Female dorms in the Japanese Olympic Village: When the Fastest, Strongest, Most Athletic Women in the World Had to be “Protected”

The Women's Quarters in the Olympic Village, Tokyo, from the book,
The Women’s Quarters in the Olympic Village, Tokyo, from the book, “The Games of the XVIII Olympiad Tokyo 1964”

The men stayed in military barracks inside the Olympic Village. But the women were housed in a four-story building that was fenced off from the men, and according to one report, its borders demarcated with barbed wire.

The women actually had full rein of the grounds, so to one Olympian, it seemed like overkill. It’s a “bit pointless,” the coach of the women’s British gymnastics team, June Groom, told The Japan Times. “After all the girls can go anywhere they please and have access to the men’s quarters, but there you are.”

Ada Kok, a teenage swimmer on the Dutch national team, remembers being able to see people on the road, and thus was warned to watch out for peeping toms. “Our chaperones from our teams warned us to close the curtains when we were about to sleep.”

Apparently, the barriers weren’t so great that husbands and wives couldn’t connect. Discus thrower, Olga Connolly, was reported to assist her husband, hammer thrower, Hal Connolly, with his laundry. As the AP reported, Olga would wash and iron Hal’s wear, and then pass the clean clothes over the wire fence.

On the Friday before the Opening Ceremonies, the organizers offered the women in the female dorm the opportunity to learn origami, but apparently only 8 people attended this activity. “The girls apparently preferred co-existence with the males in the Olympic social meeting place, the International Club, to learning “origami”, the Japanese paper-fashioning art,” as was reported by UPI.

The International Club in the Olympic Village, Tokyo, from the book,
The International Club in the Olympic Village, Tokyo, from the book, “The Games of the XVIII Olympiad Tokyo 1964”

And in the end, where there’s a will, there’s a way. Sandra Bezic, who competed as a figure skater in the pairs competition in the 1972 Winter Games, was a teenager in Sapporo, Japan, and recalls that the men’s and women’s living quarters were separate.

“The men athletes weren’t allowed in the female quarters,” the Canadian figure skater told me. “But the bobsledders wanted to visit us. The Canadian men and women were all dressed the same way – red parkas and fur. There were three or four bobsledders who pretending to be girls, and they walked pass the guard waving and giggling, flirtng with the guard. These guys are big and heavy and they got themselves in our apartment!”

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