The Sniper's Guide to the Bird's Nest
Continued from page 4
I WAS the only guest at the banquet who couldn’t stop staring. Was it because the athlete who’d just taken their seat hadn’t bothered to shave? A blue chin like a lumberjack, above shoulders as wide as a barn door. I expected better from a current world champion. Being a woman wasn’t sufficient excuse.
The anger that brought me here today with my gun was fired up that night, all those years ago. I’d been an enthusiastic club runner and could be mesmerised for half an hour as a 10K metre race played out on TV, loving the courage, the endurance, the bold tactics.
I was sad for her, the steroid freak, changing sex before our eyes. Her world records supplied the sponsor and TV dollars that paid for the officials to enjoy the leather seats up front when they flew. They didn’t care that our sport was in free-fall. They couldn’t see anything obscene about her chin. I wanted to kill them.
I stared at her. I stared at them. These men were complicit in dumping the positives in Moscow in 1980. The only dope-free games of modern times. As more dollars rolled in, they did it again in LA four years later. The Americans called it sink testing. Nine positive tests were not disclosed. They might have scared off the sponsors.
THE ARCHIVES under a steep roofed, cream-washed suburban house at Lange Strasse 1 in Cuxhaven contain a remarkable set of Olympic photographs, proudly taken by The People We Don’t Talk About Any More.
U-boat crews recruited in the Olympic year of 1936 decorated their conning towers with the symbol of the interlocked rings. This may have confused Allied sailors, torpedoed into the sea, as they watched the five rings emerge from beneath the waves.
Some of the Olympic committee had a shameful war. General Walter von Reichenau in 1941, in Kiev, sanctioned what one historian has called, grimly, ‘a stupendous massacre of Jews.’ He was lucky: von Reichenau died before the war crimes trials that would have hanged him.
‘PRESIDENT SAMARANCH, I’d like to present you with these pictures for the Olympic museum.’ A bitter March morning in 1992 outside the Lausanne Palace Hotel and history and my TV crew are catching up. I’ve two 35-year-old photographs of this Olympic leader in fascist uniform with Generalissimo Franco.
He turns away and slithers into his Mercedes as I follow him. ‘How do you reconcile your past with your guardianship of the Olympic Ideal?’ The limousine glides away. To this day my gift has not been displayed in the Olympic Museum.
The F-word is taboo at the committee. They can’t bring themselves to talk about his loyal service to Franco from 1937, later becoming sports minister and signing his letters, ‘Siempre a tus ordenes te saluda brazo en alto;’ 'Always at your command, I salute you with my arm raised.' He kept that arm in the air until 1975, by which time he was a vice-president of the IOC.
Every other old fascist from that era of Europe's twentieth century history has long since disappeared in disgrace. Samaranch is the last unapologetic reminder of that Europe of the dictators still strutting the world stage. 1975-2008 – that’s 33 years on from Franco’s death. He’s here in the Bird’s Nest, IOC Honorary President for Life. Not any longer.
‘STAND over there Sir!’ barks the immigration officer. I’d declared my criminal conviction on the immigration card the flight attendant gave me.
A man with a government haircut strides towards me. ‘What’s your crime?’ he says, as if ordering a drink at the bar. This toughie can handle terrorists, fraudsters, child abusers. ‘What do you do?’
‘I’m a reporter.’ This confuses him. I continue, ‘I wrote a book saying that IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch was a fascist and his local court in Lausanne, Switzerland, gave me a suspended prison sentence for telling lies.’
He looks at my passport.
‘I heard you on the radio last week Mr Jennings. Welcome to Sydney. Have a great Olympics!’
Samaranch joined the IOC in 1966 and would have read an article in their Olympic Review two years later claiming that sport teaches ‘honesty and the sense of fair play and therefore a deeper comprehension of justice,’ authored by Dr Ferdinand E. Marcos.
After Samaranch became the Maximum Leader in 1980 he gave Olympic Orders to men he felt comfortable with. Erich Honecker, Nicolae Ceaucescu, Todor Zhivkov all got a sacred award.
At the Committee's 1951 convention there were complaints from Dutch and Belgian members about the appearance of Karl Ritter von Halt, a Nazi party member. Similar allegations were made against the Duc de Mecklenberg-Schwerin. Avery Brundage, soon to become chief guardian, leapt to von Halt's defence, calling him ‘un parfait gentleman’ and president Sigfrid Edstrøm closed the discussion announcing, ‘These are old friends whom we receive today.’
Despite being denied a visa by the Norwegians for the 1952 Oslo Winter Games, von Halt was elected to the committee's leadership, terminating thirty-five years as a guardian in 1964. While the rest of Europe tried - with varying commitment - to rid themselves of old nazis and fascists after the war, the Olympic committee provided a welcoming retirement home.