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I grew up listening to Marv Albert broadcast New York Knicks basketball games, and I loved the smart, silky smooth delivery, and the shout of “Yes” that punctuated big baskets. But I learned recently in the HBO documentary, Glickman, that Albert, along with many of today’s seasoned play-by-play announcers in America, grew up listening to Marty Glickman.

If you’ve ever heard an announcer of a basketball game say things like “baseline”, “front court”, “drive the lane”, that was because Glickman said it first, credited with creating the blueprint of the basketball court in the mind’s eye of the radio listener. And if you ever heard the word “swish” by a broadcaster after seeing a ball fall through the hoop without hitting the rim, that is because Glickman said it first.

Marty Glickman is without a doubt a legend in the American sports broadcasting world. He was the voice of the Knicks, the football Giants and Jets, Yonkers Raceway, and a wide variety of sports for the fledgling cable network, Home Box Office (HBO).

But the general public is not as aware that Glickman was a great athlete and Olympian. He was not only an Olympian, he was one thrust into the tricky geo-politics of how to handle Nazi Germany in the 1930s, before World War II raged.

In 1936, at the Berlin Olympics, the US was heavily favored in the track sprints. With Jesse Owens (100 and 200-meter gold), Archie Williams (400-meter gold), Ralph Metcalfe (100-meter gold), Mack Robinson (200-meter silver), the US was able to win points in the geo-political PR battle over ideology by showing the world that a diverse America was a strong America. (Of course, black Americans at that time realized support from their government was far greater overseas than at home.)

What is perhaps less well known is that the US had a chance to make the diversity pitch even stronger. The track team had two Jews, the only Jews on the US Olympic squad: Sam Stoller and Marty Glickman. They flew into Germany in 1936, which at the time was said to actively discriminate against people of Jewish “blood”.

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Glickman and Stoller

In the documentary, Glickman talks about the day he got the horrible news – that he would not run in the 4×100 meter relays.

The morning of the day we were supposed to run the trial heats, we were called into a meeting, the 7 sprinters, along with Dean Cromwell, the assistant head track coach head, and Lawson Robertson, the head track coach. And Robertson announced to the seven of us that he heard very strong rumors, that the Germans were saving their very best sprinters, hiding them to upset the American team in the 4×400 meter relay. And consequently, Sam and I, were to be replaced by Jesse Owens and Ralph Metcalfe. We were shocked.

Glickman certainly had no grudge against Jesse Owens. In fact, he cited the fact that Owens stood up for Glickman and Stoller in that meeting. But he was shouted down, in no position to overrule the powerful coaches of the track team.

I said, “Coach, you know, we’re the only two Jews on the track team, Sam and I.” “We’ll worry about that later,” said Dean Cromwell. Sam was completely stunned. He didn’t say a word in the whole meeting. I’m a brash 18-year-old kid, and I said, “Coach, no matter who runs this race we’re going to win by 15 yards!” At which point Jesse spoke up and said, “I’ve won my 3 gold medals. I’m tired. I’ve had it. Let Marty and Sam run. They deserve it.” And Cromwell pointed his finger at him and said, “You’ll do as you’re told.” And in those days, black athletes did as they were told.

Glickman watched the finals in frustration and anger. “I look out on the track and I see Metcalfe passing runners down the backstretch. He ran the second leg. That should be me out there!” Adding a bit of levity to the moment was Lou Zamperini, the famed Olympian whose incredible story was told in the book and film, Unbroken. He said, “With Glickman in there, they wouldn’t have won by 15 yards. Maybe 14 yards.” As it turned out, the Germans had no secret sprinters waiting in the wings, finishing third well over a second behind.

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Jesse Owens, Ralph Metcalfe, Foy Draper and Frank Wykoff

Glickman has always believed that anti-semitism was at the heart of leaving Glickman and Stoller off the team. As he stated in this clip, it was easier for the Americans to navigate the tricky diplomacy ins and outs with the emerging Nazi power in Europe by keeping Jewish athletes out of the competition.

