- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 14 Jan 1988, p. 183-192
- Holloway, Susan; and Pound, Richard W., Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- Richard Pound
A review of the Olympic Movement and the International Olympic Committee under the presidency of Avery Brundage. The Olympics now. A history of the Olympics Games. The politics of the Olympic Games. The IOC's increased effectiveness in dealing with politics and problems. Optimism for the future.
What it was like to be an athlete during the time when Avery Brundage was President of the IOC. Anecdotes and reminiscences of the speaker as an Olympic athlete. Seeing the athlete as a total person. The Olympic Games as the ultimate sport experience for most amateur athletes.
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- 14 Jan 1988
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- Full Text
- WINTER OLYMPICS 1988
Susan Holloway, Former Olympic Competitor, Program Coordinator, Olympic Athlete Career Centre
Richard W. Pound, Vice-President, International Olympic Committee
January 14, 1988
Chairman: Ronald Goodall, President
To the ancient Greeks, Mount Olympus was the home of the gods. Olympia became the site of a festival to honour Zeus and the gods. Eventually, around 776 B.C., the festival became a sporting event and the Olympic games came into being. The games continued until A.D. 393 when a Roman emperor banned the games as a pagan show. A Frenchman, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, conceived the idea of reviving the Olympic games and his efforts succeeded in 1896 when the first modern Olympic games were held in Athens.
Today we do not worship Zeus but we do have respect and admiration for the athlete and we do try to emphasize participation in and enjoyment of sport as opposed to winning the sporting event at any cost.
The Olympic flame has been carried through Toronto, is now being carried in northern Ontario and will reach Calgary by February 13 when that city plays host for 16 days to the XV Olympic Winter Games, the first Winter Olympics to be held in Canada. The games will attract 1,800 competitors from 51 countries, six times as many competitors as in 1924 when the first Winter Olympics were held. Since that date, Canada has won 13 gold, nine silver and 16 bronze medals in these winter games.
Susan Holloway, the fairer of our two speakers, was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and grew up in Ottawa. She earned a fitness and health certificate from Simon Fraser University and a physical education degree from the University of British Columbia. She competed on the Simon Fraser University swimming team and was on the University of British Columbia cross-country running team.
Miss Holloway was a double-threat Olympic athlete, competing in both cross-country skiing and kayaking. She accomplished this amazing feat in 1976 being the only woman ever to do so. In the Winter Games in Innsbruck, Austria, she was a cross-country ski competitor. In the Summer
Games-in Montreal she competed in kayak. In 1980 she qualified to compete in kayak at the Moscow Olympic Games, but the Games were boycotted by Canada. However, four years later she competed in the Los Angeles Olympics, winning silver and bronze medals in kayak competitions.
Miss Holloway is currently program coordinator for the Olympic Athlete Career Centre in Toronto where she develops career planning for national team athletes. She is also a director of the Toronto, Ontario Olympic Council which is promoting Toronto as the site for the 1996 Olympic Games.
Richard Pound was born in St. Catharines, Ontario, and educated in Montreal, obtaining a commerce degree from McGill, an arts degree from Sir George Williams and finally in 1967, a law degree from McGill University. Mr. Pound became a chartered accountant in 1964 and was called to the Quebec and Ontario bars.
Somehow or other, Mr. Pound found time to be a swimming competitor. He was the Canadian, provincial and intercollegiate champion, 1958 - 1962; a member of the Canadian swimming team at the 1959 Pan-American Games; a double Olympic finalist at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome and a winner of one gold, two silver and one bronze medal at the 1962 Commonwealth Games in Australia. Mr. Pound is a member of and active in a number of professional and sporting groups. He is vice-chairman of the McGill Athletics Board; a governor of McGill University, and a director and executive committee member of the Canadian Olympic Association.
Mr. Pound is a partner with the legal firm of Stikeman Elliott in Montreal and in 1987 was elected a vice-president of the International Olympic Committee and a director and member of the Organizing Committee for the XV Olympic Winter Games in Calgary.
Should you be wondering about my own athletic ability, my rugby football days ended in St. Michael's Hospital where the nuns criticized me for having played rugby on a Sunday. I did not win any medals; my sole athletic career reward (or punishment for playing on Sunday) was marriage to my nurse!
