are nothing more than gladiators, prisoners and entertainers for the dictator who already considers himself master of the world. Finally, I should like to stress that the success of the Olympic Games will help to prolong Hitler’s regime for a time. It will give it new possibilities and strength. It will reinforce its prestige…” (5)
Another clue to Coubertin’s attitude towards the Nazi regime in Germany may be found in his interview given to Andre Lang and published in the French paper “Le journal” on August 27, 1936. The motive for this conversation was the article by Jacques Goddet in “L’Auto”, under the title borrowed from Emile Zola - “J’accuse!”, who questioned the legitimacy of the Berlin Olympics. Here are Coubertin’s words:
“The Games are perverted? The Olympic idea is sacrificed to propaganda?
That is utterly untrue. The magnificent success of the Berlin Games served perfectly the idea of Olympics. Only the French, or almost only the French, are playing Cassandra...”
“The fact that the Games in 1936 are illuminated by Hitler strength and discipline causes excitement in France. How could it be different? On the contrary, we should wish that the Games would always be so well organized, that every nation takes part in their preparing during the four years.” (6)
Not only the left-wing papers, but also bourgeois journals fervently disputed these attitudes, along with Coubertin’s arguing to organize French sport after the Nazi model. This is what the “Paris-Soir”, the paper that published the interview with Hitler in January the same year, wrote about the Berlin Games:
“It is not an athlete who is celebrated any more. Instead, the whole nation hails its colours, the victory of the race, the reigning system, the army... The German audience breaks the elementary rules of politeness. It should never happen again that one nation uses the Games to humiliate other nations.” (7)
Having published this article, the Paris journal was not allowed to report from the Games and its journalists were not allowed to enter Germany. (8)
Coubertin had a special reason to be enthusiastic about the Berlin Games. The organizers of the Games had a giant bell casted and decorated with the figure of an eagle, not a very friendly looking one, holding the Olympic circles in his claws. At the rim of the bell there was a message : “Ich rufe die Jugend der Welt” (“I invite the youth of the world”). The Olympic Stadium in Berlin thus became a kind of a modern shrine in which the most spectacular of all the religious rites of the New Age was to be performed - the Nazi Olympic Games. This was the incarnation of the ideas Coubertin fought for all his life.
As far as the “artistic programme” of the Berlin Olympiad is concerned, we have already stated that Coubertin had specially paid tribute to his friend Carl Diem for organizing the “magnificent celebration” of the opening. What did this “magnificent celebration” look like in fact? This is how Richard Mandell described the occasion:
“The most famous living German musician Richard Strauss, dressed in white, conducts the great orchestra and the chorus of three thousand voices performing “Deutchland über Alles” and “Horst Wessell Lied”, and the new “Olympic Hymn”, written specially for the occasion by the old composer, the cultural hero of both Wilhelm’s and Weimar Germany.” (9)
And these are the words of the most popular march of the time, “Horst Wessell Lied”, the significant part of the “artistic programme” of the Games:
“Wenn das Judenblut vom Messer spritzt, dann geht’s nochmal so gut” (“While the Jewish blood pours under a knife, everything goes on much better.”). (10)
That was the Olympic message sent to the world by the fascist regime.
Anyhow, Carl Diem was proud of “his” Olympics all his life and emphasized its “artistic programme”. Unfortunately, on Coubertin’s request, this programme contained Bethoven’s “IX symphony”, used as a cover for this fascist festival of death. Following the same principle, the concentration camps may be described as “educational institutions”, since the members of the “lower race” were welcomed by music and the camp gate bore the inscription : “Arbeit macht Frei!” (“Labour liberates!”).