Here were the great black athletes who couldn’t be kept off the winning podium. They were marvelous. But here were two rather obscure Jewish American athletes who could be kept from the winning podium so as not to further embarrass Adolph Hitler.

Glickman would go on to say that his victimization on the track was nothing compared to what happened to Jews during the war. But being kept off the track in 1936 was a painful memory he took to his grave, when he passed away in January, 2001. According to this obituary in The New York Times, the US Olympic Committee (USOC) eventually did admit, indirectly, that Glickman and Stoller were likely kept off the track to appease Hitler.

While not finding written proof that the U.S.O.C. kept Glickman and Stoller out of the relay because of anti-Semitism, William J. Hybl, then president of the Olympic group, said in 1998: ”I was a prosecutor. I’m used to looking at evidence. The evidence was there.” That year, the U.S.O.C. presented Glickman a plaque in lieu of the gold medal he most likely would have won even if Owens and Metcalfe had not raced. Stoller died in 1983.

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The 1972 Munich Olympics will forever be associated with the most horrific clash of political values during an Olympiad, one that resulted in the murders of 11 Israeli coaches and athletes at the hands of Palestinian terrorists.

While Iron Curtain Spy-vs-Spy shenanigans had been part and parcel of the Olympics in the 1950s and 1960s, and the rhetoric was heating up as the nuclear arms race injected legitimate fear into the lives of ordinary folks, the venues and facilities of the Olympic Games had been sacrosanct, places off limits to tribal conflict. Countries come together in peace during the Olympics. Heck, Nixon went to China that year! Maybe things were getting better.

And so, in hindsight, we can look back on the security of the 1972 Munich Games and pronounce them horrifically bad by today’s standards. Ollan Cassell was at the Munich Summer Games. Cassell, a gold-medal winning member of the US men’s 4X400 relay track team, was the recently appointed executive director of the then American Athletic Union (AAU), which at the time, was the US body recognized internationally in 14 sports represented at the Olympics. Cassell gave a first-hand account in his book, Inside the Five Ring Circus, how lax the security was in Munich.

inside-five-ring-circus-coverAt the Munich Games, the ticket takers apparently returned the ticket stubs back to the ticket holder, in essence, giving back the ticket. Perhaps the ticket takers were being nice, thinking that the spectator would want the full ticket as a souvenir and a pleasant memory of their time at the Munich Games. Cassell wrote how he took advantage of that security flaw to get a member of his team into the Opening Ceremonies by going to the fence and handing his ticket stub to his team member, who then easily entered the Olympic stadium with a “valid” ticket.

Not only that, Cassell wrote about how easy the official credentials were to forge. With some care, Cassell wrote of how people created their own credentials to gain access to events more freely than they were initially able to do. He did write about how one person got caught with the fake credentials and was deported, but on the whole, security was filled with holes. Yes, tight security is a pain in the neck. And who knows, maybe the organizers of the Munich Games, perhaps in some way, were trying to overwrite the world’s image of Germany’s last Olympics – the Berlin Games – by prioritizing a relaxed attitude over a vigilant attitude.

But reality slammed home. The Black September terrorists who came to Munich to kill Israelis, took advantage of the security. They had stolen keys that gave them easy entry to the rooms of the Israeli men’s team. They entered the Village grounds in the first place by doing what other athletes did after curfew – by climbing the fence. The thought that terrorists would break into the Village was so remote that other Olympic athletes apparently helped the Palestinians in. There was criticism as well for the German authorities who struggled to contain the hostage crisis, and were, in hindsight, poorly prepared to handle this armed conflict. And yet, they were poorly prepared because they did not believe such a thing could happen at their Olympics.

The rhetoric of geo-political spats gave way shockingly to savagery and death at the Olympics. And security at the Olympics would be changed forever.

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Increased security at the Montreal Olympics in 1976

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The lighting of the cauldron at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
The Olympics live on symbols. The five colored rings that represent the five continents of the world. The doves that represent peace. The gold, silver and bronze medals that symbol achievement at the highest sporting levels.

