Getting Rid of the Medal Award Ceremony – One Idea for Ridding the Olympics of Nationalism

Al Oerter Getting His Gold Medal; from the book
Al Oerter Getting His Gold Medal; from the book “The Olympic Century – XVIII Olympiad Vol 16”

I’m not sure if a lot of people liked Avery Brundage.

He served as president of the International Olympic Committee from 1952 to 1972. An American construction and hotel magnate, as well as a pentathlete and decathlete in the 1912 Stockholm Summer Games, Brundage was considered overly enthusiastic in assuring Olympic athletes received no financial reward in any way connected to their athletic pursuits.

While ignoring under-the-table payments of shoe companies to athletes for wearing their shoes, as well as the support and rewards provided by the Soviet bloc governments to their “amateur” athletes, Brundage was particularly strict with Americans getting any form of compensation.

Then there was his admiration for the Nazi regime in Germany, his refusal to shake the hands of Black American medalists, and his generally prudish exhortations in contrast to his extra-marital affairs and children.

Finally, in a move to condemn what he felt was an unnecessary swelling of nationalism in the Olympic Games, he suggested in a October 24, 1964 AP article that he wanted to eliminate the podium medal ceremonies from the Olympics. “In the first place, the national anthems are badly played,” he said in a press conference. “They are also monotonous and I think it would be better to play some sort of Olympic song.”

Thankfully, nobody took Brundage up on cutting the podium event, one of the most potent memories of most Olympic champions.

But maybe Brundage was right about the national anthem. Apparently the Tokyo Olympic organizers, in order to save time, established the practice of playing only the first four bars of an anthem. Bing Crosby’s brother Bob was in Tokyo at the Olympic Games, and eventually grew tired hearing his nation’s anthem cut short.

As the UPI report states, Bob Crosby and his Bobcats were there to witness the US Men’s 4X400 relay team victory, and just as the Japanese band cut away, the Bobcats picked up the anthem and played it out to completion.

bob crosby and his bobcats

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