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Olympic filmmaker Bud Greenspan dead

world Updated: Dec 26, 2010 23:00 IST
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Bud Greenspan, the filmmaker whose documentaries often soared as triumphantly as the Olympic athletes he chronicled for more than six decades, died at his home in New York City. He was 84.

He died on Saturday from complications of Parkinson's disease, companion Nancy Beffa said. Greenspan's most recent work dealt with the rough cuts of films from the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games.

The award-winning filmmaker unapologetically focused on both the large and small successes of the athletes in the Summer and Winter Games. His career took off with a film he made in 1964 about Olympian Jesse Owens returning to the scene of his gold-medal achievements in Berlin some 30 years earlier. But Greenspan never lost his love for the smallest victories as well.

His favorite Olympic moment remained a last-place finish by Tanzanian marathoner John Stephen Ahkwari at Mexico City in 1968. "He came in about an hour and a half after the winner. He was practically carrying his leg, it was so bloodied and bandaged," Greenspan recalled in an interview with ESPN.com nearly a decade ago. "I asked him, 'Why did you keep going?' He said, 'You don't understand. My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start a race, they sent me to finish it.' That sent chills down my spine and I've always remembered it."

Greenspan described the Olympics as "two weeks of love. It's Like Never Never Land. Like Robin Hood shooting his arrow through the other guy's arrow.

"It's a privilege to be associated with the best in the world," he said in that interview. "How many times are you with the best in the world in something? They bring things forward that they don't ordinarily do.

"I spend my time on about the 99 percent of what's good about the Olympics and most people spend 100 percent of their time on the one percent that's negative. I've been criticized for seeing things through rose-colored glasses, but the percentages are with me." The International Olympic Committee described Greenspan as a "true supporter of the Olympic Games and their values throughout his career."

Greenspan, a native New Yorker, cut a distinct figure with his eyeglasses perched atop a bald dome. He got his start in radio before turning to film.