Coubertin’s intention to bequeath his whole literary inheritance to the Third Reich and his wish that the fascist Germany should establish the International Olympic Institute, a developing centre of the international Olympic movement, further describe his exhilaration over the Nazi regime in Germany. He openly entrusted Hitler and his “super-race” with the future of the Olympic movement. His devoted follower Carl Diem, one of the main ideologists of Nazi sport, wrote about this:
“On March 16, 1937, he (Coubertin) made a suggestion to the German government, related to the sport-historic exhibition during the Olympic Games of 1936 in Berlin, that the Government should establish the International Olympic Institute, Centre d’ Etudes Olympiques, to which he would bequeath his “papiers, documents” and unfinished plans concerning the entirety of the newly awakened Olympics.” (11)
Hitler’s decision to keep the Olympic Games in Germany forever was one of the motives for such an initiative by Coubertin. After the Berlin Olympics, Hitler gave a customarily megalomaniacal order to his architect Albert Speer to design plans for a new Olympic Stadium (Nürnberg), for more than 400 000 people, due to be finished by 1945.
“Doesn’t matter”, said Hitler, “the 1940 Games will be held in Tokyo. But after that they will always be held in Germany, on this stadium. And then we shall prescribe the measurements of the athletic field”. (12)
This is a part of the explanation why “the great French patriot” Coubertin, who concluded his early works with a cry “Vive la France!”, bequeathed his works to fascist Germany, the biggest enemy of the French. Coubertin saw Hitler and his fascist regime as a possibility to incarnate his own philosophy completely. Hitler’s conception “Wir wollen bauen!”, the practice of the fascist regime, made the perfect affirmation to Coubertin that his deed and his ideas would live in future.
As far as the question “Did he know of the fascist crimes?” is concerned, it must be pointed out that Coubertin, while living in Switzerland, had an opportunity to closely witness these misdeeds. Besides, the Nazis started building concentration camps right after they came to power, and without any discretion.
“The concentration camps existed in Germany from 1933,” says Arthur Morse in his book “While 6 Million Died”, “and that was no secret for the world. As we have seen, the existence of Dachau was made public at the beginning of Hitler’s reign. . . . In August 1933, “Neuer Vorwärts”, the paper published by the German socialists in exile, estimated that there were eighty thousand prisoners in 65 camps.” (13) “By the end of 1933,” Morse says further, “the reports on murders and molestations multiplied. Lord Marley, Deputy Speaker of the House of Lords, estimated that two thousand murders were committed in Germany during (that) year.” (14)
There are other details of Hitler’s “constructing” design that Coubertin unconditionally supported, at the same time fervently attacking the opponents of Hitler’s regime. The brutal elimination of the members of the SA troupes on June 30, 1934 (“The Night of the Long Knives”) ; the persecution of the Jews, culminating in Nurnberg Laws of the Race on September 15, 1935, according to which the Jews were deprived of civil rights (Hitler’s idea first announced in the “Programme of the National-Socialist Party” in February 1920) ; the persecution and murders of the workers and opposition leaders. On March 16, 1935, Hitler announced the rebuilding of the German war machine; on March 7, 1936, only a few days after the Winter Olympic Games at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Hitler’s troupes entered the demilitarized Rhine zone, overtly breaking the international agreements and defying (Coubertin’s “beloved”) France. At the same time, fascists systematically destroyed all the world’s cultural inheritance opposing their ideology. The masterpieces of world’s culture were burnt on monumental bonfires.
Coubertin’s contacts with Hermann Esser further testify to the extent he embraced Nazi propaganda. According to historian Maser, Esser was “among the most influential of Hitler’s collaborators in the National-Socialist Party” as early as 1921 to 1924. (15) In 1925 he was appointed executive of Nazi propaganda by Hitler himself. He soon became the editor of the paper “Die judische Weltpest. Judendämmerung auf dem Erdball” (“The Jewish Plague. The Fall of the Jews”). He became the State Secretary at the Reichministerium in 1939, and at the time of the Nazi agony Esser represented Hitler at the Party’s jubilees in 1943 and 1945. Historian Bracher spoke of Esser as a fanatic member of the National-Socialist Party, who used “the most disgraceful means of anti-Semitic and antidemocratic propaganda”. (16) Here is how this man described to Lammer his meeting with Coubertin on April 6, 1937:
“During my stay in Switzerland last month, I was advised by many parties to visit the elderly founder of the Olympics, Baron de Coubertin. This gesture could be very fruitful, since Baron de Coubertin is not exactly popular either in Switzerland or in his native France. That is just why I decided not only to visit the Baron in Geneva, but also to invite this widely celebrated man to a German sanatorium. When I came to Geneva, the German consul informed me that the Baron was not in good health.
