Under the Black Flag

No More Girls in Bikinis

Just after the Berlin wall came down, I flew to Berlin with my German-Austrian wife and traveled around the city and its eastern parts.  On visiting the Olympic stadium I told the taxi driver that my uncle, a hurdler, was the first athlete the Führer’s gaze fell upon as the parade of the 1936 games began, because we Greeks always go in first, having started the games back in 776 b.c., and because my uncle was the flag carrier.  The taxi driver did not seem impressed in the least.

It might seem politically incorrect to say this, but the Berlin Olympics were the best ever staged, the last time white American and European men and women competed on an equal level with blacks, despite the great feat of Jesse Owens in winning four gold medals.  The first games after the war, the 1948 London Olympics, were a festival for pure amateurs, as were the Helsinki and Melbourne games that followed.  The best postwar Olympics were the Rome ones (1960).  Europe had rebounded from the catastrophe of World War II, and Germany had been invited to compete.  I remember them well.  The crown prince of Greece, now ex-King Constantine, won a gold in the dragon-class sailing in the bay of Naples.  Ari Onassis, the original Greek tycoon, came into the shower room where the prince was cleaning up after he and his crew had been dunked into the filthy waters of Naples—my father was crewing for him—and...

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