There is evidence, though, that the problem is deeper, older and more profound than what has been presented as a shabby case of some Sydney and Salt Lake City payoffs for I.O.C. votes. The evidence paints a picture of an Olympic culture of moral relativism, if not systemic corruption, that has enabled the sporting spectacular to survive and prosper.
Three I.O.C. presidents were complicit in promoting the 1936 Berlin Games, the so-called Nazi Olympics, in defiance of the organization's spirit and charter, according to documents in the Avery Brundage archives brought to light by the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. The American Brundage, and perhaps the Belgian Count Henri de Baillet-Latour, would have profited handsomely from the choice of Berlin if World War II had not intervened.
The Olympics' most celebrated figure, its founder, the French Baron Pierre de Coubertin, came out of retirement to lend his blessing to those Berlin Games. The German Government nominated him for a Nobel Peace Prize. For the Baron, the prize had seemingly been as holy a grail as it is for the current I.O.C. president, Juan Antonio Samaranch, who is said to be concerned lest the present scandal damage his own chances.
The winner in 1935, the year of Coubertin's nomination, was the anti-Nazi Karl von Ossietzky of Germany, who died in Dachau.
Information about Brundage and Baillet-Latour has moldered in archives for years. Brundage's papers at the University of Illinois include a 1938 letter from the president of the German Olympic Committee assuring him that his Chicago construction company's bid to help build the German Embassy in Washington had been accepted. Precise details on the Belgian bank controlled by Baillet-Latour's family and taken over by the Deutsche Bank, which helped finance Auschwitz, are harder to come by.
Much of this information has been brought up by the Simon Wiesenthal Center to promote its own mission of keeping fresh the lessons of the Holocaust and other human-rights tragedies. It is an attempt by the center to link the present scandal to the 1936 Games, which many see as the first modern Olympic spectacular.
Rabbis of the center maintain that the well-documented anti-Semitism of that era's Olympic leadership is a simple barometer of an overall hypocrisy in the Olympic movement. In an April 12, 1933, letter to "My dear Avery," Sigfrid Edstrom, the Swedish engineer who became I.O.C. president after Baillet-Latour died in 1942, captures the sentiment, if not the righteous heat, of his fellow members of the Olympic elite. On stationery identifying him as an I.O.C. member, he wrote: "It is too bad that the American Jews are so active and cause us so much trouble. It is impossible for our German friends to carry on the expensive preparations for the Olympic Games if all this unrest prevails."
In an interview in the Wiesenthal Center's offices here, the dean and founder, Rabbi Marvin Hier, said: "Leaders of the Olympics violated their own rules; they sold their souls. They injected politics into sports and they fudged the lines between business and amateurism."
Brundage Letter Cited as a Bribe Solicitation
While the charge that Brundage and others willfully ignored German sports officials' discrimination against their Jewish athletes, in violation of Olympic regulations, is not new, the center's indictment of Brundage as a bribe taker is unprecedented. As evidence, it offers an Aug. 8, 1938, letter to Brundage from Hans von Tschammer und Osten, the so-called Reichssportfuhrer, president of the German Olympic Committee and a Nazi Party member since 1922.
Von Tschammer wrote, referring to Karl Ritter von Halt, a German I.O.C. member: "Mr. Von Halt forwarded your letter to me at the beginning of July, in which you asked whether your firm could participate in the building of the German Embassy in Washington. Having brought your proven record of your friendly attitude toward German sports before the responsible authorities, I can happily tell you that both the German foreign minister as well as General Building Inspector Speer have declared to me that you take part."
Later that month, Brundage wrote von Tschammer, "It was very kind of you to interest yourself in my behalf."
By November, however, world events trumped Brundage's bid. In a letter to von Halt, Brundage wrote, "Ambassador Diekhoff informed me that the project had been postponed." In the same letter, he discussed the difficulty of staging another track-and-field meet between Germany and the United States, saying that because of "the overwhelming proportion of Jewish advertising our papers have been filled with anti-Nazi propaganda."
Brundage's most prominent biographer, the Amherst College sports historian Allen Guttmann, did not mention the letters in his 1984 book, "The Games Must Go On," and dismisses the Wiesenthal Center's view of Brundage.
"There were 334 boxes of documents in the archives," Guttman said. "I might have overlooked a few. In any case, I'm skeptical of the center's interpretation of all this. I see no linkage between the present corruption and Brundage. Why wouldn't the Germans go to someone with whom they had a relationship to build their embassy? College department chairmen call up their alma maters when they want new faculty.
"Brundage wouldn't need a sweetener. He was pro-German. He was against the boycott of the Berlin Olympics. Believing Brundage would need to be bribed to support the Berlin Games makes as much sense as believing Bill Clinton would need to be bribed to support Hillary for Senator."
There is far less hard data on Baillet-Latour. Hier is prepared to indict him, however, based on his attendance, while I.O.C. president, at the 1937 Nazi Party rally in Nuremburg. The Banque De La Société Générale de Belgique, of which Baillet-Latour's family was a founder and major shareholder, was eventually absorbed by the Deutsche Bank.
Wiesenthal Center investigators are trying to find out if Baillet-Latour was still a shareholder when the Deustche Bank lent IB Farbenthe money to build a synthetic rubber factory at Auschwitz with slave labor.
