Caveats, Part 2

A few days ago we compiled a list of Olympians who had yet to be confirmed as deceased and would be older than the oldest Olympian, John Lysak, were they still alive. We now want to add to that list by noting the 16 non-starters and demonstration event competitors that fall into the same category. We do this not only for the sake of completing our previous post but because, as the example of Dutch 1932 athletics alternate Mien Schopman-Klaver, who died recently at the age of 107, showed, these competitors provide us with important links to Games that are disappearing from living memory and their achievements and sporting legacies are worth celebrating even if they did not actually get to compete at the Olympics.

As with our previous post, we suspect that all of these individuals are in fact deceased, we simply cannot confirm it to be the case.

American boxer Johnny Brown,

pictured in the March 7, 1936 edition of the Chicago Tribune.

Name Birthday Notes
Hassan Mohamed Abdin January 20 1910 Alternate on the 1936 Egyptian football squad
Shiro Miura 1910 Alternate on the 1932 Japanese field hockey team
Tatsuo Saimura 1910 Participant in the Kendo demonstration events at the 1964 Summer Olympics
João da Costa May 31 1911 Alternate on the 1932 Brazilian athletics team
Leonardo Valdés 1912 Alternate on the 1932 Cuban athletics team
Gheorghe Antoniade May 10 1913 Alternate on the 1936 Romanian fencing team
René Lafforgue 1913 Did not start for France in alpine skiing’s combined event at the 1936 Winter Olympics
Renard Perez December 8 1913 Alternate on the 1936 Uruguayan water polo squad
José Pescador December 6 1913 Alternate on the 1936 Uruguayan water polo squad
Shigeo Takagi July 28 1913 Alternate on the 1936 Japanese water polo squad
Nobel Valentini November 10 1913 Alternate on the 1936 Uruguayan water polo squad
Johnny Brown August 11 1914 Did not start for the United States in the boxing’s bantamweight division at the 1936 Summer Olympics
Masuzo Maeda June 29 1914 Alternate on the 1936 Japanese water polo squad
Eulogio Quiroz March 11 1914 Did not start for the Peru in the boxing’s light-heavyweight division at the 1936 Summer Olympics
Leopold Quittan April 11 1914 Alternate on the 1936 Austrian athletics team
Saburo Takahashi August 7 1914 Alternate on the 1936 Japanese water polo squad

We are going to shift our focus somewhat next week and look into Olympic medalists over the age of 90 for whom we cannot confirm if they are alive or deceased. We have already discussed the one gold medalist who falls into this category – Belgian figure skater Micheline Lannoy – so tune in next week as we look into silver and bronze. You may be surprised at just how many medalists we are missing information for!

Caveats to the World’s Oldest Olympian

Last month we noted the 104th birthday of American kayaker John Lysak, born August 16, 1914, who is, to the best of our knowledge, the oldest living Olympian. As we have mentioned in the past, however, there are approximately 2500 Olympians born between 1908 and 1928 for whom we have no confirmation on whether they are alive or deceased, not counting the 564 Olympians who participated in the Games in 1928, 1932, and 1936 for whom we have no information on their date, or even year, of birth. Today we want to focus on a small subset of those 2500, the 231 Olympians who would be older than John Lysak if they were still alive. We have already covered the two medalists who fall into this category, Ibrahim Orabi and Adolf Müller, and 16 more are either non-starters or demonstration event competitors, so to shorten the list just a little, we are going to look at the remaining 213 by year of birth.

It should be noted that discussing these individuals in no way represents any belief on the part of Oldest Olympians that these athletes are still alive; we simply cannot confirm that they are deceased. In fact, we find it highly unlikely that any Olympian who is between the age of 104 and 109 would have somehow escaped our attention completely. It remains, however, an important caveat and is always a possibility: language barriers, poor media coverage of older athletes, and desire for privacy from a generation when the Games were not as big as they are now all contribute to the chance that someone may have eluded our radar. In the past, several Olympic centenarians have reached that milestone with little public fanfare, sometimes not being revealed until their death. We therefore feel that it is important to share this list to make our research methods a little more public and subject to scrutiny, and perhaps solve a case or two along the way.

On the left, Abdel Sattar Tarabulsi, who represented Lebanon in sport shooting at the 1952 Summer Olympics. Photograph from: https://www.abdogedeon.com/volleyball/NOUJOUM/abdelsattar%20traboulsi.html

1908

Name Nation Sport Birthday
Sayed Mohammad Ayub Afghanistan Field hockey November 20 1908
Cecil Bissett Zimbabwe Boxing 1908
Abdel Sattar Tarabulsi Lebanon Sport shooting 1908
Elfriede Zimmermann Germany Swimming 1908

Syed Muhammad Salim, who represented Pakistan in field hockey at the 1948 Summer Olympics

1909

Name Nation Sport Birthday
Abdullah Jaroudi Sr. Lebanon Sport shooting 1909
Ahmed Ibrahim Kamel Egypt Diving 1909
Khalil Ibrahim Egypt Diving 1909
Yuki Mawatari Japan Swimming 1909
Tetsutaro Namae Japan Diving 1909
Syed Muhammad Salim Pakistan Hockey September 5 1909
Rokuro Takahashi Japan Rowing 1909

Rashad Shafshak, who was a member of Egypt’s 1936 Olympic basketball team

1910

Name Nation Sport Birthday
Henrique Camargo Brazil Rowing October 28 1910
Paul Cerutti Monaco Sport shooting November 30 1910
Alberto Conrad Bolivia Swimming March 26 1910
Hoo Kam Chiu Hong Kong Sport shooting May 7 1910
Rafael Lang Argentina Boxing September 5 1910
Eduardo Lehman Brazil Rowing April 28 1910
José López Argentina Cycling 1910
Heitor Medina Brazil Athletics July 10 1910
Floyd Morgenstern United States Art competitions June 25 1910
Hércules Morini Argentina Sailing May 17 1910
Cid Nascimento Brazil Sailing November 23 1910
Tabaré Quintans Uruguay Basketball May 9 1910
Ricardo Rey Argentina Wrestling 1910
José Rodríguez Argentina Fencing March 19 1910
Eduardo Sastre Argentina Fencing September 22 1910
Rashad Shafshak Egypt Basketball November 26 1910
Zahir Shah Al-Zadah Afghanistan Hockey November 18 1910
Irina Timcic Romania Figure skating September 4 1910
Eduardo Vargas Argentina Boxing February 26 1910

Dora Schönemann competed in two swimming events for Germany at the 1928 Summer Olympics