He was willing to see me in spite of it. His accepting the invitation to Germany depended completely on who was to address the invitation.
During my visit to Baron Coubertin I was under an impression I was talking to a dying man. I thought it appropriate to convey to this old gentlemen, who spoke of the Führer and Reich with such an enthusiasm, the best regards from the Führer and his invitation to stay in a sanatorium in Germany. Fortunately, it seems that Baron Coubertin’s health is getting much better so that he is considering the possibility of coming to Germany. I have already made all the arrangements for Baron and his family to be well tended and taken care of in Baden-Baden on the account of the Reich Tourist Office. His presence here would be very important for the German tourism. I consider these propaganda visits of utmost importance and I hope that the Führer will approve of my invitation to Baron Coubertin.” (17)
Coubertin wrote to Hitler, believing that the Führer himself had invited him to Germany:
I was deeply moved by the visit of the State Minister H.Esser on behalf of Your Excellence and I hurriedly express my gratitude. Germany thus joins – and in the most splendid way – the celebration of my jubilee marked on January 20 at the University of Lausanne. On that occasion I was invited to crown my fifty-years work, related almost completely to education reforms and improvements. Germany has shown appreciation of my work on several occasions and I owe her my deepest gratitude. I hope my health will allow me to consider and accept the kindest invitation handed to me on behalf of Your Excellence. I take it as another proof of Your kindness. I humbly ask Your Excellence to accept my respect and deepest loyalty.
Geneva, March 17, 1937 Pierre de Coubertin “ (18)
It should also be added that, on January 28, 1936, Hitler accepted the motion to name after Coubertin the place in front of the southern entrance into the Olympic Stadium (19) An interesting statement was made concerning this matter by Carl Diem in 1946, that the only monument built in honour of Coubertin is in Germany, and that a place there bears his name. (20)
At the same time, the Nazis nominated Coubertin for the Nobel Prize, in opposition to Karl von Ossietzky who was imprisoned as Hitler’s opponent but well respected by the world’s democracies. Coubertin accepted the nomination, hoping it would be supported by the Norwegian Olympic Committee. The Norwegian Peace Committee gave the Prize to Ossietzky and Coubertin, disappointed, wrote to Hans von Tschammer und Osten, the Nazi Sports Minister:
“I know that in the last fifty years I have contributed to peace more by promoting international sport, than by giving useless speeches and performances. Your acknowledgement in that respect is ever so precious to me.” (21)
Speaking about the money Coubertin received from Nazis, one should mention that the better part of the 500 000 golden franc estate he possessed when he started his voyage to Olympus, was nearly gone in the last years of his life. In order to help him, “Pierre-de-Coubertin-Funds” was founded, and French and Norwegian Olympic Committees contributed 5 000 Reich’s marks each. German Interior Affairs State Secretary Pfundtner realizing that helping Coubertin could well serve the image of Nazi Germany and so suggested to Hitler that they should be more generous. Hitler instantly approved of paying Coubertin 10 000 Reich’s Marks. Lewald personally handed the check to Coubertin and reported that he “accepted it with great pleasure and gratitude”. (22)
However, Coubertin is not the only “Olympic gentleman” fascinated by fascism. After the October Revolution, the development of the revolutionary movement in Europe and the great recession in 1929 – which all broke the myth of the “free competition society” and showed what hopes workers could cherish regarding their employers at a time of peril – Hitler appeared as “the saviour of (bourgeois) civilization” from “the plague of communism”. The western governments, specially in the USA and Great Britain, were delighted by “the determination” (read brutality) Hitler showed in his crusades against communists. Trying to justify the Nazi terror in Germany, the American consul Kehl wrote in his letter of March 31, 1933:
“One must admit that the National-Socialist Organization did a great favour to the world by breaking down communism in Germany. As far as destroying of the communist plague in some other countries, this could be a positive effect.” (23)
