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Olympic Documentarian and New York Native Bud Greenspan Dies

By DNAinfo Staff on December 26, 2010 5:56pm  | Updated on December 26, 2010 7:28pm

Bud Greenspan in 1980.
Bud Greenspan in 1980.
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AP Photo

By Jordan Heller

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

MANHATTAN — Bud Greenspan, the native New Yorker and famed documentarian of Olympic athletes, died on Sunday at the age of 84, according to several news reports.

Greenspan died at his home in New York City from complications related to Parkinson's disease, the Associated Press reported.

After getting his start at a sports radio station in New York City, Greenspan became a filmmaker in the 1950s and, in 1964, gained widespread acclaim with the documentary "Jesse Owens Returns to Berlin," which covered the Olympic icon's return to the site of his historic four gold-medal performance 28 years earlier.

Another notable Greenspan work was a documentary about a Tanzanian marathoner's last-place finish at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.

In an interview with ESPN.com, Greenspan recalled how John Stephen Ahkwari came in about an hour and a half after the winner.

"He was practically carrying his leg, it was so bloodied and bandaged. I asked him, 'Why did you keep going?' He said, 'You don't understand. My country did not send me [8,000 km] to start a race. They sent me to finish it.' That sent chills down my spine and I've always remembered it."

For Greenspan, the focus wasn't on who won, but rather on the mettle and character behind the performance.

Scott Blackmun, the CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee, issued a statement on Sunday.

"For more than six decades, Bud Greenspan has connected the Olympic movement to everyday people in ways the founders of the Games couldn't have imagined," Blackmun said.

"While the entire Olympic movement mourns the loss of a giant today, his stories will continue to live on, carrying his passion for the Olympic movement for years and years to come."