Big ideological pictures are easier to come by. Amateurism was supposedly the basic commandment of the Olympics, until embracing professionalism became a path to financial survival. The fervent anti-Communism of Brundage and others, often invoked to excuse their embrace of fascism, was handily disregarded when television revenues in the 60's demanded a Cold War Games in which America and the Soviet bloc duked it out. Willfully ignored was the Soviet program of state-supported athletes and pioneering institutes of performance enhancement, including cutting-edge drug use.
Olympic Forefathers 'Betrayed the Ideal'
Hier is only one of a number of critics who see Samaranch, a protégé of Brundage, as another in the Baillet-Latour-Edstrom-Brundage line of pragmatic ideologues. Many of those who would sacrifice Samaranch now so that the Games can go on also credit the 78-year-old former Spanish diplomat with restoring the financial health of the Games. Some say he may have done it at a price that compromised the ideals of his predecessors.
The notion that those predecessors had ideals to compromise should be open to further scrutiny, says Hier. "To clean itself up, the first thing the Olympics must do is stop glorifying forefathers who acted out of selfish interests and betrayed the ideal of amateur sports."
The rabbi also criticized Brundage for his refusal to support the immigration applications of Germans and Austrians desperate to escape to the United States in the late 30's. One of them, a colleague of some 25 years, was Edgar Fried, vice president of the Austrian Amateur Olympic Association. Fried died in a concentration camp.
Brundage came to world attention at the 1972 Munich Games after the murder of 11 Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists. In a famous address from the Olympic Stadium, he declared, "The Games must go on and we must continue our efforts to keep them clean, pure and honest and try to extend the sportsmanship of the athletic field into other areas."
Some felt he trivialized the murders by linking them to the successful peaceful protest by African countries against Rhodesia's appearance at the Games. In his address, he said the Games had been "subject to two savage attacks."
The Wiesenthal Center, best known for its relentless pursuit of war criminals and for its Museum of Tolerance here, has had little to do with sport in its 20-year history. During the 1984 Los Angeles Games, however, it became, by default, the site for a memorial service for the Israeli athletes murdered 12 years before.
According to Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean who served as master of ceremonies for the memorial, Olympic officials were not interested in holding or attending such a service. Several thousand people did show up, including many athletes and some American Olympic officials who kept a low profile. The main speaker was Mimi Weinberg, the widow of the Israeli wrestling coach who was the first to die.
Yet three years later, in Lausanne, Switzerland, headquarters of the I.O.C., officials attended a very different memorial service. Samaranch was the main eulogist for Horst Dassler, the president of Adidas, who died of cancer at 51.
According to the British journalists Vyv Simson and Andrew Jennings, who are among the most persistent critics of the Games, it was Dassler, through his ISL Worldwide marketing corporation, who made many of the deals that turned the five rings gold. He is credited with signing Coca-Cola, among other important sponsors, and finding friendly Monte Carlo banks for Olympic funds. Dassler's father, Adolph, a World War II German bootmaker, created Adidas and through his rivalry with his brother, who founded Puma, ignited the shoe wars that today play so great a role in world sports.
In their 1992 book, "Dishonored Games," Simson and Jennings recount the tale of Robert H. Helmick, the high-living Des Moines lawyer who had to step down as U.S.O.C. president after it was discovered that he had acted as a paid consultant for companies doing business with the Olympics. Helmick also left the I.O.C., where he had been touted as a possible successor to Samaranch.
Sanitizing the Games Began in Mexico City
Samaranch's successor will have a hard act to follow after Samaranch's spectacular commercial successes, crowned by the 1992 Games in his hometown, Barcelona, Spain. It was there that the Michael Jordan-led Dream Team took the Games into outright professionalism, as well as a certain democracy; athletes were finally staying in hotels as deluxe as those housing I.O.C. members.
But the new marketing-friendly Olympics of had already been cast at the 1968 Mexico City Games. To clean up the city for visitors and a huge television audience, demonstrating Mexican students were machine-gunned, their blood scrubbed from the stone streets and information about their deaths suppressed for many years. No Olympic official lodged a protest. It was at those Games that the pharma-coaches and the athletes with doctors' bags filled with syringes and vials appeared, and "cycling" and "masking" became common training terms. Olympic officials refused to institute the random testing that could have deterred what has become an implacable drug culture. Testing winners on the day of competition may snare a reckless Ben Johnson in 1988, but few other marquee names have lost their medals.
Perhaps most important, Adidas won its match with Puma in 1968. Adidas, Nike and Reebok have, in many ways, replaced the nationalism of earlier Olympics with commercialism. This closed a circle -- now athletes were getting paid, too.
One issue at those Games that did ruffle the marketing-friendly image was the Black Power salute from the victory stand by Tommie Smith and John Carlos. While the swift decision to expel the athletes was made by United States officials, it is hard not to believe that the I.O.C. president was not consulted. And Brundage probably remembered that one of the demands of the proposed black boycott of the Games was his removal.
There has long been evidence that the high priests of Olympism were hypocritical and prejudiced, but has the Wiesenthal Center shown that they were also just plain crooked?
Peter Levine, the noted sports historian at Michigan State, thinks it's not that simple. He said, "It's more reasonable to believe that the people who have managed the Games through the century would do whatever it takes to keep it viable, and then, once their idealism was tinged with commercial profit, which also extended the possibilities of the Games, to try to do well for themselves while still thinking they were doing good.
"On the other hand, the great Coubertin himself was tainted from the very start. Why did he re-create the Olympics in the first place? Was it to foster all these wonderful ideals? No. It was to get French youth into shape after they got beaten in the Franco-Prussian War. The Baron wanted to win the rematch."