“Although Consul Kehl was alone in his reporting from Germany, his conviction was widely accepted by the State Department”. (24)
Morse also described the attitude towards fascism expressed by General Sherrill, the American delegate at the IOC:
“Judging the general resentment against fascism, he (Sherrill) praised Mussolini as ‘a man I’ve known and respected for a long time, a gallant father who sent his own two sons in the fiercest battle’ (here Sherrill refers to Mussolini’s “famous campaign” in Ethiopia). The general gloomily added that he would wish Mussolini came to USA and dealt with communism there as he had done in Italy.” (25)
There is another “Olympic gentleman”, besides Sherrill, who was sent from America to Europe in order to examine if Nazi Germany was suitable to organize the Olympic Games – Avery Brundage, the President of the American Olympic Committee at the time, and later the President of IOC. He was Coubertin’s great admirer and famous for his anti-communist and racist attitudes. Here is how he justified the fascist terror and practically “made” the American Olympic team take part in the Berlin Games: “No matter what country organizes the Olympic Games, there will always be a group, a religion or a race to protest against the actions of its government, in the present or in the past.” (26) And that is why Brundage addressed the Jews and all the others who boycotted the Nazi Olympics:
“Some Jews must realize that they cannot use these Olympics as an instrument in their boycott of the Nazis”. (27)
As to the “incident” with Jesse Owens, there is a version of the story that says Hitler did not refuse to congratulate Owens because of his attitude towards blacks, but because of some protocol problems. Count Baillet-Latour, the President of IOC and Coubertin’s heir, asked Hitler to stop shaking hands with the winners, since he was not an official of the Games, but only a guest. This happened before Owens’ victory and that is why the handshake was omitted. According to the testimony of Baldur von Schirach, one of Hitler’s closest collaborators, Führer then said: “The Americans should be ashamed for letting the Negroes win their medals for them. I would never shake hands with a Black.” (28) When Schirach suggested to Hitler to pose for a photograph with Jesse Owens, his “rival in popularity” (29) at the Berlin Olympics, in order to create an impression of a friendly atmosphere at the Games – Hitler “exploded and shouted that the idea was the worst insult”. (30) This version of the story is similar to the one in Albert Speer’s book “Inside the Third Reich”:
“A few months after the obvious remilitarization of the Rhine zone, Hitler rejoiced at the harmonic atmosphere at the Olympic Games. He thought that international hostility towards National-Socialist Germany was suspended once and for all. He gave orders to do everything possible to create an impression of a peaceable Germany in the face of numerous important guests.
He himself attended the athletic contests with vivid excitement. Each of the strangely numerous German victories made him extremely joyful. But he was also enraged with a series of victories of that fabulous black American runner Jesse Owens. (Here is where Speer, Hitler’s devoted follower till the very last days of his regime, once more tries to point out that he was “different”.) People whose ancestors came from the jungle must be primitive, said Hitler, shrugging his shoulders; their body is stronger than the body of civilized whites. They make an unfair competition and therefore they must be excluded from the future Games.” (31
The IOC wanted above all to acquire the formal cover in public for the Olympics being held in Nazi Germany – to prove that the Olympic movement as well as the Berlin Games “had nothing to do with politics”. The “details” about the participation of the Jewish contestants at the Games, as other facts demonstrate – Baillet-Latour asked Hitler to remove the anti-Semitic posters from the road to the Berlin airport; he also asked the German government to obey the Olympic Declaration and let the Jewish contestants be part of the German team. The worst of all was the fact that the acknowledgements of the formal conditions were used as evidence that “everything is well” in fascist Germany and that there are no persecutions because of race or conditions. The IOC practically supported the Nazi regime and allowed it international credit.
