swimming, water polo
1920, 1924, 1928, 1936
One of the few athletes to have won medals in two different sports (swimming and water polo), Blitz competed for Belgium in four Olympiads. At the 1920 Antwerp Olympics, Gerard won a silver medal in water polo and the bronze medal in the 100-meter backstroke (1:19.0). Four years later at the 1924 Paris Games, Blitz was a member of the Belgian water polo team when they captured the silver again. Gerard started every game and played an important role as the Belgians defeated Hungary (7-2) and Czechoslovakia (5-4) to reach the gold medal match. Although they lost to reigning champion France, 3-0, Belgium captured the silver medal by beating the U.S. twice, 2-1 and 2-1.
In 1928, Blitz appeared in his third Olympiad, although this time without his older brother Maurice Blitz, who had also played on Belgium's water polo teams in 1920 and 1924. While Maurice was on-hand as a referee (he officiated the gold medal game), Gerard and the Belgian team had lost some of their previous Olympic lustre. After defeating Ireland 11-0 in the first round, Belgium lost 5-3 to Germany, the eventual Olympic champion (Belgium had a 2-0 lead at halftime), and officially finished in sixth place.
After missing the 1932 Games (Belgium did not send a water polo team), Blitz returned to the Olympics once more, and won his third Olympic medal. At the 1936 Berlin Games, Belgium advanced to the finals and finished third to win the bronze medal in water polo after losing to Germany (1-4).
A member of the French Resistance during World War II, Blitz was asked by the Belgian government to provide transit camps for conscripts returning home. From this, Gerard came up with an idea of providing cheap holidays in the sunshine. In 1950, with the help of Gilbert Trigano, a newspaper journalist, survivor of the Holocaust, and fellow socialist, Blitz obtained surplus cots from the Belgian army and invited a few hundred friends to a beach on the Island of Mallorca. The non-profit-concern was called Club Mediterranee.
Blitz termed Club Med an 'antidote to civilization,' as he tried to do away with social barriers as much as possible. Initially, Blitz and Trigano catered to Europeans trying to escape postwar austerity, and Blitz wanted Europeans "of all classes" to have access to the sea. In the somber post-war atmosphere of Europe, they had a great concept: 'pay one price, everything included and we’ll entertain you.' To achieve an egalitarian environment, all meals and sports activities were included, and cash was discouraged.
On September 16, 1921, Blitz established a world record in the 400-meter backstroke with a time of 5:59.2 and continued to hold the world record for the next six years. In 1990, he was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame as a pioneer swimmer and water polo player.
Birth and Death Dates:
b. Aug. 1, 1901 - d. March 3, 1990
Use links below to navigate through the olympics section of Jews In Sports.
encyclopedia of JEWS in sports, by Bernard Postal, Jesse Silver, and Roy Silver (New York: Bloch Publishing Co., 1965)