1911

Name Nation Sport Birthday
August Banščak Yugoslavia Athletics October 10 1911
Tomás Beswick Argentina Athletics October 17 1911
Juan Bregaliano Uruguay Boxing November 22 1911
José Castillo Cuba Diving March 6 1911
João Francisco de Castro Brazil Rowing December 12 1911
Rui Duarte Brazil Modern pentathlon July 30 1911
Mohamed Ebeid Egypt Athletics April 11 1911
Maximo Fava Brazil Rowing August 12 1911
Margarethe Held Austria Athletics March 19 1911
Julio Herrera Mexico Equestrian March 16 1911
Flora Hofman Yugoslavia Athletics November 17 1911
Hassan Ali Imam Egypt Wrestling August 12 1911
Shigetaka Katsuhisa Japan Water polo September 4 1911
Carlos Kennedy Argentina Swimming February 16 1911
Mohammad Khan Afghanistan Athletics and field hockey May 1 1911
Makoto Kikuchi Japan Field hockey 1911
Seibei Kimura Japan Water polo October 11 1911
Hector de Lima Polanco Venezuela Sport shooting March 25 1911
Vasile Moldovan Romania Gymnastics August 28 1911
Horacio Monti Argentina Sailing August 12 1911
Grete Nissl Austria Alpine skiing November 30 1911
Ibrahim Okasha Egypt Athletics 1911
Ennio de Oliveira Brazil Fencing November 5 1911
Mario Ortíz Argentina Sailing November 21 1911
Jorge Patiño Peru Sport shooting December 18 1911
Juan Paz Peru Swimming September 16 1911
Olivério Popovitch Brazil Rowing October 1911
Domingos Puglisi Brazil Athletics November 4 1911
Ruben Ribeiro Brazil Equestrian May 25 1911
Lukman Saketi Indonesia Sport shooting 1911
José Domingo Sánchez Colombia Athletics May 20 1911
Álvaro dos Santos Filho Brazil Sport shooting October 22 1911
Luis Sardella Argentina Boxing July 11 1911
Irmintraut Schneider Germany Swimming 1911
Dora Schönemann Germany Swimming 1911
Fumio Takashina Japan Diving 1911
Humberto Terzano Argentina Equestrian 1911
Pedro Theberge Brazil Water polo January 1911

Roma Wagner represented Austria as a 100 metre swimmer at the 1936 Summer Olympics

1912

Name Nation Sport Birthday
Antonio Adipe Uruguay Boxing April 24 1912
Luis Albornoz Peru Sport shooting November 18 1912
Baiano Brazil Basketball September 27 1912
Alberto Batignani Uruguay Waterpolo September 30 1912
Humberto Bernasconi Uruguay Basketball November 17 1912
Carlos Choque Argentina Sport shooting August 22 1912
Francisco Costanzo Uruguay Boxing November 4 1912
Marcel Couttet France Ice hockey April 27 1912
Iosif Covaci Romania Alpine and cross-country skiing December 2 1912
Constantin David Romania Boxing December 25 1912
José Feans Uruguay Boxing April 24 1912
João de Faria Brazil Sport shooting August 31 1912
Kenichi Furuya Japan Ice hockey November 8 1912
Sergio Iesi Uruguay Fencing April 8 1912
Luis Jacob Peru Basketball August 13 1912
Julio Juaneda Argnetina Weightlifting 1912
Kozue Kinoshita Japan Ice hockey April 15 1912
Osamu Kitamura Japan Rowing June 29 1912
Theo Kitt Germany Bobsledding October 14 1912
Ovidio Lagos Argentina Sailing July 21 1912
Robert Landesmann France Wrestling March 26 1912
Miguel Lopes Brazil Basketball July 6 1912
Mario de Lorenzo Brazil Water polo July 1912
Shoichi Masutomi Japan Wrestling January 12 1912
René Morel France Athletics February 21 1912
Tadashi Murakami Japan Athletics October 7 1912
Marcel Noual France Swimming 1912
Toshio Ohtsu Japan Field hockey January 23 1912
Celestino João de Palma Brazil Rowing December 21 1912
Rigoberto Pérez Mexico Athletics November 26 1912
Hilda von Puttkammer Brazil Fencing August 13 1912
Constantin Radu Romania Athletics February 13 1912
Roy Ramsay Bahamas Sailing September 28 1912
Jean-Albin Régis France Sport shooting February 19 1912
Kamal Riad Noseir Egypt Basketball January 8 1912
Anísio da Rocha Brazil Modern pentathlon and equestrian October 13 1912
José Manuel Sagasta Argentina Equestrian 1912
Tadashi Shimijima Japan Rowing October 8 1912
Guillermo Suárez Peru Athletics September 8 1912
Shoichiro Takenaka Japan Athletics September 30 1912
Kojiro Tamba Japan Wrestling May 10 1912
Noboru Tanaka Japan Field hockey 1912
Rogério Tavares Portugual Sport shooting December 3 1912
Taro Teshima Japan Rowing July 14 1912
Kenshi Togami Japan Athletics August 1 1912
Pedro del Vecchio Colombia Athletics October 16 1912
Sigfrido Vogel Argentina Sport shooting September 1912
Roma Wagner Austria Swimming July 21 1912

Pedro Landero, who represented Philippines in bantamweight weightlifting at the 1952 and 1956 Summer Olympics. Photograph from: http://www.chidlovski.net/liftup/l_athleteStatsResult.asp?a_id=1902

1913

Name Nation Sport Birthday
Osamu Abe Japan Rowing August 11 1913
Mohamed Amin Egypt Boxing November 15 1913
Willy Angst Switzerland Wrestling November 20 1913
Sayed Ali Atta Afghanistan Field hockey August 25 1913
Frédéric Boeni Switzerland Diving November 15 1913
Louis Chauvot France Sailing February 14 1913
Georges Conan France Cycling 1913
Pierre Cousin France Athletics June 14 1913
Frederic Drăghici Romania Gymnastics June 1 1913
Juan Andrés Dutra Uruguay Rowing October 10 1913
Mahmoud Ezzat Egypt Boxing September 11 1913
Georges Firmenich Switzerland Sailing December 3 1913
Ernst Fuhrimann Switzerland Cycling June 28 1913
Werner George Germany Ice hockey September 12 1913
Juan de Giacomi Argentina Sport shooting 1913
Oscar Goulú Argentina Equestrian 1913
Mario Guerci Argentina Rowing January 14 1913
Tsugio Hasegawa Japan Figure skating June 18 1913
Mohamed Hassanein Egypt Swimming 1913
Ludovic Heraud France Sport shooting January 1 1913
Masao Ichihara Japan Athletics November 7 1913
Albino de Jesus Portugal Sport shooting August 13 1913
Koichi Kawaguchi Japan Equestrian March 12 1913
Ludovico Kempter Argentina Sailing November 11 1913
Werner Klingelfuss Switzerland Canoeing June 11 1913
Alfred König Austria Athletics October 2 1913
Hiroyoshi Kubota Japan Athletics April 29 1913
Daiji Kurauchi Japan Field hockey 1913
Pedro Landero Philippines Weightlifting October 19 1913
Melchor López Argentina Sport shooting January 7 1913
Florio Martel France Field hockey March 2 1913
Jaime Mendes Portugal Athletics August 20 1913
Fernand Mermoud France Cross-country skiing August 20 1913
Isamu Mita Japan Rowing March 25 1913
Yoshio Miyake Japan Gymnastics December 7 1913
Severino Moreira Brazil Sport shooting September 29 1913
Zafar Ahmed Muhammad Pakistan Sport shooting July 10 1913
Mie Muraoka Japan Athletics March 23 1913
Takao Nakae Japan Basketball April 30 1913
Chiyoto Nakano Japan Boxing February 7 1913
Yoshio Nanbu Japan Weightlifting March 22 1913
Karl Neumeister Austria Equestrian August 15 1913
Jwani Riad Noseir Egypt Basketball February 6 1913
Wanda Nowak Austria Athletics January 16 1913
Benvenuto Nuñes Brazil Swimming June 27 1913
Edmund Pader Austria Swimming 1913
Dumitru Panaitescu Romania Boxing May 1 1913
Prudencio de Pena Uruguay Basketball January 21 1913
Dumitru Peteu Romania Bobsledding October 19 1913
Abdul Rahim Afghanistan Athletics February 11 1913
Olga Rajkovič Yugoslavia Athletics April 13 1913
Hertha Rosmini Austria Alpine skiing November 9 1913
Shusui Sekigawa Japan Rowing May 13 1913
Chikara Shirasaka Japan Rowing August 18 1913
Jelica Stanojević Yugoslavia Athletics July 1 1913
José de la Torre Mexico Sport shooting April 3 1913
Pierre Vandame France Field hockey June 17 1913
Anton Vogel Austria Wrestling July 21 1913

Yushoku Cho, who represented Japan in two speed skating events at the 1936 Winter Olympics.