And that is not all. When fascist Japan refused to organize the Olympic Games in 1940, due to be held in Tokyo – in order to advance freely against the Chinese people and prepare the Far East campaigns – the IOC frantically tried to find a country willing to organize the Games on the eve of the War. After searching in vain, the IOC addressed the Nazis. Hitler was once more asked to prepare the Winter Games in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. This was another opportunity for him to prove to the world that the Nazi regime wishes above all “peace and collaboration between the peoples of the world”. Besides, it suited Hitler’s plans to move the Games to Germany permanently. He accepted the offer. But soon, for the same reasons as Japan, Germany gave up organizing the Winter Games. Carl Diem spoke once more on behalf of the Nazi regime.
The Berlin Games were the competition between the fascist regimes (Germany, Japan, Italy) and the “democratic” systems (USA, Great Britain, France). The fascists triumphed: Germany did better than the United States for the first time in history; Japan beat England, and Italy won more medals than France. The fascist fanatics saw it as providence and the war could begin.
During World War II Belgian Count Baillet-Latour, Coubertin’s heir as President of IOC, made plans for “the future” of the Olympic movement in the Nazi “New Order” with Hitler’s men – Diem, Lewald, Hans von Tschammer und Osten. All this, of course, according to the principles of “peaceful collaboration among peoples”!
The real nature of the IOC is illustrated by its structure after the War. First the German Karl von Halt: He entered the IOC in 1929. He held the rank of SA Gruppenführer. After the War he was accused of being a war criminal. He was saved by Avery Brundage’s personal influence. Karl von Halt not only stayed in the IOC, but was also promoted to The Executive Board in 1957. (In 1951 he became president of the West-German Olympic Committee.) A similar destiny is shared by the French Marquise Melchior de Polignac. He entered the IOC in 1914. He spent six months in a French prison as a fascist collaborator. He also stayed in the IOC as a member of The Executive Board till 1950. (32) Both Sigfrid Edstrøm, the first President of the IOC after the War, and Brundage insisted that the Italian fascist Count Paolo Thaon di Revel should also keep his membership on the Committee. He entered the IOC in 1932 and was elected to the Executive Board in 1954. By the same rule the IOC kept Count Alberto Bonacossa, Mussolini’s follower, in the IOC from 1925, and on the Board from 1952. (33) It seems that the main condition to enter the IOC is to be a member of the fascist movement!
The story about General Giorgio Vaccaro, an Italian fascist, sheds more light on the picture of the “glorious history” of the IOC. He stayed in the Organization in spite of demands by the Italian Olympic Committee that he should be removed as an embarrassment to post-war Italy. This was a defeat for those trying to fight the right of the member-countries of the IOC to elect the members of the IOC and influence its policy. (34) Adolf Friedrich Mecklenburg, the President of the “Foreign Journalists Club” in the Nazi era, Goebbels’ closest assistant, also stayed in the IOC after the World War. Swedish Count Clarence von Rosen, member of the IOC from 1900, wrote to his friend Brundage, after the horrible crimes of the concentration camps were exposed, that the Jews are to be held responsible for all the evil in the world and that “communism is the political form of Judaism”. (35)
Avery Brundage, the leader of the post-war Olympic movement and official President of the IOC from 1952 to1972, publicly supported the Nazi regime even before he entered the IOC. In fact, he entered the IOC because he supported Nazi politics. He brought the American Olympic team to Berlin, in spite of the fervent protests of the American public, something the Nazis were very grateful for. At the same time, Brundage gave passionate speeches all around America, supporting Nazi politics in Germany and arguing for the neutral position of the USA. His main spiritual inspiration was Hitler’s “Mein Kampf”. After the war, trying to build a political career, he fought together with Senator McCarthy in one of the most shameful moments of American history. In these years “the Olympic peace-maker” Brundage reproached the American government for stopping the Korean war, for that was “a shameful act for all the whites in Asia”. (36) Brundage closed his career by supporting the racist regime in South Africa. In his famous speech at the Munich Olympic Games in 1972, he regrets “the lost battle for Rhodesia”. (37) According to American professor Guttmann, for tens of years after the Berlin Olympic Games, Brundage was considered as an “open admirer of Hitler”. (38)