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome two first-class athletes, both eminent in their chosen professions, Susan Holloway and Richard Pound, who will address us today on "Winter Olympics 1988."
The title of my address today-"Is There Life After Avery Brundage"-was chosen only partly in jest, because there was a considerable body of opinion that when Avery Brundage ceased to head up the Olympic Movement as President of the International Olympic Committee, it marked at least the end of an era, if not the Olympics.
Brundage, as many of us here today will remember, was an indomitable defender of the principles of amateurism. He held the Olympic Movement together by the sheer force of his personality, during a difficult period in which the Olympic Games might well have collapsed without the presence of this domineering idealist. He was not afraid to use every bit of his authority, and often more, to pursue his vision of the Games.
Brundage was President of the IOC for 20 years, from 1952 to 1972. This was a period of rapid change, of evolution and even revolution. But, throughout this period when the world was recovering from the ravages of World War II, was living on the brink of war in the Far East, Middle East and Europe, and was trying to come to terms with the dyspeptic humours of the superpowers, Brundage, and his conception of the Olympics, were immutable. The Games were for amateurs. Professionals were anathema. "Trained seals" was one of Brundage's least acerbic descriptions of professionals. Promoters were even worse. His implacable vision of the purity of the Games was completely unaffected by the changes which everyone around him could see and which athletes actually experienced in their daily competition.
Brundage had the strength, however, to hold the Games together in Mexico in 1968 until a domestic truce was achieved in a country filled with explosive turmoil, which truce enabled the Games to take place. He had the courage (and I believe history will come to recognize it as courage) to say the Games must go on following the tragic events in Munich in 1972.
But even Brundage was unsure of what would follow. He predicted to his successor, Lord Killanin, that the 1972 Olympics would be the last. Many agreed with this dire prediction.
Well, here we are, 16 years later. Yet another set of Games is about to begin. The greatest-ever Summer Games are only eight months away. Clearly there is life after Brundage.
It is, however, a different life. The Olympics have come of age in a complex and demanding world. At the sporting level, they have evolved to reflect sport as it is actually practised throughout the world and have ceased to represent an archaic view of what might have been appropriate in the Victorian era.This evolution has taken time and has been the result of the skills of Brundage's two successors as president of the IOC.
Lord Killanin was a softer, more pragmatic seeker of consensus. He recognized that change was necessary and encouraged a more flexible response to the many competing sport interests which were at play. The role of the International Sports Federations and the National Olympic Committees was allowed to expand. Tacit recognition was given to the fact of life that a single eligibility rule could not possibly apply to all 27 Olympic sports. An Olympic Congress was held, the first in 43 years, to give everyone a chance to speak and to propound new ideas. At the sporting level, there was new confidence that the tradition could continue, but that it would adapt to real life.
This momentum was continued under Juan Antonio Samaranch and the practical result is that the eligibility rules for the Olympics are now the same as for the World Championships. Each sport will be permitted to develop eligibility rules which are most appropriate to the development of that sport. The IOC will no longer try to turn the clock back. "Shamateurism" will no longer be a blot on the Olympics.
On the political front, there has also been a tremendous amount of progress, although at considerable cost. Killanin weathered the uncertainties that surrounded the organization of the Montreal Games in 1976. Although ultimately successful beyond all expectations, these Games were beset by enormous financial and logistical difficulties that caused concern until the last minute. The Games themselves were a delight and the Olympic world still remembers them as the best ever organized.
The Games were marred, however, by a boycott of several African countries, which left Montreal on the day before the opening ceremony. They were protesting the participation of
New Zealand, which, they said, had sporting ties with South Africa. The Canadian government refused to allow athletes from Taiwan to compete under the name of Republic of China, the then recognized description of their territory. In my view, the IOC was less than adept in the face of these crises. The first should never have been allowed to become a crisis and the second could have been resolved by firm action on the IOC's part as soon as the issue arose.
