Avery Brundage

I am tempted to make a bad pun about FIFA being run like a medieval fiefdom, but I don’t think they deserve to be let off the hook quite so easily.  At the moment they are beleaguered by a scandal involving just two of them and the Quatar bid to host the World Cup in 2022.  But I think we should not forget the fact that the unsuccessful British bid  for the 2018 World Cup was by far the best bid and yet only got one vote besides Britain’s.  There is no honest explanation for this or for the success of the less worthy Russian bid.

Now we know how cleanly the Russians fight when they want something really badly and we are getting increasingly clear indications of what sort of an organization FIFA is.  So I think we can all figure out what happened there.  One journalist, playing devil’s advocate for FIFA, said that Britain’s failure was due to an inability to “work the room.”  He meant flatter people’s egos.  But not even that journalist could have been naive enough to think that flattering their egos would be enough.  To win, you would have to grease their palms.  And Britain, as an ethical nation, simply will not do that.

But on the other hand, we did win the Olympic bid for 2012.  Now I am not suggesting that the International Olympic Committee is corrupt.  But like many organizations that exist outside any sort of democratic control, they can be extremely arrogant.  I remember once when swimmer Sharron Davies and some journalists tried to persuade them to promote silver and bronze medalists who had been cheated out of higher medals by East German steroid users, the Olympic Committee official exploded with rage and refused to talk to the journalist or with cameras present.  After all, who the hell were these uppity reporters demanding fairness and the reversal of results obtained by cheating?

And of course the IOC has form when it comes to arrogance.  Their former chief, the late Avery Brundage (1952-1972) was a Nazi sympathizer who after cunningly worming his way onto the IOC in 1936 (by stabbing an American colleague in the back) pressured the US team into dropping the only two Jews from the track team at the last minute in order not to offend Hitler.  In the event one of the replacements was Jessie Owen who proceeded to claim his forth medal by leading his team to victory in a relay race, thereby making a mockery of Hitler’s theory of Aryan superiority.  But that happy conclusion doesn’t let the antisemitic Brundage off the hook.

But not all the sins of the IOC can be blamed on one man.  In 1976 the IOC allowed the Canadian government to get away with banning the team from Taiwan.  The Canadian toadies – anxious for trade with Communist China – justified this on the pretext that Taiwan called itself “The Republic of China” but in fact was not the Republic of China.  There was just small flaw in this argument: both the Taipei and the Beijing governments agreed that Taiwan was part of China just as they both agreed that the mainland was part of China.  Nor could the Canadian regime argue that only the larger part of China could use China in its name.  Because that would have been inconsistent with the fact that in those same Olympics the Canadians allowed the so-called  “German Democratic Republic” to compete under that name even though they were the smaller part of Germany – far smaller than the Federal Republic of Germany.  (Not to mention the fact that the Federal republic of Germany really was democratic whereas the East German dictatorship was not.)  If the Canadian toadies had been consistent, they would have banned east Germany.

Now it might be said that this last incident was the fault of the corrupt Canadian government of Pierre Trudeau and not the IOC.  But the IOC allowed it to happen without imposing sanctions on the corrupt Canadians and therefore shared in the culpability for this nefarious act of kissing the backside of a dictatorship.

But has the IOC changed?  They continue to be a vehicle for a few rich corporations to profit at the expense of taxpayers who are forced to pay.  While official Olympic sponsors are allowed to profit from their contributions with logos and the affective banning of rival names from anywhere near the Olympic venues, unofficial Olympic sponsors – i.e. taxpayers – are not allowed to use combinations of names like 2012 and Gold by legislation that the host country is required to impose in consideration for being awarded the games by the IOC.  Again, the IOC is not on the scene when the crime is committed, but like Old Possums Macavity, we know whose handiwork it really was.