Here are some details, cited by Guttmann, showing Brundage’s “moral purity”, on which he insisted while President of the IOC. Avery Brundage was part of the American Olympic team in 1912 in Stockholm. His most dangerous rival was an Indian named Jim Thorpe, who was first in the pentathlon. Brundage came in sixth and left the competition before it ended, incapable of taking the defeat in a sporting manner. (39) Thorpe had his medals taken away after his triumph, because of the accusation he played baseball on a semi-professional team and received money for it. There is a strong indication that Brundage was a secret instigator of this intrigue. Things appear more obvious if one knows that Brundage, “the protector of traditional values”, refused to acknowledge his two illegitimate sons, fearing that this would ruin his image and prevent him from being elected President of the IOC. (40)
Brundage was the one to introduce Juan Antonio Samaranch to the IOC in 1966, as a man “whom he trusted and loved”. Two years later Samaranch was appointed Chief of Protocol, and in 1970 Brundage introduced him to the Executive Board.
The biggest shortcoming of Vyv Simson’s and Andrew Jennings’ book about Samaranch, “The Masters of
The Rings”, is that it exclusively deals with the sport of our times and starts from a premise that “only a decade ago it was a source of beauty and purity”. Firmly holding to this absurd belief, the authors fail to properly analyze the history of the modern Olympic movement. Without this analysis it is impossible to explain how one of the leading fascists of Spain became the president of the IOC. Had they spent some time investigating the political biography of Avery Brundage they would have realized that Samaranch didn’t win Brundage’s trust by doing him small favours, but precisely because he was an orthodox fascist. Samaranch was a real Brundage man. Brundage knew very well that Samaranch was a high ranking member of the fascist regime in Spain and that he was responsible for bloody oppression in Cataluña. Brundage was not bothered by the fact that Samaranch, as a member of the IOC, publicly displayed his fascist beliefs and wore his fascist uniform while marching in the streets of Barcelona, then went on to speak about Olympic “ideals”. Having this in mind, it becomes clearer how in 1965, of all places, the IOC chose fascist Madrid to hold its general assembly, which was chaired by General Franco!
As the masters of the Olympic movement always liked to point out, sport and especially the Olympic Games had “nothing to do with politics”. This was, after all, confirmed by Franco himself. Chairing the IOC assembly, he did not speak about politics (he offered the American government to set up military bases in Spain) but about his “loyalty to Olympic ideals”, about “peace”, “international cooperation”… and for it he was rewarded with a huge ovation from the gentlemen of the IOC. That’s the way fascist dictator Franco became, shoulder to shoulder with Coubertin, Baillet-Latour, Diem, Hitler, Goebbels, Mussolini and Brundage, a part of “glorious” Olympic history. It was enough to speak about Olympic ideals to turn the world’s biggest criminals into Olympic angels!
The “cunning chameleon” Juan Antonio Samaranch realized this in time. By preaching holy Olympic prayers of “peace” and “international cooperation”, this “hundred per cent Francoist”, as he liked to call himself among friends, was transformed into a messenger of peace and welcomed everywhere. After the Olympic Games in Barcelona, the Spanish King decorated Samaranch with the title of Marquise. It seemed that fascist Samaranch, after the Barcelona Games, repaid the debts for his crimes. Citizens of Spain, who lived through the years of the criminal regime, were not deceived by the “cunning chameleon”. For them, as with the rest of the freethinking world, he remained what he always was, a fascist. The “cunning chameleon” changed his colours but his nature stayed the same.
