Did you know that the tradition of moving the flame from Greece to the site of the summer Olympics via relay was started in 1936 by Joseph Goebbels as part of the Nazi propaganda machine to add to the myth of Adolph Hitler? Classical Greece was believed by Hitler and the Nazis to be the Aryan forerunner of the German Reich. PBS ran an amazing documentary the other night on American Jessie Owens and his reception at the Berlin Olympics that just made you cringe.
In that same show, I learned that Avery Brundage, a name I knew well growing up, President of the U.S. Olympic Committee during those same games and then eventually the President of the International Olympic Committee for two decades, was not such a hero. He was an avowed fan of the Nazi regime, an anti-Semite, and insisted the Olympics not involve itself with the “Jew-Nazi” altercation. America, at his direction, made the decision to participate in Hitler’s Olympics. When it came time for the 400 meter relay, Brundage ordered that we pull the only two Jewish members of the team so as not to embarrass the Fuhrer. Not a proud day for my country.