Killanin also had to deal with the Moscow Games in 1980. Leaving aside for the moment the political crisis, to which I will return, the sporting response to the Moscow situation was virtually unanimous. All international federations and all national Olympic committees not prevented by their governments from so doing were determined that those Games must proceed. Every single member of the IOC supported that decision, including the two Canadian members. The Olympic family emerged stronger than ever before. This strength was, in considerable measure, responsible for the failure of the 1984 boycott to attract any support outside the Soviet bloc.
On the political side, the IOC was somewhat better in 1980 than it had been in 1976. Once the Carter boycott was established as a policy of the U.S. government, the IOC worked quite effectively to adapt its rules so that many countries could still compete despite U.S. pressure on their governments. It was a good, but belated, response. What we failed to do was recognize early enough that President Carter's kneejerk reaction to use the Olympic issue as part of a foundering re-election campaign would become a full-blown U.S. foreign policy, and to intervene at once to try to reverse that decision, or, at least, to start the damage control operation sooner.
Killanin's term ended in Moscow in 1980. Replacing him, the IOC chose, for the first time in its history, a professional diplomat. Juan Antonio Samaranch represented the newest phase in the IOC's coming to terms with its complete environment. Anyone who still thinks that sport and politics don't mix is dreaming in colour. It may be argued with some force that they should not mix and perhaps in an ideal world they might not. But in our world they do mix. If we do not recognize this and respond accordingly, there can be no long-term future for international sport. In electing Samaranch as president in 1980, the IOC acknowledged that it had learned another lesson. Life after Brundage required that the Olympics must exist together with governments and that they cannot be totally isolated from political reality.
This is a far cry, however, from accepting the proposition that politics should dominate the Olympics. That has never been the IOC's view and will, in my opinion, never become our view. Sport and politics must coexist. The IOC encourages its NOCs to work cooperatively with their governments. It encourages governments to support the autonomy of sport organizations. It stresses that the Olympics, both as a concept and as an international expression of goodwill, are indeed unique; that they should be fostered rather than frustrated; that, particularly at times when international relations are strained, the Olympics can make a contribution to international understanding which might not otherwise be possible.
It is in this arena that Samaranch excels. He is at home in the environment and understands the art of diplomacy. He knows the limits beyond which it is unreasonable to expect success. And perhaps most importantly, he is fully aware of the considerable moral power of his position as president of the IOC and what it represents. In virtually every country which he visits (some 155 since he became president), he meets with the head of state and the political leadership. The result is that if problems develop, he is in a position, usually before they become acute, to call upon a high-level personal relationship to intervene to resolve the issue.
Some examples of the IOC's increased effectiveness in these areas can be seen over the past few years. The People's Republic of China and Taiwan have been provided with a formula, designed by the IOC, which enables both to participate within the Olympic Movement. The IOC is the only organization in the world to have found a workable formula for the China situation, which does not require the expulsion of either the PRC or Taiwan. A second example can be seen in the damage control following the Soviet decision to boycott the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. In the end, only the Soviet bloc failed to participate, despite a serious lobbying effort in the Third World for support of the Soviet position. Even the famous east bloc solidarity was cracked, with the participation of Romania and Yugoslavia. A third, and more contemporary example is in relation to the Seoul Olympics this year.
In retrospect, one might well question the IOC's decision in 1981 to award the Games to Seoul, but there were, at the time, compelling reasons to do so. Once the decision had been made, however, the real problem became how to maximize the chances for success. The situation in Korea is, not to overstate it, somewhat delicate. Many countries, some of them very important within the Olympic Movement, have no diplomatic relations with South Korea. The Korean peninsula itself is potentially very unstable. The Socialist countries are generally aligned with North Korea. There have been concerns about the domestic stability within South Korea.
Against this complicated background, the IOC has worked virtually day and night to create the conditions which will enable the fullest possible participation in the 1988 Games. Within the international sport organizations, the ranks have closed very firmly in favour of supporting Seoul. The invitations to participate were sent by the IOC rather than the Korean Organizing Committee, so that the distinction of saying no to the host country rather than to the Olympic Movement is no longer available. We have agreed to extensive and protracted negotiations with North Korea to consider the possibility of organizing some events in the North. We did so without much realistic hope that a compromise would actually be achieved, but to demonstrate to the Socialist countries that we are sensitive to their problems and that we were prepared to be as flexible as possible in the face of an obvious difficulty facing them.
