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IOC president expresses thoughts on Jesse Owens’ gold medal auction

Nov 13, 2013, 10:28 AM EDT

Thomas Bach AP

That one of Jesse Owens‘ four gold medals earned at the 1936 Olympics is going up for auction is a “very difficult decision” to accept, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said.

“[It has] an importance far beyond the sporting achievements of Jesse Owens, which is part of world history,” Bach told The Associated Press at an anti-doping conference in South Africa on Wednesday. “To put this up for an auction is for me a very difficult decision [to accept].”

It’s been known since July that one of Owens’ medals would be auctioned off. The news picked up buzz in the last week with more reports as the auction got closer. It will be sold to the highest bidder Dec. 7.

The IOC will not intervene in the sale, according to the AP.

An official with SCP Auctions, which will reportedly begin the auction Nov. 20, said in August he expected the medal to bring in “several hundred thousand dollars.” Another SCP official said he expected more than $1 million last week.

“We think this is a seven-figure piece,” SCP auctions president David Kohler told ESPN.com. “We expect to see a good deal of international interest and could see some institutions bidding. This is so much bigger than a piece of sports memorabilia. It’s a piece of history.”

The company does not know if the medal is from the 100m, the 200m, the long jump or the 4×100m relay, all won by Owens at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

Owens triumphed in front of Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler.

The medal is “a part of world heritage,” Bach told the AP.

Owens gifted the medal to entertainer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson after the 1936 Olympics, according to “Mr. Bojangles: The Biography of Bill Robinson.” It was consigned by the family of Robinson’s widow, according to SCP Auctions. Robinson gave Owens tap-dancing lessons, according to “Jesse Owens: A Biography.”

“It shows some wear, some handling wear,” SCP Auctions managing director Dan Imler said three months ago. “I would say a moderate degree … but it still presents very well.”

In 2010, 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey player Mark Wells sold his gold medal from the “Miracle on Ice” team for $310,700. Mike Eruzione sold his hockey stick from the U.S.-Russia game and his jersey from the following game against Finland for $262,900 and $286,800, respectively, to a 9-year-old boy named Seven in February.

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