One of the most dramatic symbols of the Olympic Games has been the lighting of the Olympic cauldron that symbolically represents the Games ancient Greek origins, the beginning of the Games, and by extension, the suspension of hostilities in times of conflict and the coming together of the world’s athletes in competition and fair play. The cauldron lighting of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics most poignantly emphasized the need for world peace.

While this particular ceremony started at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, it was at the 1992 Barcelona Games where organizers raised the bar significantly in creating the Wow factor, that moment when you’ve seen something spectacular, something you would not have imagined or expected. In this case, it was paralympian archer, Antonio Rebollo, who shot a flaming arrow some 60 meters over a cauldron that rose seven-stories high, igniting the gases accumulating over the cauldron, and sending chills and thrills across the world.

In 1996, the organizers of the Atlanta Olympics had all sorts of issues with the planning of the cauldron lighting, but one thing they got right was having Muhammad Ali do the honors. Spectacle had to wait four more years for Sydney to bring goosebumps tot the world. An island nation, surrounded by water, Australia brought fire and water together in spectacular fashion. 400-meter sprinter, Cathy Freeman, stood in a pool of water. When she placed it to the watery surface, a ring of fire curled around her, the cauldron rising out of the water like a spaceship, making its way majestically to its home at the top of the stadium.

In 2008, China amazed the world with its spectacular opening ceremonies, highlighted by its impossible-to-imagine sky run, performed by legendary gymnast, Li Ning. Rising high above the crowd, suspended on wires, Ning appeared to run along the stadium wall for 500 meters before applying his torch and igniting another flame that spiraled up into a spectacular ignition of the cauldron.

What new spectacle and symbolism will the Rio Olympics bring? Our hearts are already a-flutter in anticipation.

Helene Mayer's Salute at 1936 Berlin Games
Helene Mayer’s Heil Hitler Salute at the 1936 Games
This is not a Hollywood script.

An Olympic fencer, gold medalist at the 1928 Amsterdam Games and six-time national champion in Germany, Helene Mayer was a golden girl and likely eager to participate in her country’s Olympics in 1936.

While studying international law in the US in the early 1930s, she got surprising news. Her membership in a major fencing organization, The Offenback Fencing Club, was rescinded. The reason? Her Jewish heritage.

Mayer was surprised to learn that her father was Jewish. And apparently, she denied that fact. As explained in the fun-fact-filled book, The Book of Olympic Lists by David Wallechinsky and Jamie Loucky:

She was the perfect embodiment of the Nazis’ conception of Aryan womanhood, except for one detail – her father, a doctor who had died before the Los Angeles Olympics (in 1932), was Jewish. Mayer did not think of herself as Jewish, particularly after her father’s death.

Naturally, the German authorities were not going to invite Mayer to the Berlin Games three years later. The Hitler regime intended to allow not a single Jewish athlete to compete. But the German authorities were also desirous of pulling off a public relations coup by hosting the Olympics, showing the world that Germany was a nation of superior standing, representing world peace and inclusion. Under pressure, they decided to ask two Jewish athletes to compete on the German national team – a high jumper, as well as a fencer – Helene Mayer.

While she received pressure from Jewish groups in the US to not go to the Olympics, Meyer was overjoyed to return to Germany for the Berlin Olympics. She was open for her love for her home country.

Helene Mayer portrait

And while she did not win the women’s individual foil championship for Germany, she placed second, good enough for silver and a spot on the medal stand. Quite amazingly, when the Hungarian national anthem was being played for gold medalist Ilona Elek, Mayer, one of only two Jewish athletes added to the team, reluctantly by the German authorities, held out her right arm in a Heil Hitler salute. As is described in this article, the image is striking: “Her face is determined. Her posture is perfect. Her arm points strong and fierce. She leaves no doubt as to what she is doing.”

What was Ilona Elek, whose father was Jewish, thinking when she saw Meyer to her left show her definitive support for the Arayan Race. What was Meyer feeling, as she stood in

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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,