Bud Greenspan, the filmmaker whose documentaries often soared as triumphantly as the Olympic athletes he chronicled for more than 6 decades, died at his home in New York. He was 84.
He died Saturday from complications of Parkinson's disease, companion Nancy Beffa said.
Even as controversies over politics, performance-enhancing drugs and commercialism began vying for attention on the Olympic stage, Greenspan remained unapologetic about his focus on the most uplifting stories from the planet's most spectacular sporting event.
"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 1 percent that's negative. I've been criticized for seeing things through rose-colored glasses, but the percentages are with me," he said in an interview with ESPN.com nearly a decade ago.
He received lifetime achievement awards from the Directors Guild of America and the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, as well as a Peabody and the Olympic Order award. His best-known work was "The Olympiad," the culmination of 10 years of research, more than 3 million feet of rare, archived film, hundreds of interviews and visits to more than 30 countries. The 10-part series he produced was aired in more than 80 countries.
As a 21-year-old radio reporter, Greenspan filed his first Olympic story from a pay telephone booth at Wembley Stadium at the 1948 London Games. With his eyeglasses familiarly perched atop a bald dome, he cut a distinct figure at nearly every Summer and Winter Games afterward. His most recent work dealt with the rough cuts of films from the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games.
Greenspan's 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 he never lost his love for the smallest victories as well, citing a last-place finish by Tanzanian marathoner John Stephen Ahkwari at Mexico City in 1968 as his favorite Olympic moment.
"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 that ESPN.com interview. "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."
The International Olympic Committee described Greenspan as a "true supporter of the Olympic Games and their values throughout his career." In 1985, when Greenspan received the Olympic Order award, former IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch called him "the foremost producer, writer and director of Olympic films; more than that, he is an everlasting friend of the Olympic family."
The admiration was mutual. Greenspan acknowledged the problems that plagued the Olympic movement, but rarely lingered over them in his films.
"They're 2 weeks of love," he said about the games. "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. How many times are you with the best in the world in something? They bring things forward that they don't ordinarily do."