1914

Name Nation Sport Birthday
Toyoyi Aihara Japan Athletics January 7 1914
Ion Baboe Romania Athletics April 12 1914
Charles Campbell Canada Rowing July 2 1914
José Cazorla Venezuela Sport shooting February 26 1914
Yushoku Cho Japan Speed skating January 18 1914
Werner Christen Switzerland Athletics April 29 1914
Asa Dogura Japan Athletics June 11 1914
Jean Fournier France Sport shooting May 4 1914
Hugo García Uruguay Water polo March 20 1914
Mitsue Ishizu Japan Athletics April 16 1914
Josef Jelen Czechoslovakia Boxing August 10 1914
Thea Kellner Romania Fencing March 6 1914
Grete Lainer Austria Figure skating June 20 1914
František Leikert Czechoslovakia Canoeing May 6 1914
Masayasu Maeda Japan Basketball March 10 1914
Khalil Amira El-Maghrabi Egypt Boxing January 1 1914
Gheorghe Man Romania Fencing March 20 1914
Georges Meyer Switzerland Athletics April 17 1914
Hans Mohr Yugoslavia Athletics August 6 1914
Karl Molnar Austria Canoeing May 18 1914
Isaac Moraes Brazil Swimming July 26 1914
František Mráček Czechoslovakia Wrestling April 13 1914
Fausto Preysler Philippines Sailing February 14 1914
Rosalvo Ramos Brazil Athletics June 6 1914
Roger Rouge Switzerland Sailing June 1 1914
Julio César Sagasta Argentina Equestrian July 13 1914
Antônio Luiz dos Santos Brazil Swimming July 16 1914
František Šír Czechoslovakia Rowing January 22 1914
Noboru Sugimoto Japan Swimming April 6 1914
Kosei Tano Japan Water polo January 22 1914
Paulo Tarrto Brazil Swimming April 12 1914
Anwar Tawfik Egypt Fencing July 31 1914
Annie Villiger Switzerland Diving and swimming April 4 1914
Takimi Wakayama Japan Water polo March 30 1914
Zenjiro Watanabe Japan Figure skating February 11 1914
Georg Weidner Austria Wrestling January 14 1914
Otto Weiß Germany Figure skating April 20 1914
Dragana Đorđević Yugoslavia Gymnastics June 2 1914

Having produced this table, we may in the future decide to create a more detailed and sortable table, including Olympic participations, on our website (which is here by the way) so that we can update it as time goes on. Next week, however, we will take a look at those 16 non-starters and demonstration event competitors in order to complete our look into the realm of research on the Oldest Olympians. We hope you will join us!

First Linkage of Olympedia and Olympic Channel Sites

We are pleased to announce that the conversion of Olympedia to IOC and Olympic Channel sites has started. Biographies for all Olympians now available at https://www.olympicchannel.com/en/athletes/. We continue to work with the OlyChannel to import all Olympedia features for your use and pleasure.

We are working with the IT people at the Olympic Channel and will be adding more and more of our original features from Olympedia. Hopefully, we will soon have the complete results for all sports, all events, and all athletes available, as it has been on Olympedia. Further work will continue to incorporate all of our features available on Olympedia. You may also note that because of the linkage to the Olympic Channel, videos of the athletes are now available, which we never had.

Wikipedia often has linked to our concurrent sports-reference sites. We have created links from sports-reference to Olympedia, which should also work for the olympichannel.com site. I am available to discuss how we can implement these links for the Wikipedians if they will contact me at bam1729bam@gmail.com.

Adolf Müller

Our next series of planned blog entries are going to examine two topics: Olympians who could, at least in theory, be alive and older than our oldest Olympian John Lysak, and medalists for whom we have no information on whether they are alive or deceased. Both of these lists are lengthy, with numerous entries, and since we are in the midst of travelling, we wanted to do something much quicker for this week’s blog post. As it turns out, however, these lists happen to intersect only twice, both on bronze medal-winning wrestlers from the 1948 Games. One is Egyptian light-heavyweight Greco-Roman wrestler Ibrahim Orabi, who we covered already in a previous post. Today, therefore, we are going to focus on just one Olympian: Swiss featherweight freestyle wrestler Adolf Müller.

Müller is not the man in the foreground of the photograph; he is the individual with the moustache in the background.

Adolf Müller competed as a featherweight in both the Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling tournaments at the 1948 Games. In the former, he was disqualified for being overweight after losing by decision against Norwegian Egil Solsvik in the first round. He was much more successful in the latter competition, however, surviving until the final, where he was defeated by the upcoming silver medalist from Sweden, Ivar Sjölin, which left him with bronze.

Müller never again reached the podium in a major international tournament and, given that his name is fairly common, we could not find any additional information about him and sources in the Swiss sporting world have been unable to help. Müller was born on April 11, 1914, and would be 104 years old if still alive and over four months older than John Lysak. It seems very unlikely that he would still be living, yet have flown almost completely under the radar of the media but, since it is not impossible, we still leave open the idea that he could be alive until it is proven definitively otherwise.

As mentioned above, Müller and Orabi are unique in that they are medalists older than Lysak whose deaths have not been confirmed. This is not surprising, as medalists tend to get far more attention in the media than other Olympians and thus there is more information available about them in general. Yet they are only two of nearly 250 Olympians overall who would be older than Lysak yet whose deaths have not been confirmed. Next week, when we have a little more time, we are going to take a closer look at these Olympians and hopefully share a little insight into the process of how we determine the world’s oldest living Olympian, and what sorts of caveats we have to provide with such a statement. We hope that you’ll join us once again!

Canada’s 99 year-olds

Along with Egypt, Canada is one of two countries that we at Oldest Olympians know best. While Egypt has a lengthy Olympic history of a thousand competitors, Canada has had nearly four times that many, which makes keeping track of them all, particularly those from the earliest Games, a nearly impossible task. Among Canada’s 3500+ Olympians, we have been unable to identify a single one who lived to the age of 100. For today’s blog, therefore, we decided to highlight the three Olympians who almost made it that far and celebrate their lives and sporting legacies.

Robert Zimmerman – Diver and Swimmer at the 1908 and 1912 Summer Olympics: Despite having represented the country twice at the Games, our first entry on this list was not even a Canadian: he was born and died in the United States and never acquired Canadian citizenship. In the era of fluid boundaries, however, being a member of the Montreal Swimming Club was sufficient for the Olympics to consider him Canadian and thus he marched in the Opening Ceremony for that nation both times. He took part in three events in 1908, one diving and two swimming, but was eliminated in the opening round of all of them. He was more successful in 1912, however, coming in fifth in the springboard competition.

During his athletic career, Zimmerman was active in no fewer than nine different sports, but it was in the water that he was most at home. Of his many careers following his return to the United States, he was most well-known as a deep-sea diver. As he aged, he set himself the goal of completing a 35-mile canoe race for his 100th birthday. Unfortunately, he died just one day after his 99th birthday, which, for many years, made him the longest-lived Canadian Olympian of all time.

