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Going au natural was considered not only natural, but beautiful, in ancient Greece. The nude athlete is a powerful image in Greece. It is said that when a runner named Orsippus of Megara lost his loincloth in the midst of a sprint, he was said to run even faster, gaining him victory and fame. Running naked became a competitive advantage.

As archaeologists like Heinrich Schliemann, who uncovered the site of ancient Troy in the late 19th century, captured the imagination of people the world over, the thinking and customs of the ancient Greece became idealized. The nude athlete in particular was de rigeur in posters advertising the early Olympic Games.

1920 antwerp olympics poster

In fact, from 1912 to 1936, the male body was the main feature of the Olympic poster, with the 1912 Stockholm Olympic poster being the most, how shall we say, intriguing, showing that there’s a lot you can do with a ribbon. And after World War I ravaged Europe, the Olympics came to Antwerp, Belgium in 1920, where the poster also employed a fully nude man, private parts covered this time by a swirling towel.

1924 Paris Olympics poster

The French were not so revealing, but the poster for the 1924 Paris Olympics did emphasize the bare chests and midriffs of virile young men ready to go into athletic battle. The poster for the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics was less suggestive, but still featured a yearning half-nude man.

Then, there are the prudish Americans, who featured a man of chiseled musculature, but whose torso was covered by a white t-shirt.

The Germans in 1936, the Brits in 1948 and the Finns in 1952 all did variations on a theme with the male body, until the Aussies came along and changed the look and feel dramatically. They removed the human, and replaced it with, what looks like a card, or invitation to the Olympic Games.

Nude guys were no longer a thing.

1932 Los Angeles Olympics poster

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It was 1921 and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) were gathered in Lausanne, Switzerland to vote on the host city of the 1924 Olympiad. Delegates from Amsterdam, Holland, as well as Rome, Italy were confident with its bid to host the 1924 Olympics. The founder of the modern Olympics, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, was 58 years old, and had overseen the birth and growth of the Olympic movement for over 30 years, and announced in Lausanne, he was ready to retire, and that he had a favor to ask of his fellow IOC members.

Would they be so kind as to select Paris, France, his hometown, to be the host of the 1924 Olympic Games?

The IOC members could not turn down the father of their movement, and thus Paris was selected as host of the 1924 Games, much to the chagrin of the delegates for Rome, who stormed out of the meeting. But the Dutch, who had bid for the 1912 Olympics, and ceded to Antwerp, Belgium in 1920, were also selected at this 1921 IOC meeting to host an Olympics, the next one in 1928.

Eventually, the IOC drew up a charter that states a host city must be selected 7 years in advance, probably assuming that changing economic or political conditions might result in regrets over a decision made so far in the future. Possibly they used the 1921 case as its benchmark. But nearly 100 years later, the IOC may need to look confidently into its crystal ball and decide yes, let’s select, both Paris and Los Angeles for the next two Summer Olympics.

On September 13, 2017, the IOC will meet in Lima, Peru to select the host city of the 2024 Summer Olympics among the two surviving candidates – Paris and Los Angeles. There has been speculation for months that they may also select the host city for 2028.

LA_2024_Olympic_Bid_Logo.svgBut which city should go first in 2024, and which city will take the longer-term plunge, agreeing to host 11 years later? Delegates from both bid committees are saying that they are only considering 2024. But from the IOC’s perspective, locking up two cities for the next two Olympics would be a relief as cities and nations are now commonly reluctant to bid for this biggest of big tent events.

Rich Perelman, who edits the insightful newsletter The Sports Examiner, recently posits a scenario for the upcoming selection prior to key IOC visits with the bidding committees in LA and Paris in May. Perelman believes that the IOC needs to reward Paris who has been active in hosting Olympic-spots events, and help turn the tide in Europe, which has seen major cities like Rome, Hamburg and Budapest drop bids due to weak support in their own countries.

Perelman explains that later may be better for LA. Even though Los Angeles has fantastic facilities ready to go, particularly an Olympic Village infrastructure that Paris does not currently have, the city of angels still has significant transportation infrastructure issues, among other things, that they could use the time to resolve.

So if one assumes that the members of the IOC vote to select Paris as host of the 2024 Olympics, then Perelman believes that the IOC, driven by president Thomas Bach, have to make a strong offer to Los Angeles to accept the rights to host in 2028. Such inducements would include start-up funding for four year from next year, say USD10 million a year, and perhaps early access to monies from television rights and sponsorships prior to 2022, which is when such payments would normally be made for a 2028 host city selected in 2021.

Interestingly, I have yet to see a scenario if the IOC vote to select Los Angeles as host in 2024. Would Paris agree to wait 11 years and host in 2028?

In 1921, Los Angeles also bid to host the 1924 Olympics, but failed. In 1923, the IOC met in Rome to decide on the host city of the 1932 Olympics, nine years later. The IOC selected Los Angeles. And the circumstances then may be similar to the circumstances today. The IOC had only one bid for 1932 – Los Angeles. If Paris wins the bid in September, the IOC may think they have only one bid for 2028 – Los Angeles. Will history repeat?