Interestingly enough, Samaranch’s official biography, published by the IOC, does not mention a single word about his long political activity in Spain. Here is an excerpt from this publication, entitled “The Olympic movement”, published in 1984 by IOC:
“Born 1920 in Barcelona. Industrialist, ex-ambassador of Spain in Moscow. Vice president and president of National Olympic Committee of Spain between 1955-1970, he was one of the organizers of second Mediterranean Games in Barcelona in 1955. Entered IOC in 1966 and was a member of several boards. As member of the executive committee and vice president he inherits the position of president of the IOC from lord Killanin in 1980 and has since been in charge of the Olympic movement.”(41)
In order to deceive the world public and create himself a new image to suit the position he was now occupying, Samaranch omitted from his biography that he was a (fascist) member of the (fascist) parliament (Cortes) of Spain; member of a (fascist) city council in Barcelona; president of the (fascist) regional council of Cataluña, and even that he was appointed minister for sport (by Franco). The IOC propaganda service was like everything else in the IOC under Samaranch’s control. It aimed to create a myth about Samaranch: “He is a decent man who has dedicated his whole life to the Olympic movement” – according to one of the propaganda pamphlets manufactured at the IOC headquarters in Lausanne.
The situation is changing all the more as the obdurate representatives of totalitarian regimes are being replaced by pragmatic “new boys” who are first and foremost interested in money. This is logical, for fewer and fewer national flags and more and more flags of multilateral companies are flying over the Olympic arenas. The Olympic Games have become a huge hoarding for advertising multinational companies. In this context the question arises as to the meaning of the famous maxim that “sport has nothing to do with politics”. For while sport was in the hands of bureaucratic clans it was constantly stressed that “sport must be cleansed of politics”. This was the sacred formula to solve all problems. Where are those “humanists” now when the Olympic gentlemen are literally selling the Olympic Games to capitalist concerns? What has happened to the “struggle against the manipulation of sport and sportsmen”? Where is their “freedom-loving” word now? “Freeing sport from politics” is thus becoming the struggle for the unlimited freedom of capital in sport.
Today’s Olympic Games have not only lost legitimacy from the point of view of the humanistic values upon which the Olympic bosses call, but also from the point of view of Coubertin’s Olympic idea. Instead of national flags, the Olympic Games are becoming increasingly dominated by the symbols of capitalist companies; instead of “a church”, the Olympic Games are becoming a “fairgrounds”; instead of “the elite” of nations and races, participants are becoming “circus gladiators”; instead of being “educational” (Coubertin’s religio athletae), sport is becoming a profit-making business; instead of the “will to win”, scientific teams, laboratories and medications are becoming the basic driving force of sport; instead of the sports “elite” being recruited from the highest strata of society, sport is becoming the “privilege” of those at the lower end of the social ladder; instead of a demonstration of the “superiority” of the white race, “coloured peoples” are becoming dominant in the sports arenas; instead of “crowning the victors”, women have become the main “traction force” in beating records; instead of being the honourable “trustees of the Olympic idea”, Olympic officials have become unscrupulous merchants who have turned the Olympic Games into banal show-business…
The present day Olympic torch, which was first carried by aristocrats and then handed over to fascists and then to cold-war hawks has ended up in the hands of Olympic merchants. Those who swear most strongly by Coubertin have dug the grave for his Olympic idea.
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(1) Pierre de Coubertin, “Olympia”, In: Pierre de Coubertin, The Olympic Idea, Carl
Diem-Institut, ed. pub. and copy 1967 by Ver. Karl Hofmann, Schorndorf, Germany.
(2) Baron Pierre de Coubertin, Olympische Erinnerungen, Wilhelm-Limpert Verlag, Berlin, 1938. Introduction, page 6.