Sandy MacDonald – Sailor at the 1960 and 1964 Summer Olympics: Like Zimmerman, Sandy MacDonald was prolific in several different athletic pursuits. He played football and ice hockey in his youth and was even selected to represent Great Britain in the latter at the 1928 Winter Games. His Canadian citizenship eventually disqualified him, and thus his Olympic debut would have to wait 32 years, when he competed in Dragon Class sailing at the 1960 Summer Games. He finished fifth in this edition, and seventh four years later in the 5.5 Metres class. His most notable accomplishment in sailing was his gold medal from the Dragon Class tournament at the 1963 Pan American Games.

MacDonald was a surgeon by profession, but continued to complete in sailing for many years. He celebrated his 99th birthday on September 7, 2003 but, unfortunately, died 44 days later. He remains, as of this posting, the longest-lived Canadian Olympian.

Thelma Boughner – Diving at the 1936 Summer Olympics: Unlike Zimmerman and MacDonald, Thelma Boughner had a quieter profile. She competed in both women’s diving events at the 1936 Summer Games, placing 15th and 22nd in the springboard and platform respectively. She blamed her results on being poisoned by a German dentist shortly before her participation. World War II ended her career, and she later moved to the United States after marrying a Navy pilot, where she ran a successful chain of ice cream franchises. For many years, we had limited evidence that she was still alive, and even removed her from our lists at one point. Unfortunately, we learned from her obituary that she died on October 29, 2017, just over a month after her 99th birthday, and had been the oldest living Canadian Olympian for many years.

It should be noted, however, that Canada does hold one interesting longevity record, courtesy of Cecil Smith, pictured above. Smith represented her country at the 1924 and 1928 Winter Olympics as a figure skater, in the former at the age of only 15. Yet although she was “only” 89 years old when she died on November 9, 1997, she was nonetheless the last known surviving competitor from the 1924 Winter Games.

As of this writing, the title of the oldest living Canadian Olympian is shared by the Wurtele sisters, Rhona and Rhoda, born January 21, 1922, who competed in alpine skiing at the 1948 and 1952 Winter Games respectively. We hope very much to be writing about them and their sporting accomplishments four years from now in celebration of their longevity! For next week, however, we will be taking a look at the world’s oldest Olympian, John Lysak, who turned 104 just yesterday, and some of the competitors who could (at least in theory) be even older! We hope you’ll join us!

Egypt’s Olympic Medalists – Part 4

Today we bring you the final part of our attempt to clarify the biographical details of the lives of Egypt’s Olympic medalists and are focusing on the 1952 and 1960 Summer Games. After participating in Helsinki, Egypt boycotted the 1956 Olympics in protest of the Suez War, although it sent competitors to the equestrian events, which were held several months prior to the Games due to Australian quarantine restrictions. It then competed in the next three editions as the “United Arab Republic”, due to its political union with Syria, although by 1964 Syria had left the union and in 1960 there is no evidence that any Syrians actually competed in the Games. After earning two medals in 1960, Egypt would only see the podium once more prior to 2004, at which point sport was sufficiently globalized and covered in the media to pre-empt any mysteries surrounding Olympic medalists. Even by 1960 the situation had improved greatly, although there is still a little worth discussing.

Abdel Aal Rashid – Bronze medalist in Featherweight Greco-Roman Wrestling, 1952: Egypt’s only medalist at the 1952 Summer Olympics was Abdel Aal Rashid, who won a bronze medal in Greco-Roman wrestling’s featherweight division. As this was his only major international podium finish, there is very little additional information on him available. We uncovered an interview he gave to Al-Ahram after the Games, which confirms his commonly-seen date of birth of December 27, 1927 and gives us a little history of his life, including the fact that he was born and raised in Alexandria. After that, we have been unable to uncover any significant trace of him, or even been able to ascertain whether or not he is still alive (which is certainly within the realm of possibility at the age of 90) as one of the oldest Olympians.

Osman El-Sayed – Silver medalist in Flyweight Greco-Roman Wrestling, 1960: Osman El-Sayed had won a silver medal at the 1955 Mediterranean Games, so he was a little more well-known when he reached the podium at the 1960 Games in flyweight Greco-Roman wrestling. Different sources list his place of birth as either Cairo or Alexandria but, based on the evidence we have seen, we feel that the latter is most likely correct. One difficulty in finding information about him, as we later discovered, was that in Arabic he went by the name “Eid Osman”, which is a common phrase in the language and can be difficult to search for. We were able to find out, however, that he died on April 21, 2013, unfortunately with limited fanfare, despite some sources that continue to list him as still alive.

Abdel Moneim El-Gindy – Bronze medalist in Flyweight Boxing, 1960: Like Osman El-Sayed, Abdel Moneim El-Gindy entered the 1960 Summer Olympics as a known entity, having won gold at the 1959 Mediterranean Games. Of the era’s three medalists, he was probably the most well-known, and the only point of contention is his date of birth: some sources lists June 12, 1936, while others mention December 1936, making it likely that some of these have simply reversed the correct date order (12-6-1936 vs. 6-12-1936). While we are working to clarify this point, we do know that he died March 17, 2011, although unfortunately this coincided with the tumultuous Egyptian Revolution of that year, and thus his death gained less attention than it might have otherwise.

In 1984, Mohamed Ali Rashwan took silver in judo’s open class, which was Egypt’s only Olympic medal between 1960 and its successes at the 2004 Games. From this point on, the nation’s Olympic medalists received the historical attention that they deserved, which means that our job is complete. Of course, we will keep researching and utilizing our contacts to uncover the information that is missing but, in the meantime, it is time to move on to a new topic. Next week we are going to turn to Canada and focus more on our eponymous topic of the oldest Olympians. Canada is a nation that has had three Olympians reach the age of 99 but, to our knowledge, none that have made it to 100. We’ll be taking a looking at these three and featuring the stories of their lives, so we hope you’ll join us!

Egypt’s Olympic Medalists – Part 3

Today we bring you Part 3 of our attempt to clarify the biographical details of the lives of Egypt’s Olympic medalists and are focusing on the 1948 Summer Games. In terms of medal count, this was Egypt’s most successful appearance and, while records were getting better, there still remains some mystery about the medalists from these Games.

Mahmoud Fayad – Olympic Champion in Featherweight Weightlifting: With Ibrahim Shams having moved up a weight category and Saleh Mohamed Soliman having seemingly disappeared from the sporting scene, the two pre-war Egyptian medalists in Olympic featherweight weightlifting were out of contention for the1948 Games. This set the stage for Mahmoud Fayad to triumph in the event and establish his legacy among Egypt’s great champions. A World silver medalist in 1946, he went on to become World Champion in 1949 and 1950, leading to numerous works being written about him. They all agree that he was born March 9, 1925 in Alexandria, while his obituary in Al-Ahram confirms that he died there on December 18, 2002, making him one of the few Egyptian Olympic medalists for whom data is consistent and reliable.

Ibrahim Shams – Olympic Champion in Lightweight Weightlifting: We mentioned last week that Ibrahim Shams took bronze in the featherweight weightlifting tournament at the 1936 Games but, during World War II, he moved up in weight category with great success, as he captured the Olympic lightweight title in 1948. As we mentioned above, we are still trying to determine which (if either) of his birth or death dates was January 15 instead of 16 but, for the most part, information on his life is as consistent as it is with Fayad.

Attia Mohammed – Silver medalist in Lightweight Weightlifting: History has not been as kind, however, to the runner-up to Shams’ victory, Attia Mohammed, another Olympic medalist whose very used name could be the subject of debate. His full name was Attia Mohammed Hamouda, but what he actually went by varies from source to source and tournament to tournament, although “Attia Mohammed” seems most common in Arabic-language materials, although very little was written about him overall. His year of birth (we have no exact date) is seen as both 1914 and 1922, but pictures of him in sporting magazines of the early 1930s demonstrate that the latter is impossible (the one above, for example, comes from a 1934 publication). As for his year of death, the Egyptian Olympic Committee (EOC) gives 1992, but we have seen no other source to collaborate this, and the lack of an exact date makes it difficult to search for him in the Al-Ahram archives. Thus we continue to seek confirmation.

