Monday, August 25, 2008

Helsinki 1952

Wherein from this book: The Story of the Olympic Games, 776B.C. to 1960 A.D.

Norway, Winter Olympics:
The only sour notes came from the only bodily contact sport of the winter show, ice hockey. Americans got into fist fights with Poles in one game and a Swiss was slugged in another. That second one cause the bigger commotion as a Swiss newspaper characterized Americans as "rowdies" and demanded an end to the "pollution of European hockey by overseas teams." This was a left-handed crack at the Canadians as well as a right-handed slam at us because the vigorous play of athletes from this continent doesn't fit in with the more polite tactics of Europeans.

Boo friggin' boo. You'd think by this point of the 20th century, Europeans would've gotten used to having their asses handed to them by Americans. USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! On to the summer.
But a fortnight before the athletes were scheduled to depart the fund-raising was half a million dollars short of its goal of $850,000. Then came a most remarkable occurence.

Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, perhaps the most sportsminded of all Hollywood stars, came galloping to the rescue. They agreed to act as joint masters of ceremony at a round-the-clock television show, the Olympic Telethon as they called it....Pledges rolled in at a fantastic rate under good-natured Crosby-Hope prodding. Some fifteen hours after the Olympic Telethon had begun its attempt to raise a half million dollars the giant board on the stage revealed that $1,000,020 had been pledged. [...]

Try as they might, however, the International Olympic Committee never could keep politics completely out of the Games. East Germany applied for recognition as a separate entity and the IOC contrived to sidle away from that by continuing its recognition of the West-Germans, who held the equivalent of the original Olympic "franchise."

China was different, though. Both Nationalist China and Red China held separate memberships in the various international federations and the original Chinese Olympic Committee was split in personnel into the two camps. The IOC stalled on this ticklish question until the Games were about to begin and then straddled the fence by accepting both.

The aggrieved Nationalists thereupon withdrew in indignation, muttering that this step was highly illegal and improper. That left the field to Red China, a rather empty victory because the Communists didn't have any athletes on the premises anyway.

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