(3) Pierre de Coubertin, “The Philosophic Foundation of the Modern Olympics”, In: The Olympic Idea, page 130, 131.
(4) Pierre de Coubertin, “Speech by Baron de Coubertin at the Close of the Berlin Olympic Games”, Ibidem, page 135, 136.
(5) From: “Internationale Sportrundschau”,n. 7,1936, p.189. In: Jean-Marie Brohm, Jeux Olympiques a Berlin, Editions Complexe, Bruxelles, 1983, p.205,206.
(6) After Hans Joachim Teichler, “Coubertin und das Dritte Reich”, Sportwissenschaft, 1982, 12, page 35, 36.
(7) Ibidem, page 37.
(9) Richard D. Mandell, The Nazi Olympics, Souvenir Press, London,1972, page 147.
(10) After Arthur Morse, While 6 Million Died, Secker/Warburg, London, 1968, page 105.
(11) Carl Diem, “Olympische Akademie”, Dortmund, 1961, page 17-20. Carl Diem, Der Olympischen Gedanke, Carl-Diem-Institut, Köln, 1967, page 127.
(12) Albert Speer, Inside the Third Reich, MacMillan, New York, 1970, page 70.
(13) Arthur Morse, ibidem, page 156, 157.
(14) Ibidem, page 160.
(15) Teichler, ibidem, page 43.
(17) Ibidem, page 45.
(18) Ibidem, page 52.
(19) Ibidem, page 28.
(20) Ibidem, page 29.
(21) Ibidem, page 29.
(22) Ibidem, page 32, 33.
(23) Ibidem, Morse, 112.
(24) Ibidem, page 112.
(25) Ibidem, page 182.
(26) Ibidem, page 179.
(27) After Peter Hein, “The Politics of Sport and Apartheid”, In: Sport, Culture, Ideology, ed. Jennifer Hargreaves, Rutledge, London, 1982, page 233.
(28) Mandell, ibidem, page 236.
(31) Speer, Ibidem, page 72, 73.
(32) Allen Guttmann, The Games Must Go On, Columbia Uni. Press, 1984, pages 101,265,267. (33)
Ibidem, pages 101, 267.
(34) Ibidem, page 102, 268.
(35) Ibidem, page 92, 264.
(36) Ibidem, page 96.
(37) Ibidem, page 254.
(38) Ibidem, page 74.
(39) Ibidem, page 27.
(40) Ibidem, page 49.
(41) Le Comité International Olympique, Lausanne, Suisse, 1984, pp 25.
About the same issue see also: Jean-Marie Brohm, Jeux Olympiques a Berlin, ed. Complexe, Bruxelles, 1983; Hajo Bernett, Nationalsozialistische Leibeserziehung, Karl Hofmann Verlag, Schorndorf bei Suttgart, 1971; Hajo Bernett, Sportpolitik im Dritten Reich, Karl Hofmann Verlag, Schorndorf bei, Stuttgart, 1971; Carl Diem, Olympische Flamme, Utscher Verlag, Berlin, 1942; Carl Diem, Weltgeschichte des Sports, Cotta Verlag, Stuttgart, 1971; Carl Diem, Der Olympische Gedanke, Reden und Aufsätze, ed. Carl Diem Institut, Köln, 1967; Berthold Fellmann, 100 Jahre deutsche Ausgrabung in Olympia, Prestel-Verlag, München, 1972; Arnd Krüger, Sport und Politik, Fackelträger Verlag, Hannover, 1975; Karl Adolf Sherer, 100 Jahre Olympische Spiele, Harenberg, Dortmund, 1995; Judith Holmes, Olympiaden 1936, Hitlers propagandatriumf, Aldus, Stockholm, 1973; Peter Hein, “The Politics of Sport and Apartheid”, In: Sport, Culture, Ideology, ed. Jennifer Hargreaves, Rutledge, London, 1982.
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