Mahmoud Hassan – Silver medalist in Bantamweight Greco-Roman Wrestling: Mahmoud Hassan was the 1947 bantamweight Greco-Roman World Champion, but he had to settle for silver in that category at the 1948 Summer Olympics. At the 1951 Mediterranean Games, however, he took the gold medal once again. Most sources have him born December 15, 1919 and dying September 10, 1998, but we were unable to verify the latter date in Al-Ahram. While we have no reason to doubt this date, it would be nice to obtain some additional confirmation.

Ibrahim Orabi – Bronze medalist in Light-Heavyweight Greco-Roman Wrestling: Only by virtue of his longer and more noted career does Ibrahim Orabi surrender the title of Egypt’s most enigmatic Olympic medalist to Saleh Mohamed Soliman. The EOC lists virtually nothing about him, other than that he won a bronze medal in light-heavyweight Greco-Roman wrestling at the 1948 Games. We also know that he competed as a middleweight at the 1936 edition, where he placed fifth, and won a light-heavyweight silver medal at the 1951 Mediterranean Games. Aside from this, contemporary reports list him as being from Alexandria, and we have no reason to doubt the year of birth of 1912 that we often see ascribed to him. After 1951, he seems to disappear from the historical records and, given that it is highly unlikely (albeit not impossible) that he is still alive, we have been unable to locate any information on the circumstances surrounding his death.

Next week we will be wrapping up this series by looking at Egypt’s medalists from the 1952 and 1960 Olympics, as the nation only saw the podium once more – in 1984 – between 1960 and 2004. We will also finish our survey with a few concluding remarks, before moving on to new topics beginning two weeks from now.

Egypt’s Olympic Medalists – Part 2

Today we bring you Part 2 of our attempt to clarify the biographical details of the lives of Egypt’s Olympic medalists and are focusing on the 1936 Summer Games. Although the nation was more successful in 1948 in terms of the medal count, Egypt achieved its highest ranking among countries – 15th – in 1936, with two gold medals, one silver, and two bronze. Despite this, however, there is much that remains unclear about some of the country’s medalists from Berlin.

Khadr El-Touni – Olympic Champion in Middleweight Weightlifting: Khadr El-Touni remains the most famous champion in Egypt and for good reason: his performance in the middleweight weightlifting competition at these Games was so dominant that it would have won him the gold medal in the weight division above his own. He was also a three-time World Champion (1946, 1949, and 1950), a Mediterranean Games champion, and the setter of between 11 and 16 world records. He died after touching electrical wiring in his home in September 1956, and while some sources cite the date as September 25, his obituary appeared in Al-Ahram on September 23, confirming a death date of the 22nd.

Anwar Mosbah – Olympic Champion in Lightweight Weightlifting: Anwar Mosbah shared the 1936 Olympic gold medal in lightweight weightlifting with Austrian Robert Fein but, with all the clamor surrounding El-Touni’s middleweight victory, Mosbah’s achievement was ignored by the Egyptian media. He eventually built up a reputation as a coach and trainer, however, and although his death was once reported erroneously by the local media, sources consistently list the correct date as November 25, 1998, as well as a date of birth of April 8, 1913.

Saleh Mohamed Soliman – Silver medalist in Featherweight Weightlifting: An inquiry regarding Saleh Mohamed Soliman was what gave us the idea to write about this topic in the first place. Even his preferred name is unclear, as all possible combinations of his three names appear in Arabic sources, which also often list him without even a year of birth. They do agree, however, that he was 20 years old when he won the Olympic silver medal in featherweight weightlifting in 1936, so we have no reason to doubt that his date of birth is June 24, 1916, as claimed by the Egyptian Olympic Committee (EOC). Beyond that, there is no additional information about the rest of his life, as he never appeared in other major tournaments or received much attention from the Egyptian press. Thus the question of when – and even if, since it is possible that he is still alive – he died remains open. Some Arabic sources list him as the same weightlifter who won gold and silver medals respectively in the middle-heavyweight division of the 1951 and 1955 Mediterranean Games, who was born c. 1917 and went by the name of Mohamed Ibrahim Saleh. We have no evidence to confirm a connection the two, however, and, given the significant differences in weight categories, we believe this to be in error.

Ibrahim Shams – Bronze medalist in Featherweight Weightlifting: Coming in behind Saleh Mohamed Soliman in men’s featherweight weightlifting was a much more well-known athlete, Ibrahim Shams. Shams went on to become an Olympic champion in the lightweight division in 1948, making him Egypt’s most successful Olympian for the next 64 years, until Greco-Roman wrestler Karem Gaber won a silver medal in 2012 to match the gold medal he earned in 2004. He was also a World and Mediterranean Champion and set six world records. His accomplishments have led to relative consistency with his biographical details, with most sources claiming that he was born on January 16, 1917 and died on his birthday in 2001. Some sources, however, suggest that he was either born or died (but not both) on January 15, and we are working to confirm on which date exactly is correct.

Wasif Ibrahim – Bronze medalist in Light-Heavyweight Weightlifting: Just like Saleh Mohamed Soliman, Wasif Ibrahim’s identity is so muddled that many Arabic sources seem uncertain of his very name. He did, however, continue to compete after winning bronze in the 1936 light-heavyweight weightlifting division, and set a world record in 1938. His date of birth is seen as both November 4, 1908 and September 24, 1912, with the 1908 date being what is used by the EOC. The EOC also mentions his date of death as May 17, 1975, although we were unable to confirm this as we could not find an obituary for him in Al-Ahram around this time, making it possible that this information is incorrect.

After 1936, war intervened and the Olympics did not reconvene until 1948. By medal tally, these Games would be Egypt’s most successful and, while record keeping was getting better, there are still mysteries to be had. Tune in next week for Part 3, where we’ll try to clear up some of the confusion regarding these athletes.

Egypt’s Olympic Medalists – Part 1

For our first Oldest Olympians blog post, we are talking about Egypt; specifically, Egypt’s Olympic medalists, which has been an area of focus for us here during our research in Cairo. Our inspiration for this post stemmed from a response we received when we posted about Mohamed Selim Zaki being the oldest living Egyptian Olympian. They contacted us to inquire about Saleh Soliman, born June 24, 1916, who won a silver medal in men’s featherweight weightlifting in 1936. The implication was that, surely, if an Olympic medalist had died, the world would know about it.

The unfortunate truth is, however, that almost no nation has a perfect record for keeping track of their Olympic medalists. We have already discussed, for example, Belgian Olympic champion Micheline Lannoy, as well as the Mohawk Indian lacrosse team from 1904. There are, however, many others like them. Just counting athletes that could potentially be alive, we have 13 silver medalists and 31 bronze medalists for whom we have no information about their living status, the majority of whom were born in the mid-1920s or later. For countries such as Japan, as we learned with Shunpei Uto, part of the problem might be the language barrier. For countries such as Canada or Switzerland, however, the issues are more complex, and perhaps we shall discuss them in another blog post.

We feel that Egypt, however, is a special case, because not only is there much missing information, but the information that is available is often contradicted in other sources. Therefore, we thought that it would be a good use of a blog post to clarify what is known and not known about the lifespans of Egypt’s Olympic medalists from 1928 through 1960, to collect all of our knowledge in one place, and to uncover the truth with definitive sources. Since there are many of them to discuss, however, this week we are going to look into the medalists from 1928.

