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Avery Brundage was an American sports official, art collector, and philanthropist.

A controversial figure, he has been widely criticized for attitudes expressed and decisions he made as a member of the United States Olympic Committee and as president of the International Olympic Committee.

Born in Detroit, Michigan, Brundage studied civil engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, graduating in 1909. A few years later, 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.

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.

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. Glickman later said that that decision might have been the result of pressure from Brundage. Brundage later praised the Nazi regime at a Madison Square rally, and 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. As late as 1971, after many revelations over Nazi Germany's use of the 1936 Olympics for their own propaganda, Brundage still claimed "The Berlin Games were the finest in modern history...I will accept no dispute over that fact".

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 beautiful and adroit as they are ineffective and unpleasing on the track." (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. 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, succeeding Sigfrid Edström. At the time he was being considered for this honor, Brundage had two sons with a woman who was not his wife. In order to avoid a political scandal, he requested that his name be kept off the birth certificates.

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.)

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.

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, (including L.A. Times columnist Jim Murray, who wrote ""Incredibly, they're going on with it. It's almost like having a dance at Dachau") , 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

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). He later apologized for the comparison.

Brundage is also remembered for proposing the elimination of all team sports from the Summer Olympics, fearing that the games would become too expensive for all but the wealthiest nations to host, and the elimination of the Winter Olympics entirely due to its pro-European ideology.

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.

When Brundage was 85 he married a 36-year-old German, Mariann Charlotte Katharina Stefanie Princess Reuss. Brundage died 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.

(source: Wikipedia)

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