As the Rio Olympics loom large on the horizon, there is good news and bad as far as David Wallechinsky, that doyen of Olympic observers, is concerned: he will be in Brazil to cover his 17th Games BUT there will be no fresh and updated edition of his sporting set text, The Complete Book of the Olympics, which has proved an unrivalled companion to the Games for so many thousands of sports followers since it first appeared in 1984.
Those summer Games, of course, took place in Wallechinsky’s own neck of the woods, California, and the depth, range and killer detail of his first book - which was soon accompanied by The Complete Book of the Winter Olympics - has been lovingly, and belovedly, extended and amplified every four years.
As I write this I am gazing at my old friend the 2004 edition, its spine creased, its pages thumbed after more than a decade of manipulation in search of instant expertise. Cheers David!
The reasons for this unhappy cessation have just been explained to me by the author in a call taken at his home in Santa Monica, where, as we speak, the removal men are busy in the background. It’s all change for Wallechinsky and family - and all change for a landmark Olympic text.
“Unfortunately, a new edition will not be published this year,” said Wallechinsky, who will be in Rio as a commentator for Westwood One/NBC Radio.
“There are two major reasons. The first, ironically, is that I have become so involved in other aspects of promoting an appreciation for Olympic history.
“The second reason is that the book is no longer cost-effective.
“It comes down to the fact that there is no money in it for me, because it takes such a lot of time, and I don’t do things halfway, and there are so many other things in my life.”
The first category includes being President of the International Society of Olympic Historians and a member of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Commission on Culture and Olympic Heritage, as well as the Content Committee of the US Olympic Museum.
He is also an “active proponent” of a project to produce an online Olympic Encyclopedia and has been working on another IOC project involving video interviews with Olympians aged 75 or over.
In other fields of enterprise, as the founder of AllGov.com, he provides up-to-date news about more than 340 departments and agencies of the United States Government, detailing not just what it says it does, but what it actually does, and who is making a profit from it.
“All of these activities, combined with my other projects, such as AllGov.com, have left me little time to work on my book,” he said.
“I made a start on the London 2012 stories, I did archery, badminton, boxing, canoeing, and then I stopped.
“Also, let's face it, had I published a book this year, the 98 plus new doping positives would have rendered it already out-of-date.
“For a while now my son has been pestering me to do an app - the advantage is obvious. If 98 people test positive for drugs on the eve of a Games you can fix it right away rather than having to wait another four years!”
Wallechinsky originally held out hopes that he might be able to produce a fuller version which could be "available online before the Tokyo 2020 Games".
On reflection, however, he added: “I was thinking to myself recently, what would it take to get this ready for Tokyo 2020 in the way I want it done?
“I would have to finish all the London 2012 stories, and then add in the Rio 2016 stories, where you are talking about more than 600 events.
“I would probably need to work on it for at least one or two hours every single day."
Wallechinsky added: “For the moment I don’t need to make a decision, but maybe in future I should just do the Winter Games book as it is a much easier project involving 85 events.
“But if I start working on the next Winter Games book, what about the Sochi Games doping?
“I feel that what is going to happen after the Rio Games are over is the McLaren Committee are going to go deeper into the Russian doping they uncovered, a lot of Russian athletes from Sochi 2014 are going to have their samples re-tested and found positive…
“In a way, what is the point in my writing about this until it is all settled? It’s frustrating.”
What is particularly frustrating for an author whose body of work includes other international bestsellers such as The People's Almanac, The Book of Lists and The Intimate Sex Lives of Famous People is that he is coming up against logistical and political barriers to fresh sporting imprints at a time when he acknowledges it is becoming increasingly easy to source and verify the kind of obscure facts upon which his interest has so unerringly settled in the course of the past 30 years.
“You get so many positive things now that the internet has finally become a good source for some of the old stories, because I love to update and expand all the old stories where possible," he said.
“What you find now is that if there is a town or a village which has had, for example, a past Olympic medallist in 1908, they will now have set up a dedicated website where you can access information that you would never previously have had available to you.
“So it is a great opportunity to improve some of the older stories. And there are always great new stories around. Already there are some great stories around for the Rio Games.
“There is the Belgian taekwondo competitor whose brother was one of the suicide bombers in Brussels. That is a powerful story of a family trying to continue with their lives after something terrible has happened.
“There is the story of the mother and son who will be competing together for Georgia in the shooting event in Rio.
“And there is the story of the Olympic refugees team.”
Sadly, the current crisis over doping within the Olympic Movement is undermining Wallechinsky’s desire to maintain his sporting landmark.
He had to take on board a similarly huge doping story back in the early days of his Olympic books as details of the state-run system which had operated in East Germany for quarter of a century began to emerge once the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 and secret police [Stasi] files were seized and publicised.
“That was similar to what we have now, but I wrote about it all afterwards, and no medals were taken away, so it was kind of a different story,” he said.
“In a strange way I am encouraged by the current crisis, because it means that problems are being addressed.
“But it is a terrible situation, and I feel somewhat disappointed that the crackdown hasn’t been harsh enough on Russia. Because what Russia has done is outrageous, absolutely outrageous.
“What happened has clearly come from the very top of the Government - and there is a sense of being impervious, of being too big to fail…”