Sayed NosseirOlympic Champion in Light-Heavyweight Weightlifting: Egypt’s first Olympic champion has also proven, for us at least, one of the more frustrating individuals to uncover information about. Across the numerous biographies that have been written about him, we have seen years of death of 1973, 1974, and 1977, with some containing specific dates such as October 11, November 23, and November 28. We have even seen October 11, 1968, although this report liked conflated him with Ibrahim Moustafa (see below). Egypt’s largest national newspaper, Al-Ahram, does not contain an obituary for Nosseir in the sports section around any of these dates, although the issue is further muddled by the fact that this paper did not print a sports section for much of the latter quarter of 1973, due to regional conflicts. The most common information we see printed is that he died some time in 1974 at the age of 69, which, thanks to the fact that his date of birth is reported remarkably consistently as August 31, 1905, would suggest a date of death in the latter quarter of that year. We will continue to search.

Ibrahim Moustafa – Olympic Champion in Light-Heavyweight Greco-Roman Wrestling: Despite being Egypt’s second Olympic champion, Moustafa received more attention in the media than Nosseir, probably due to the fact that he was more involved with national sport after his victory. Moustafa died while serving as national team coach at the 1968 Summer Olympics, with the date being seen as the 6th, 9th, and 11th of October. Thankfully, we found his obituary on the 10th of October, which states clearly that he died the day before and allows us to be certain about the correct date in this case. As for the date of birth, we see April 20 and September 23 of 1904, but September 23 was printed in his obituary.

Farid Simaika – Silver Medalist in 10m Platform Diving and Bronze Medalist in 3m Springboard Diving: Simaika’s unfortunate death during World War II has made him the Egyptian Olympic medalist about whom information is the most uniform. After becoming an American citizen in 1942, he joined the United States Army, serving during World War II. His plane crashed somewhere in Indonesia on September 11, 1943 and, while various accounts of exactly how he died have been told (everything from at the hands of the Japanese to the spears of tribal head-hunters), it has generally been agreed that he died on that day.

Due to concerns that the country was not being represented in the International Olympic Committee by an actual Egyptian (at the time it was represented by Angelos Bolanki who, although born in Alexandria, was of Greek ancestry), the national Olympic Committee of Egypt declined to participate in the 1932 Games. Therefore, next week we will look into Egypt’s medalists from the 1936 Summer Games held in Berlin, which was host to some of the nation’s greatest successes… and also some of its greatest mysteries! Finally, if you have any topics you would be interested to see covered here, let us know; we’re always open to requests!

My Thoughts on Olympic Bids, Hosts, and Financing

And so Switzerland’s electorate has voted not to pursue the 2026 Winter Olympics for the city of Sion. This occurred shortly before the U.S. Open golf championship was held at Shinnecock Hills on Long Island, and a few weeks before The Open Championship of 2018 will be held at Carnoustie Golf Links in Angus, Scotland. And Wimbledon starts today, with those big Rolex watches at the ends of the main courts, which would never be allowed at the Olympics. What could these possibly have to do with each other? Read on, my friend, and we shall discuss.

For the past decade the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has watched in what must be anguish as city after city has spurned their chances to host an Olympic Games or Olympic Winter Games, almost certainly concerned at the cost of hosting for their city, while wondering what exactly are the benefits. Sion was only the latest. Boston, Massachusetts was chosen as a potential host city for 2024 only to reject the offer a few months later. Norway, almost the quintessential host of a Winter Olympics in 1994 with Lillehammer, also voted against bidding for the 2022 Winter Olympics. And there were many more, in Germany, in Poland, ad seemingly nauseum.

What should be made of this and what should the IOC do to reverse this trend, with the future of the Olympic Games at risk if adequate cities cannot be found? I think there are a number of things that are possible and some of them relate to the US Open and The Open Championship and how those are conducted. Some of the other thoughts you will read in this post are ideas gleaned from many sources, some would say stolen, though I will give them credit.

The cost of hosting an Olympic Games has risen beyond reason in the last 30 years. Los Angeles hosted the 1984 Olympics for $545.9 million (US)[1] while the cost associated with the 2008 Beijing Olympics is often reported to have been $31 billion. The Opening Ceremony at Beijing is reported to have cost $310 million alone. Hosting an Olympics has become an arms race, with each city trying to outdo the previous host, and usually spending more and more money to do that. Almost all agree that the 2008 Opening Ceremony was the nonpareil Olympic ceremony, but basically it’s a party, and if you give me $310 million, I promise I will throw you one hell of a party, too.

Let us pause to remember a voice of reason in the cost of Olympic Games, yet one who is often forgotten, and during the run-up and the hosting of the 1984 Olympics was often vilified by the IOC and the European press because of frugal, often dogmatic ways. Peter Ueberroth was the chairman of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee, a Games that ended with a $232.5 million surplus (you cannot call it a profit for US federally recognized non-profit organizations). How did he do it?

First of all, shortly after he was named chairman, Ueberroth went to the Helms Library in Los Angeles (now sited at the LA84 Foundation Library, one of the products of that $232.5 million surplus), and sat down and read all the previous Official Reports to see what previous Games cost, and what the primary source of those costs were. He came to the conclusion that the most important factor in Olympic Games expenses was the building of new stadia, and he vowed that he would host the 1984 Olympics without building new venues.

Ueberroth had an advantage in that Los Angeles has a lot of athletic facilities, but we’ll get to that later. He actually had to build 3 venues – a swim stadium, a velodrome, and a shooting range – but he got McDonald’s to fund the swim stadium and 7-Eleven to fund the velodrome[2], and the shooting range cost was only a rounding error.

What else did Ueberroth do that allowed Los Angeles to arrive at a surplus? In the book on the 1984 Olympics by Kenneth Reich, Making It Happen: Peter Ueberroth and the 1984 Olympics, it is described that when they were deciding on choices and costs, his mantra was, “It should be well done, but not ostentatious.” And it was never ostentatious. It was simple and somewhat austere compared to the Games that would come later, and the IOC thought it was downright cheap, but it worked.

So how can cities and the IOC use this information learned from Peter Ueberroth, a man Dick Pound has described to me as the most important member of the Olympic Movement who never became an IOC Member? Let’s look at The Open Championship and the US Open golf tournament.

The Open Championship (often called the British Open, which the Royal & Ancient hates) is not open to all clubs in the British Isles to host the tournament. It is held on a rota of courses that is predetermined, and currently consists of only 9 courses: St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Birkdale, Muirfield, Turnberry, Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s, Hoylake (Royal Liverpool), Royal St. George’s, and Royal Troon. Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland will host the 2019 Open but it has not hosted since 1951 and is not a part of the normal rota.

The advantage of this is the 9 host courses on the rota all have hosted the tournament before, usually fairly recently. They know how to do it, they have facilities at the ready, they have committees and committee members available who have previous knowledge of hosting an Open Championship.

Compare this to an Olympic Games in the 21st century. It is given to a city often with no previous experience hosting an Olympic Games, such as Rio de Janeiro, Athens (last hosted in 1906), and the like. They don’t know how to do it, they have never hosted, often they don’t always have the facilities and must violate Ueberroth Rule #1 by building stadia all over the place, and they don’t have the experience in committees and committee members.

So should the IOC go to a fixed number of cities to host the Olympic Games? I think they need to do something like this although it may not be cities. In fact, I think the IOC needs to distribute Games to countries because of the venue problems and begin to think of an organized rota of cities / nations to host Olympic Games.