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Left to right, clockwise: Jean Simmons, Grace Kelly, Swoosie Kurtz, Charlotte Rampling, Hugh Laurie

These are famous actors and actresses of the silver and small screen. What do they all have in common?

  • Jean Simmons: scouted in 1945 in London, presumably after World War II, Simmons moved to Hollywood and began an acting career that made her one of the most famous faces in the world, starring in such films as The Actress, Guys and Dolls, The Big Country, and Spartacus.
  • Grace Kelly: an acting icon, Kelly became America’s modern-day princess when she famously married Prince Ranier of Monaco, after starring in such films as High Noon, Dial M for Murder, Rear Window, To Catch a Thief and High Society.
  • Swoosie Kurtz: Emmy Award winner and two-time Tony Award winner from Omaha, Nebraska, who is better known on American television programs Carol and Company, Sisters, and Mike and Molly.
  • Hugh Laurie, an Oxford, England native who rose to fame as a comedy duo called Fry and Laurie, with Stephen Fry, and became a household name in America in the hit drama series, House, M.D.
  • Charlotte Rampling, British siren who starred in such films as Georgy Girl, The Damned, The Night Porter, Stardust Memories and The Verdict. She was recently in the news for her controversial comments regarding Blacks and acting.

The answer is….their fathers were all successful Olympians!

Charles Simmons: was part of the British bronze-medal winning gymnastics team in the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm Sweden, and father of femme fatale, Jean Simmons.

John Kelly: 3-time gold medalist, two at the 1920 Antwerp Games in single scull and double sculls (rowing), and a gold in double sculls at the 1924 Paris Games, who was father of Princess Grace.

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John B. Kelly

Frank Kurtz: a bronze medalist in the 1932 Los Angeles Games in the 10-meter platform dive, Kurtz was the father of Swoosie.

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Frank Kurtz and daughter, Swoosie

Ran Laurie: Like John Kelly, Ran Laurie was a rower who took gold in the coxless pairs at the 1948 London Games, whose partner on that gold-medal winning team was Jack Wilson. As mentioned above, Hugh Laurie starred in hit series, House, and coincidentally,

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Aileen Riggin at the 1920 Antwerp Games

Belgium put in their bid for the 1920 Olympics in 1912. Little did they know that Archduke Ferdinand would be assassinated in 1914, sparking World War I. Germany overran Belgium, clearly overriding any planning for the Olympics. In fact, the Olympics in 1916 were cancelled.

But when the war ended in 1919, Antwerp was selected to hold the 1920 Summer Games.

Over 9 million soldiers died in World War I. Around 7 million civilians died as a result of the war. The invasion of Belgium by Germany is often called “The Rape of Belgium“, during which over 27,000 Belgians were killed by German soldiers, an additional 62,000 died of hunger or due to lack of shelter, and one and a half million Belgians fled the country.

Aileen Riggin was part of the first ever US women’s team in the Olympics, which competed at the 1920 Antwerp Games. She got to Belgian in the SS Princess Matoika, which was known as the Death Ship as it had transported war dead from Europe to the US. In the book, Tales of Gold, Riggin shared memories that showed the war was still very much in the minds of people living and competing in Antwerp. As Riggin was a 14-year-old girl at the time, I simply cannot imagine how she felt.

“When we were not training, we went on several trips around Antwerp in our truck, and one was to the battlefields. The mud was so deep that we could not walk, so we stopped along the line and bought some wooden shoes and learned how to walk in them. They were not too comfortable but they did protect our feet from the mud. I do not know how we happened to be allowed on the battlefields, because they had not yet been cleared.”

“In places they were still the way they were in 1918, when the Armistice was declared. We even picked up shells and such things and brought them home as souvenirs. There were trenches and pillboxes and things like that scattered about the fields, and we looked into some of them, and they were deep in water. There were some German helmets lying on the field, and we brought some home with us. I picked up a boot and dropped it very hurriedly when I saw that it still had remains of a human foot inside. It was a weird experience, and we were glad to leave. It must have taken them another year to clear off the battlefields from the way we saw them. They were in shambles.”

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Aileen Riggin on the victory stand, from the book “Tales of Gold”
How a war devastated country could take on an international event while still in a “shambles” is hard to imagine. But the Belgian authorities did what they could, improvising in some ways. For example, the diving competition was held in a large ditch at the base of an embankment, created as a form of protection if a war were to come to Belgium. Riggin, who competed as a diver, describes the venue.

“On our second day in Antwerp an army truck came to drive us to the stadium where we were to swim. Words fail me in describing our first view of this place. I had never seen anything like it. it was just a ditch. I believe they had had rowing races there at one time. There were  boardwalks around the pool – I have to call it a pool – to mark the ends. In the center