To understand Brundage is to realize why the Olympic Games may well go on long after the 'religion of Olympism' has become a mockery,"" writes Guttmann in the over-reaching, hyped-up preface here. But, if this biography/history hybrid fails in its sporadic attempts at psycho-social interpretation, it does provide generous chunks of Olympics background--while giving equal emphasis to the pros and cons of Brundage's Olympics philosophy. Son of a stonecutter, young Avery studied engineering but excelled most in sports. (""One need not be a believer in Freudian psychoanalysis to suspect that Brundage recognized in childhood that sports, especially individual sports like track and field, are a paradigm of objective achievement."") He lost to Jim Thorpe in the 1912 Olympics pentathlon; while succeeding in the construction business, he became increasingly involved in amateur-sports-sponsorship. As president of the American Olympic Committee in the 1930s, he battled for US participation at the Berlin Games of '36--an ugly battle that turned him ""into an anti-Semite"" but helped boost him to leadership of the International Olympic Committee. His ""fanatic"" commitment to the Olympic movement--not politics--was the decisive factor, too, in his 1940s isolationism (""the traumatic fear that a prolonged war might destroy forever"" the Games). And throughout, while recording Brundage's many rigid stands, Guttmann sees him primarily as an idealist, at worst a Don Quixote. Here, then, are the constant attempts to resist professionalism, commercialism, nationalism, politicization. Here, also, are the postwar wrangles with two Germanys, two Chinas, Soviet pressures, internal challenges, expanding Olympic grandeur (Brundage opposed it), new sports (ditto), the involvement of women (his opposition ""has been exaggerated""). As for the crisis over South African apartheid, Guttmann understands Brundage's purely a-political viewpoint--but ""he was utterly unsympathetic to the argument that sports are an implicit affirmation of the political and economic status quo."" And his ""games must go on"" speech after the Munich tragedy is presented in a generally noble light--though here, as elsewhere, a faint stab at psycho-biography falls fiat. (""TO have stopped the games would have been to have lest the dream."") Weak as interpretive life-history, then, especially when bringing in sketchy data about Brundage's illegitimate sons--but a well-researched source of back-room IOC history, sometimes numbingly detailed, sometimes firmly fascinating.