Now in the 1970s and early 1980s when the IOC was broke, before Ueberroth made an Olympics profitable (excuse me, surplusable), and before Juan Antonio Samaranch and Dick Pound started the TOP Program, with the help of Patrick Nally and Michael Payne[3], it was always discussed that the IOC should hold all Olympic Games at one fixed site, with Olympia, Greece always quoted as the site of the Summer Games. Fortunately that talk is over now, as that will never work, certainly not in Olympia, as they have no facilities except those left over from the Ancient Olympics, they have no airport, the bus ride to Olympia takes about 6 hours from Athens, and, well, the Greeks are broke, some of which is still blamed on the 2004 Olympics.

But the IOC could go to a rota of cities and nations. Perhaps consider 3 sites in Europe, 2 sites in North America, 2 sites in Asia, and 2 open sites to rotate between South America, Africa, and Oceania, so that NOCs and IFs would know decades in advance where the Games would be held. It does not always have to be the same site in Europe or North America or Asia, although that would help if cities were to step up. I don’t really care how many cities / nations in the rota or where they are, but I do think the IOC should insist that only cities that already have Olympic facilities available should be allowed in the rota.

The advantages of this idea are that only cities which have the available facilities and don’t require major building projects to host an Olympics will be chosen – see Los Angeles. It also eliminates the now exorbitant cost of bidding for the Games, and often losing the bid. Like the courses that host Open Championships, the cities will also have the experience of hosting a Games, with facilities, infrastructure, and committees and committee members available. Look at Los Angeles, which called on the sporting structure that was formed in the aftermath of the 1984 Olympics, the LA84 Foundation, which was a big part of why their bid for 2024 / 2028 was so solid.

The IOC will not like the rota idea but I think it has to go to something like this. They always say they want to spread the Games to all nations of the world, but that is an idea from the 19th century when the Games had 9 sports, 12 nations, and about 250 competitors (1896 Athens). The Summer Games now have 34 sports, 206 nations, about 11,000 competitors, and even a larger contingent of media of all types. They are now so large that the IOC has to recognize that only a few cities in the world, and only a few nations in the world, can host a modern Olympic Games.

But you will say, “Look, the Games will only return to a city every 32-40 years or so. The personnel experience will be gone by then. That’s no advantage.” And I now give you the US Golf Association (USGA) and how they host US Open Championships for the second main part of my argument.

The US Golf Association does not do a formal rota for the US Open, as does the Royal & Ancient, although it returns to certain sites with some frequency, namely Oakmont, Pebble Beach, Shinnecock Hills, Pinehurst, and Winged Foot, among others. But it allows new clubs to host the Open, such as Erin Hills in 2017, and Chambers Bay in 2016 – both considered now marginal choices.

But what the USGA does is they do not give all the responsibility of organizing an Open to the host club and their organizing committee, as the IOC does. Shortly after the club is awarded a US Open (the time before hosting when it is awarded is variable in the case of the US Open), the USGA starts sending their own team to the club. They live there, they work there. They have worked at previous host clubs – they have the experience. And as the tournament gets close, the USGA presence on site increases, since they know how to run the tournament. They take over. Clubs do not always like this, but it’s a necessary evil to avoid the golfing equivalent of Rio de Janeiro.

The IOC does not do this to any degree. They let the host city form their own organizing committee (OCOG) and give them almost full responsibility. More recently, they have acknowledged that OCOGs need help. Until about 20 years ago, the OCOG had to start from scratch, but the IOC has at least started a clearing house of data from previous hosts called the Olympic Games Knowledge Services (OGKS), which can spread information to new OCOGs. It has also formed the Olympic Broadcasting Service (OBS), to assist and take production duties off the OCOGs. But the OCOG in a new host city usually has no experience, effectively, they have no clue. The OCOG reports to the IOC Coordination Commission periodically and tells them how things are going, and the Coordination Commission visits the city periodically to check on progress.

Slightly more than a year prior to Rio, the IOC Coordination Commission realized Rio needed significant help quickly and dispatched Gilbert Felli to Rio on a full-time basis to get things jump started. Fine, but that was too little, too late. The IOC should follow the lead of the USGA and send an IOC team to the host city shortly after it is awarded the Games – 7 years before they are to host the Games. They are the leaders of the Olympic Movement and they need to develop the personnel and the teams that rotate around to the various sites, and use them.

Remember that the US Open and The Open Championships are large sporting events, but nowhere near as large an Olympic Games, and with nowhere near the complexity. I can’t say how many people from the IOC should be living in the host city or for how long, but I do know that 1 person for 1 year is inadequate for the largest sporting event on the planet. Those IOC teams should comprise people in various categories, experts in things like media, finances, sporting facilities, security, international relations, and others.

There are other things cities can do to decrease the costs of Olympic Games. Michael Payne, former director of marketing at the IOC and then at Formula One, recently tweeted that cities should not be allowed to attach the Olympic title to any infrastructure project they elect to do in preparation for the Olympics (https://twitter.com/MichaelRPayne1/status/1006284904248827906). These are projects cities always want to get done – the ring road around Athens in 2004, the upgrade of Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta in 1996, enlarging the Sea-to-Sky Highway from Vancouver to Whistler in 2010, building a brand new ski resort near Sochi, and many other such projects.

But these are things the cities have usually wanted for themselves for some time, and when they see the Olympics, they find a way to glom these costs onto the Olympic budget. When that happens, Olympic costs can get astronomical. In fact, Dan Doctoroff, former advisor to New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, often said that the NYC and Boston Olympic bids could be used by governments to catalyze infrastructure deals that wouldn’t have otherwise happened.[4]

Not well known is that there are three facets of the costs of hosting an Olympic Games, best described by Holger Preuß in his excellent book The Economics of the Olympic Games: A Comparison of the Games 1972-2008, and have also been described more recently in the paper out of the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford study by Bent Flyvbjerg, Allison Stewart, and Alexander Budzier: The Oxford Olympics Study 2016: Cost and Cost Overrun at the Games[5]. The three are: 1) operational costs or the costs of running the Olympics for 2 weeks of the Games, and the costs of funding the organizing committee’s work before and after the Games; 2) direct costs, which is what Peter Ueberroth all but eliminated, which is building stadia and other facilities, such as media centers (Main Press Centre and International Broadcast Centre), and Olympic Villages; and 3) indirect costs, which are the city projects described in the previous paragraph and which escalated beyond belief in the case of Sochi 2014, which built a new ski resort at Krasnaya Polyana for the Mountain Cluster of events, and then built a highway connecting Krasnaya Polyana with Sochi (really Adler, where the Games were actually held).

We’ll start with 3) first, which I already mentioned. Cities have to stop using the Olympic Games for self-improvement projects and then blaming the IOC for the cost of those projects. The IOC does hold the trademark to the word Olympic and as Michael Payne said, they should not allow the word to be used connected to any infrastructure not needed specifically to host the Games.

Aha, you say, but what if this infrastructure is needed to host the Games? By going to a rota, and rarely using new cities, this should not be necessary, and any cities / nations that want to get on the rota should not be allowed if they do not have the necessary infrastructure (see Rio / Sochi).

As to 2), do what Peter Ueberroth said, “Don’t build new facilities.” If you don’t have them, don’t bid for the Olympics. If the city doesn’t have the requisite facilities, the IOC should not award the Games to the city or allow it on the rota. Further, the International Federations (IFs) have to share some of the blame here by demanding more and better facilities, and adding to the host cities arms race. As an example, track cycling is held in a velodrome which few cities outside of France or Japan will ever use outside of the Olympics. It will never pay for itself, but the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) mandates an indoor, fixed wooden track facility. A temporary artificial track can be used, as it was for Atlanta in 1996. The UCI will not like that, but we’re sorry.

