Academic journal article Proceedings: International Symposium for Olympic Research

'Almost the Last American Disciple of Pure Olympic Games Amateurism'-John J. Garland's Tenure on the International Olympic Committee, 1948-1968

Academic journal article Proceedings: International Symposium for Olympic Research

'Almost the Last American Disciple of Pure Olympic Games Amateurism'-John J. Garland's Tenure on the International Olympic Committee, 1948-1968

Article excerpt

During John Jewett Garland's two decades of service on the International Olympic Committee (IOC), voices on the European Continent and some grim-faced American Olympic leaders, warned Garland of the "awful dangers" of rapidly growing professionalism among some highly-skilled amateur athletes. J.J. Garland needed no such "warning." (1)

J.J. Garland's Adherence to the Concept of Idealized Olympic Amateurism

J.J.'s father, William May Garland, was already a very wealthy real estate business man in Southern California, when he and his teen-age son traveled to Antwerp, Belgium. Their mission was two-fold: to enjoy the 1920 post-war Olympic Games, and to accept an invitation to speak before IOC members and the president, Baron Pierre de Coubertin. The elder Garland proposed Los Angeles as an Olympic Games site for 1924, and if that was not possible, then 1928. So skillful was Garland's "sales-pitch", perfectly attuned to European aristocratic sensibilities of these IOC members, that rejection turned into victory. No, said Coubertin, your city may not host the games. Both 1924 and 1928 cities have been selected, but twelve years' hence, we look forward to Los Angeles. Not only that, but Coubertin and his most senior colleagues were eager to recruit W. M. Garland onto the IOC. American William Milligan Sloane, a charter member of Coubertin's 1894 committee, wrote future IOC president, Sigfrid Edstrom in 1921: "Garland is an almost perfect possibility, the foremost citizen of Southern California, deeply interested in our work. From Baron Pierre, he has already received the positive assurance of his election." (2) William Garland's absolutely triumphant 1932 Olympic Games resulted in a well-spring of research articles, contemporary journalist by-lines and nostalgic remembrances many years later, especially during the second Los Angeles Olympic Games in 1984. (3) Garland spoke to 105,000 spectators at these ... "his" 1932 Opening Ceremonies: "Let us pray that the victors in the Games may comport themselves in such a way as to lessen any sting of failure." (4)

Looking back with nostalgia, because he was there as a journalist fifty-eight years earlier, Al Stump wrote of W. M. Garland: "In the decades of the 1920's, Californians called him the 'indomitable leader' ... a man with a dream which could no more be defeated than the Coliseum Peristyle." (5) And on the eve of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, journalist Bill Shirley wrote of Garland: "He was more active in Los Angeles affairs than the mayor." (6) Ellen Galford called the "Tall, white-haired Billy Garland", "a living embodiment of the American 'can do' philosophy." (7) Dozens of newspapers, including the Europe an press, carried his obituary. His granddaughter, Gwendolyn Garland Babcock, wrote a 27 page chapter on "WMG" in her 170 page privately published. It was, of course, an essay of unvarnished admiration. (8)

John J. Garland (1902-1968), elected to the IOC in 1948, was the fourteenth American citizen on that committee, while his father, elected in 1922, was the ninth American. (9) During the life of this younger Garland, and during twenty years on the IOC, there was among certain American amateur sport leaders a palpable "fear and loathing" of athletic professionalism. Garland could not help but be influenced by these older men. William M. Garland traveled to Japan in 1938, in the capacity of an IOC observer of that country's worthiness to host a 1940 summer Olympic Games. The great Pierre de Coubertin died the year before and his friend of many years, from Los Angeles, said of the baron: his "genius" was to create a world-wide sporting competition for those athletes more interested in personal achievement and "for the glory", than for the money that they might make. (10) The younger Garland grew up in an American amateur sporting ambiance dominated by Avery Brundage (1887-1975), president of the USOC (1930-1953); member of the IOC (1936-1975), and its president from 1952-1972. …

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