Bud Greenspan used to call the Olympics “two weeks of love.” This is the first Olympics in 60 years that he will miss.
Greenspan, who died 19 months ago at 84, pretty much invented the Olympic film genre, Leni Riefenstahl (“Olympia,” 1938) notwithstanding. His body of film work, which included 10 “official” assignments as Olympic documentarian and countless unofficial, independent stints, stretch from the 1952 Summer Games to the 2010 Winter Games. His accomplishments are nothing short of, well, Olympian.
Greenspan’s favorite stories, which he exuberantly talked about in interviews through the years, were about marathon runner John Steven Akhwari of Tanzania and British distance runner Dave Moorcroft.
At the 1968 Mexico City Games, Akhwari finished last, more than an hour after the medal winners. When Greenspan asked him why he had continued running, Akhwari’s answer was: “My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race. My country sent me 5,000 miles to finish the race.”
At the 1984 Los Angeles Games, Moorcroft finished last in the 5,000 meters, nearly lapped by the medal winners. He told Greenspan why he kept running, despite illness and injury: “Once you quit, it’s easy to (quit) again. I did not want to set a precedent.”
Said Greenspan: “Sometimes the essence of the Olympic Games can be found in people who don’t stand on the victory podium.”