If you do need some facilities, temporary is the key word. The US Olympic Swimming Trials has been held in Omaha, Nebraska for the last few Olympics, and Olympic journalist Alan Abrahamson has raved about their hosting ability. But there is no natatorium there – they use a temporary pool set up for the trials and the same could be done at the Olympic Games. FINA (Fédération Internationale de Natation Amateur) will not like it, and they do not like the events being held outdoors, as at Los Angeles in 1984 and Barcelona in 1992, but both things would greatly decrease the cost of building more stadia.

Temporary facilities can be placed inside already existing structures, such as convention centres, or such centres can be built for the city to use later. Those will make money, and cities love convention centres because they bring business, people, tourists, and money to them for many years. The media centres – Main Press Centre and International Broadcast Centre (IBC) – should be built with future use as a convention centre in mind, or in the case of the IBC, future use as a broadcast centre for the city. As to Olympic Villages, virtually all major cities can use more low-cost housing and these villages, if they need to be built, should be designed with that future need in mind.

Another example of an IF that forces OCOGs hand is the ISU (International Skating Union) which mandates that speed skating must be held on an indoor oval at the Winter Olympics. I love speed skating, but those never (or rarely) get used after the Olympics. Strangely the ISU does not require its World Championships to be held on indoor oval. The IOC needs to tell the IFs that they run the show at the Olympics and we will do what is cost conscious for cities. Currently the IFs tell the cities and the IOC what they are entitled to, but paraphrasing Col. Nathan R. Jessup, “[We] don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to.”

The cities must be allowed to use temporary facilities at every turn, if they do not have pre-existing stadia for each. Building a hockey (field) stadium is a nice idea perhaps in India or some cities in Europe, but at most cities it will become a white elephant. If the city does not have enough structures, either do not let that city in the rota, or allow them to use temporary structures, ideally structures that could even be rotated to the next city to host, similar to a traveling circus, that brings all its tents with it to each new city.

Further, OCOGs should do as Ueberroth did and get corporations to build facilities, if they need them, and here we look at Wimbledon. I think the IOC should loosen up their rules and allow more advertising at Olympic sites, which is now forbidden. Sorry, but Wimbledon is a very staid, proper event, which is what the IOC wants, yet I don’t think anyone is complaining about that Rolex clock that is seen every time the camera focuses for 34 seconds on Rafael Nadal hitting his first serve, and for which I assure you Rolex pays Wimbledon a significant sum each year. If you tell a corporation that they can have the Coca-Cola Olympic Natatorium or the Intel Olympic Velodrome, and that their name will show up on virtually every TV in every nation in the world for about 3 weeks, I think the money will appear very quickly to get that structure built.

Finally, on 1), if we have a rota of cities / nations, and the IOC assigns teams to each city / nation immediately after hosting, and the IOC runs the Games as a professional organization, and not allow an amateur OCOG to run them, this will certainly greatly decrease operational costs, because the IOC teams will know, and learn more during each Olympiad, where the money should be spent, and where it should not be. This facet of Olympic costs is relatively well-controlled and is not usually responsible for major cost overruns, but certainly a more experienced team in place from the beginning can limit these costs as well.

The Olympic naysayers will say that this all sounds too simplistic and that Olympic costs will always continue to spiral, as the Oxford study showed (noted above). They will also say that I am an Olympic apologist who is blind to the realties of modern Olympic economics.

Yes, I am a big believer in the Olympic Games and the Olympic Movement. I think it serves a real need by bringing the nations of the world together peacefully for 2-3 weeks every few years, and making the people of the world realize and understand that we are far more alike than we are different (see North and South Korea in PyeongChang). But I am far from an Olympic apologist.

The NOlympics Movement people know only one thing about the Olympics – they have cost too much in recent years. Most have never been to an Olympic Games, compared to my 14. Most have never read a book on the Olympics Games, such as Preuß’s book on Olympic Economics. My Olympic library comprises over 1,000 books, most of which I’ve read, and my CV notes that I have written 27 books on the Olympic Games, so the NOlympics people cannot begin to tell me they know more about the Olympics, or Olympic finance, than I do.

I believe the Olympic Games can be brought to fiscal responsibility but it will take some effort, changing some rules, and doing some things the IOC and the IFs will not like. In the past 30 years there have been fiscally responsible Olympic Games, in addition to Los Angeles 1984 – Atlanta 1996, Salt Lake 2002, and Sydney 2000, and Vancouver 2010 all finished either with a small profit or neutral revenues. So it can be done. And here is my summary of what I believe are the steps that should be done to make this happen on a regular basis:

  1. Set up a rota of Olympic sites that have the necessary facilities so that building venues and stadia are not a huge part of Olympic budgets, and what this mandates is that if you do not already have the facilities you can’t be on the rota.
  2. After the Games are awarded to the host city, have the IOC run the Organizing Committee on-site with their own team, rather than trusting OCOGs, who have no experience, to do it.
  3. Insist on infrastructure costs, or local capital projects, be taken out of Olympic accounting. If the city wants to build it, they can, but it should never be an Olympic cost. If we follow 1., hopefully these projects will not be needed to host the Olympics. If the IOC team is on-site running the OCOG, they should be able to see that this does not get added to their budget.
  4. The IOC needs to be in charge of how the events are held, and not the IFs, who always want the newest and best facilities, and contribute to the Olympic host city arms race that greatly increases budgets.
  5. Loosen up the IOC advertising rules by allowing corporations to advertise on site, which will immediately increase the possibility that such corporations will pay for the building of any facilities that are needed.
  6. Always use temporary stadia and facilities, if needed, and if they cannot be built and paid for by corporations, and always consider rotating these around to future Olympic sites.

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With thanx to David Fay, former executive director of the US Golf Association; Ben Fischer, writer at Sports Business Daily; Hilary Evans (@OlympicStatman); and Rich Perelman, former media director of the  Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee (LAOOC) and current publisher of The Sports Examiner. All four read pre-prints of this and made suggestions, many of which were included. All mistakes are mine.

Original version had an error that has been corrected and was spotted by Alan Abrahamson. It was Gilbert Felli, not Christophe Dubi, who spent a year in Rio on the IOC’s behalf.

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[1] All financial figures throughout will be in US dollars, not corrected for inflation. Similarly all financial figures for Olympic costs and profits/surpluses should be regarded as estimates. All such financial figures have been sourced from either Official Reports, Holger Preuß’s book on the economics of the Olympic Games (see later in article), or in the case of 1984 Los Angeles, direct information from Rich Perelman, who had a lead role in the LAOOC.

[2] Technically, McDonald’s and 7-Eleven were only sponsors, but all their sponsorships dollars were directed to the swim stadium and the velodrome, respectively, and they did receive naming rights (which could only be used after the Olympics). Information from Rich Perelman.

[3] Rich Perelman points out that even the TOP Program was strongly based on the LAOOC sponsorship program, designed by Ueberroth and Joel Rubinstein, who he notes does not get enough credit for his work on all this.

[4] Info kindly provided to me by Ben Fischer at Sports Business Daily – see https://www.google.com/search?q=Dan+Doctoroff+use+the+olympics&rlz=1C5CHFA_enUS703US703&oq=Dan+Doctoroff+use+the+olympics+&aqs=chrome..69i57.4375j0j9&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

[5] Can be found at this link – https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2804554.

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