Anti-Semitism and the Olympics

There was a large outcry at the London Games because there was no memorial shown by NBC for the athletes killed by the terrorists in the 1972 Olympic Massacre.

Jim McKay told the story better than anyone else:

Sad. Terrorism is now a part of our everyday life in the world, for some, especially those in the Middle East, it’s rampant. To not mention the 40th anniversary of this tragedy is indeed distasteful. And thoughts of whether this could have been done purposefully because of anti-semitic tendencies could be accurate.

The IOC themselves have a long history of anti-semitism unfortunately. It dates back to Avery Brundage the head of the IOC for many years. In 1936, Hitler had come to power and Berlin was the site of the Olympiad. Two Jews, Sam Stoller and Marty Glickman (who later became a famed sportscaster in New York and was my broadcast coach at Fordham) were members of the American 4×100 relay. They were told they would not run. The excuse was that Brundage told them that the Germans were hiding athletes and that they needed their best athletes out there. Namely the famed Jesse Owens and Ralph Metcalf.

Owens objected. “I’m tired. Marty and Sam deserve the chance.”

“You’ll do as your told.”

Glickman also objected: “You can’t hide world class athletes. We’ll beat them by 5 yards!”

Jesse Owens has captured a bunch of medals already and Hitler, already embarrassed that a black man had won medals, wasn’t about to be embarrassed by two Jews. Brundage, later revealed to be a Nazi sympathizer, put the act in motion.

Glickamn and Stoller were told that they wouldn’t run and with World War II breaking out, they never got another chance.

Fast forward many years later and the New York Football Giants played an exhibition game in Berlin. They invited Marty to the game, played at the same stadium he would have run in. He even got to sit in Hitler’s box, in a nice twist of irony. While walking on the track, Glickman reported that some kind of “spell” came over him. And he began to curse and yell and cry out all kinds of things. Perhaps it was an old wound that needed to be reopened in order for him to have closure.

I once said to him, “But two good things happened!”

He looked at me with some disdain and said “What!?”

“Well, how many people can say that Jesse Owens stood up for them?!”

“Fair enough!” Glickman said.

“And the second one is more important.”

Glickman looked puzzled.

“Dude! You pissed off Hitler! How many Jews would want to have THAT experience!?”

He laughed heartily, patted me on the back.

“You just made my day!” he said. “But I really would’ve loved to stick it to him by winning that race.”

Marty had a lot of old stories from his sportscasting days and he loved to tell them. Many with a smile on his face and a lilt in his voice…

But he never, EVER, told that story with a smile on his face. He always referred to Brundage and Dean Cromwell, the track coach as “the American Nazis.”

Here he tells the story:

Glickman refers at the end to the countless Jewish athletes who were later killed in the Holocaust many years later by the Nazis.

I hope NBC the Olympic television committee overlooked the 72 disaster because they plan to do something bigger on it for the 50 year anniversary.

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