The results to date are very clear. At the time of writing these remarks, we have already received acceptances from more than 140 countries-greater than the record number which attended Los Angeles in 1984-including East Germany, Hungary, Poland, the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria. Every indication is that we will also hear positively from the balance of the Soviet bloc. China has indicated it will attend.
Now, as Yogi Berra is reputed to have said, "It ain't over till it's over," but there is certainly cause for cautious optimism. And the basis for such optimism has been the increasing efforts of the IOC to recognize the political sensitivities that are in play and to work positively to find solutions, rather than merely to rant and rave that there is no connection between sport and politics. We are using political means to solve political problems so that the youth of the world can benefit from these solutions and have the opportunity to meet together in the greatest sporting events in history.
So, yes, there is life after Brundage. Not life as he wanted it, but life that is right for our times, and being right for our times, better than ever before.
I'm relieved to hear there is life after Avery Brundage since that was when I was competing. I would hate to think the whole thing was a dream. l thought I would share with you my experiences of what it was like to be an athlete during that period.
My involvement in organized sport started at age four and 1 was still young when I decided I wanted to compete at the Olympic Games. I eventually realized that dream when I made the Olympic ski team and the Olympic canoe team in 1976.
Competing as I did in low-profile sports, the Olympic Games are a major shock to your system. Being the focus of so much international attention and trying to compete with all the hoopla that is the Games going on around you can detract from your performance.
For instance, living in the Olympic Village I often thought I was living a dream. There were discos and dancing every night, movie theatres, rock concerts, shopping and a 24-hour cafeteria-well, it was my idea of heaven!
But competing as the host nation, like our athletes this winter in Calgary, definitely has its benefits. You can speak the language and have familiar things around you. In Montreal I really felt like the country was behind me and I got a lot of energy from the spectators. Athletes are in an odd position because on the one hand you compete for yourself as an individual but, as Mr. Pound has explained, "nationalism" is very important to the spirit and ritual of the Games and can play a large part in the athlete's performance.
I also saw my first demonstration of politics at work in sport in Montreal. As we were checking into the village we saw our fellow athletes from the African nations with their bags packed heading back home, never getting their chance to compete. I certainly never imagined that four years later I would be in a similar position.
After '76 I decided to focus on canoeing and set my sights on the 1980 Olympic Games. This fortunately coincided with increased funding for amateur sport from the government. What it meant to me as an athlete was that I had my education and most training expenses paid for. It also meant I could prepare with the intensity necessary to be my best in 1980. It was around this time that the "athlete code" or eligibility opened. While this helps high-profile sports, it made little or no difference to my sport.
When 1980 finally arrived I felt good, until April when it was announced that Canada would not send a team to compete in Moscow. I was completely shocked. When that wore off, I was angry, then depressed. All of us had a reason why the boycott hurt us: for some it was their last chance, for some it was their only chance, for me I thought it was my best chance. I was 25 and I was fast. But it made me realize in a very personal way how vulnerable and unprotected athletes are. Most of us felt used and totally powerless.
After the boycott I decided I still wanted to stand on the Olympic podium. By that point I had explored most methods of training my body. I was looking for other ways to improve performance. Like many other athletes, I turned to specialists in other fields for assistance: nutritionists, sports doctors and scientists. This trend toward seeing the athlete as a total person I think is very positive. The biggest help for me was our sport psychologist. He helped me cope with the incredible stress and pressures of competing and helped develop a plan and an attitude that would get me to the podium. On August 10 I arrived. If 1980 was the low point for me, crossing the finish line in LA. with my family and friends there to share the moment was definitely the high point.
In spite of or because of all the political changes Richard described, the Olympic Games continue to be the ultimate sport experience for most amateur athletes. Continued government and corporate support are important and will enable our athletes to pursue and achieve this exciting dream. I hope you enjoy sharing the dream by following our athletes this winter in Calgary and next September in Seoul.
The appreciation of the audience was expressed by H. Ian Macdonald, a Past President of The Club.