Avery Brundage (September 28, 1887 – May 8, 1975) was an American athlete and controversial sports official. Born in Detroit, Brundage studied civil engineering at the University of Illinois, graduating in 1909. A few years later, he founded his own company, the Avery Brundage Company, which was active in the building business around Chicago until 1947.
Brundage competed in the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm in the pentathlon and decathlon events, finishing 6th and 16th, respectively. He also won the US national all-around title in 1914, 1916 and 1918.
In 1928, Brundage became president of the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU). He became the president of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) in 1929 and gained the vice-presidency of the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF) in 1930. As USOC president, Brundage rejected any proposals to boycott the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, where German Jews were excluded, and became a member of the International Olympic Committee after the group expelled American Ernest Lee Jahnke, who had urged athletes to boycott the Berlin games. On the morning of the 400-meter relay race, at the last moment, the only two Jews on the 1936 US track team, Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller, were replaced by Jesse Owens and Ralph Metcalfe. Glickman later said that that decision might have been the result of pressure from Brundage. Brundage later praised the Nazi regime at a Madison Square rally, and was expelled from the America First Committee in 1941 because of his pro-German leanings.
After the death of IOC president Henri de Baillet-Latour during World War II, Brundage became vice-president of the IOC in 1945. When IOC President Sigfrid Edström retired in 1952, Brundage was appointed as his successor. During his tenure as IOC president, Brundage strongly opposed any form of professionalism in the Olympic Games. Gradually, this view became less accepted by the sports world and other IOC members. It led to some embarrassing incidents, such as the exclusion of Austrian skier Karl Schranz, who was accused of being a professional, from the 1972 Winter Olympics. After US sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists to show support for the Black Power movement during their medal ceremony at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, Brundage expelled both men from the Olympic Village and suspended them from the US Olympic team.
Brundage may be best remembered for his controversial decision during the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany, to continue the Games following the September 5th Palestinian terrorist attack which killed 11 Israeli athletes. Many criticized Brundage's decision, although few athletes withdrew from the Games. The Olympic competition was suspended on September 5th for one full day. The next day, a memorial service of 80,000 spectators and 3,000 athletes was held in the Olympic Stadium. To the outrage of many listeners, Brundage made no reference at all to the slain athletes during his speech, and instead praised the strength of the Olympic movement. Brundage strongly opposed the exclusion of Rhodesia from the Olympics due to its apartheid policies; after the attacks in Munich, Brundage linked the massacre of the Israeli athletes and the barring of the Rhodesian team as crimes of equal magnitude.
Brundage retired as IOC president following the 1972 Summer Games. He is, thus far, the only American to be elected the IOC President.
In addition to his role in sports, Brundage was a noted collector of Asian art. During his lifetime, and by bequest on his death, he gave a massive collection of works of art to the city of San Francisco, California. This collection formed the nucleus (and, as of 2003, still accounts for over half the contents) of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, initially founded to house and display his donation.
Brundage died in 1975, three years after his retirement as IOC president, in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, West Germany.
We are currently offering the following pieces issued to (but not signed by) Avery Brundage: