1964 Abebe Bikila Avery Brundage Basketball Billy Mills Bob Hayes Boycotts Closing Ceremonies Cold War Dawn Fraser Diving […]
Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future. – Nils Bohr, Nobel laureate in Physics
A good forecaster is not smarter than everyone else, he merely has his ignorance better organised. – Anonymous
In Sports Illustrated’s preview of the Tokyo Olympics, the editors offered their very specific predictions for gold, silver and bronze medalists for each of the Olympic events. Not only did they provide the names and orders of victors, they offered a bit of analysis for practically each event.
If we consider that this is 1964, when the only practical way to share information real time was the telephone, and shorter term by telegram, telex and snail mail. Using their considerable global connections at the time, they put together a pretty impressive set of predictions.
Let’s take a look at the 17 track and field events shown at the top of this post. Of that 17, SI identified the actual gold medalist 11 times, as you can see the green check mark I applied to an accurate prediction. In four events (indicated by a gray check mark), they didn’t identify the eventual gold medalist, although the one they picked made it to the medal podium.
In fact, on this particular page, SI got only the marathon and steeplechase gold medalist wrong. They picked Ron Clarke for gold in the 10,000 meters, who eventually took bronze. No one knew that a kid from Kansas named Billy Mills would come out of nowhere to take gold and become one of the darlings of the ’64 Games.
True, men’s athletics were dominated by the US and USSR, and the American press were very aware of the USSR stars, so maybe these selections weren’t huge gambles.
Still, I’d be happy with this success rate.
It is so hard to find footage of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, beyond a few newsreel samples and clippings from Kon Ichikawa’s documentary of the 1964 Olympiad. One of the few, great samplings of footage from the 1964 Olympics is a film produced by George and Lilian Merz, amateur filmmakers.
Not only do you get to see a few great events and athletes, you get a feel for the atmosphere in Tokyo and in the stadiums.
Part 1 of this breakdown of the Merz’s documentary focuses on the athletes and the competitions. Part 2 focuses on the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as things happening beyond the cut-throat world of high performance competition. The numbers below are the minute marks of the video where you can find what I am describing.
- 100-Meters Men’s: 8:51 – Watch Bob Hayes in the first semi-final heat of the 100-meter spring in lane 6. You can see Bob Hayes again at the 24:33 mark in this exciting 4X100 meter finals, with Hayes coming from behind to win gold for the US handily.
- 100-Meters Women’s: 14:17 – Wyomia Tyus wins 2nd heat of 100-meter sprint in a spirited race.
- 200-Meters Men’s: 15:50 – Here’s great film of the finals of 200 meter dash, American Henry Carr, pouring it on at the finish
- 400-Meters Women’s: 16:14 – At this mark, you can see Australian Betty Cuthbert beat Brit Ann Packer in the women’s 400 meters final
- 80-Meter Hurdles Women’s: 17:56 – Men and women run hurdles on a slick track. The Merz’s show footage of a Canadian woman being carried off the track. They call her “Miss Wengerson”, but I suspect it is someone named Marion Snider of Toronto, whom I wrote about here. The film returns to the women’s hurdles at the 20:44 mark.
- Women’s Pentathlon: 12:08 – Here is the 80-meter hurdles part of the pentathlon
- 400-meter Hurdles Men’s: 13:59 – Watch American Rex Cawley win in the 400-meter hurdle finals
- 800-Meter Women’s: 21:45 – Great footage again of the women’s 800 meters final, with Ann Packer taking gold, coming from behind to win.
- 1500-Meter Men’s: 23:27 – Here we can see double-gold-medalist, New Zealand’s Peter Snell, winning the men’s 1500, going from last to first. The race started in misty, low visibility conditions, but by the end of the race you can see Snell victorious by 10 meters.
- 3,000-Meter Steeplechase Men’s: 10:38 – Great footage of a 3k steeple chase heat
- 5,000-Meters Men’s: 18:31 – Great film of the rain and slick track that Bob Schul and other 5000 meter runners had to deal with, as well as Schul’s great streak at the end to win gold.
- 10,000-Meters Men’s: 6:30 – The Merz’s spend their greatest length of footage on the incredible 10,000 meter race, which Billy Mills won in a surprise finish. The film goes on to show IOC president, Avery Brundage, awarding Mills with his gold medal, kimono-clad medal bearers behind Brundage.
- 20K Walk Men’s: 10:14 Here is the start of the 20K walk, with the finish at the 11:37 mark, Brit Ken Matthews emerging victorious, whose victory hug of his wife captured the hearts of the Japanese.
- Pole Vault Men’s: 9:13 The Merz’s spend time watching pole vaulters warming up and practicing, with a bit of slo mo.
- Discus Throw Men’s: 11:18 – Here’s footage of the men’s discus competition, including US Olympic legend, Al Oerter.
- Triple Jump Men’s: 12:40 – Watch triple jumpers Labh Singh of India, and slo mo of Ira Davis of US
- Javelin Women’s: 13:30 – See a few throws in the women’s javelin
- Shot Put Men’s and Women’s: 15:11 – Footage of the men’s shot put finals, including gold medalist Dallas Long; with the women’s shot put at 21:19
- Shot Put Women’s: 19:48 – Day Five brought great weather, and the Merz starts with women’s discus throw. You can see the only American women’s shot putter, Olga Connolly, at the 20:19. For some reason, Merz calls Connolly Polish born, when actually she was born in Czechoslovakia.
- High Jump Men’s: 25:03 – Here’s footage of the men’s high jump competition, featuring Valery Brumel and John Thomas.
- Hammer Throw Men’s: 17:28 – Rain dominated Day Five, with rain hammering the fans as the hammer throwers slipped around their ring as they tossed their hammers
- Equestrian Jumping: 26:18 – Here’s something I hadn’t realized. One of the equestrian events were at the National Stadium, not at the venue in Karuizawa. The infield were set up for the complex set of jumps for the Grand Prix Jumping competition.
I’ve researched the 1964 Tokyo Olympics for four years. I published an original blog post everyday for over a thousand days straight in the course of my research. And I finally completed the manuscript of my book, “1964: The Greatest Year in the History of Japan – How the Tokyo Olympics Symbolized Japan’s Miraculous Rise From the Ashes.” Here are a few of the articles I wrote in 2018 relevant to those Games in 1964:
- Olympic Sprinter Rich Stebbins Part 2: Gold Medal, Social Studies, Middle School
- 1964 than Pole Vaulter Fred Hansen Part 1: Winning Gold on a Long Day’s Journey into Night
- Ralph Boston Leaps to Gold, Silver and Bronze Part 3: Under Dark Tokyo Clouds, Lynn Davies Sees Golden Linings, Boston Silver
- To All Olympians from October, 1964: Did You Get this Kokeshi Doll?
- Olympic Ransom and the Terror Attack of the ’64 Olympics that Never Was Part 3: The Hotel New Otani – Once the Tallest and the Flashiest in Japan
- Japan Rising from the Ashes Part 1: The Aftermath of the Bombing Raids on Japan at War’s End
- Japan Rising from the Ashes Part 3: Grave of the Fireflies
To spouses and sweethearts alike, a very happy Valentine’s Day from The Olympians!
Gymnast Nikolai Prodanov and javelin thrower Diana Yorgova of Bulgaria are the first Olympians to marry during the Olympics, tying the knot in the Olympic Village of the 1964 Tokyo Games.
Americans Hal (hammer) and Olga (discus) Connolly sneak a kiss through a fence that prevented men from gaining access to the women’s rooms in Tokyo. They famously met at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics when she was Olga Fikotova of Czechoslovakia, and they both took home gold.
Brit Ken Matthews, gold medalist of the 20K walk at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, gets a celebrated hug from his wife Sheila after his victory.
Double gold medalist (400m, 4x400m relay), Mike Larrabee, gets a lengthy kiss from his wife, Margaret. Larrabee of Team USA as you can see in the picture also placed the gold medal he had just won from his 400-meter finals around her neck.
Arguably the biggest power couple of the 1964 Olympiad were Team GB track stars Robbie Brightwell (silver medalist in 4×400 relay) and Ann Packer, seen here hugging after Packer’s gold medal win in the 800 meter finals at the 1964 Tokyo Olympiad.
Basil Heatley, who streaked to silver in the marathon at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, passed away on Saturday, August 3, 2019. He was 85.
The gold medal in that marathon went to Abebe Bikila, who simply outclassed the field of 78 to become the first to win two straight Olympic championships in the marathon. At the halfway point, Heatley was 12th, laboring in the high humidity of the Tokyo air and with a cramp in his rib cage. He thought his careful pace may have lost him the race, but he built up his speed and overtook his competition one by one, setting up a most dramatic Olympic marathon finish.
After Abebe finished in world record time in 2:12:12, the 70,000 spectators bubbled like water ready to boil over as Japanese Kokichi Tsuburaya entered the National Stadium. No Japanese had medaled in athletics and the crowd was anticipating a silver medal in this marquis event the day before the end of a very successful Olympics in Tokyo.
And yet, the unassuming Heatley entered the stadium and doused the flame, as I described in my book 1964: The Greatest Year in the History of Japan.
And yet, soon after Tsuburaya entered the stadium, so, too, did Heatley, only seconds behind. The Brit knew this was his chance. “Fifteen years of racing told me that, at that moment, an injection of pace was necessary, and possible, to overtake the runner in front of me,” he said. Just before the final curve of the stadium’s cinder track, Heatley turned on the jets and sprinted by his rival. For a battle that took over two hours and sixteen minutes, Tsuburaya lost his chance for silver by four seconds.
(Watch above video from 2 minute 12 second mark to see end of marathon.)
I never met Heatley face to face, nor talk with him, but I did have the honor to exchange emails with his wife Gill who transcribed Heatley’s answers for me. I learned that he was a reluctant marathoner, and the 1964 Olympics was only his sixth marathon ever. Heatley liked to run on the track, 1 milers to 6 milers, up to 10k, as well as 12k cross country races.
After winning the 1956 Midlands Marathon, his first ever marathon, he felt that marathons were not only punishing, they were cruel. “…when I looked round the dressing room and saw everyone in an awful state, I remember saying that if we were four-legged, the RSPCA (Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) would ban the Marathon.”
And yet, Heatley realized that he was not fast enough for the shorter distances if he wanted to compete at the Tokyo Olympics. He realized that he had the fortitude and discipline to excel at the marathon and focused his energy there. He told me that he would run to and from work, and compete in a race every Saturday, running some 100-120 miles per week, the equivalent of four to five marathons a week.
With qualification for the Tokyo Olympics on the line, Heatley entered the Polytechnic Marathon in June, 1964, and set the world record with a time of 2:13:55.
Despite his success, Heatley told me that he did not like the marathon. And yet, he felt his track experience was critical for his success in the 26-mile race.
I did not like the marathon. Perhaps I was more than a little scared of it. Especially after so many years of racing 1-6 miles. I think that my regime of fast road running was in fact better marathon training than it was for 10km on the track for which I was doing it. Looking back, I can see that Tsuburaya ran himself to a standstill. Had the race ben 25 miles he would have been second. Had it been 27 miles he maybe would not have finished, and for that I salute him.
Heatley was not one to boast or play to the crowd. He was famous for avoiding the press, and he told me that he got little satisfaction winning Olympic silver, and had no intent to run again in Mexico City as Tsuburaya famously promised.
Any feeling of elation was tempered by both my own tiredness and the knowledge that Bikila had beaten us all by over 4 minutes. On the medal stand I was confused. How do you celebrate a second place if you are so far behind the winner? I never wanted to go to run a distance race in Mexico City. Simply – altitude.
But he was proud to have represented Team GB in 1964, which he said was one of the best Olympic squads in his nation’s history.
“We had been a very successful team,” he said in the video interview below. “In 64, I still regard that we were the best British team to leave these shores.”
The novel, Olympic Ransom, (Orinpikku no Minoshirokin) by Hideo Okuda, weaves a story about the imagining of an attempted terrorist attack during the Opening Ceremony of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. (See previous two posts for details.)
Inspector Masao Ochiai is searching for clues regarding a series of small explosions in Tokyo. The start of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics is only weeks away, and the explosions are concerning to the authorities overseeing security of Tokyo and the Olympics, wondering if this is the start of something more sinister.
Tadashi Suga is the son of the head of security for the Tokyo Olympics, and since his red sports car was seen near one of the explosions, he was targeted as a potential witness. Ochiai tracks Suga down at the poolside of the Hotel New Otani, one of the most remarkable new structures on the flat landscape of Tokyo. In fact, in 1964, the Hotel New Otani was the tallest and flashiest building in Japan.
As Bruce Suttmeier wrote in his essay, Held Hostage to History: Okuda Hideo’s Olympic Ransom:
The Hotel New Otani was built in the run-up to the Tokyo Olympics, requested by the government in response to the perceived shortage of hotel space for visitors. As James Kirkup wrote after his visit to Japan in 1965, “From the monorail or the expressway, one’s first overall view of Tokyo is of a sprawling, squat city. There were no skyscrapers until the Hotel New Otani, with its revolving circular restaurant sixteen floors up, was opened just in time for the Olympics in September, 1964. Kirkup’s comments highlight that, until building height codes were lifted in 1963, all buildings in Tokyo were restricted to under thirty-one meters. The first major structure to exceed that limit was the Hotel New Otani at five times this limit – one hundred fifty-six meters (seventeen stories, the top floor housing the revolving restaurant.
The New Otani broke the mould, setting the precedence for taller buildings across Tokyo, as well as quickly becoming a photogenic symbol of Tokyo’s transformation to a city of the future. Watch the 1967 James Bond film, You Only Live Twice, and you’ll learn that SPECTRE’s headquarters in Japan was actually the New Otani.
Okuda wrote about the shiniest objects in the Tokyo landscape to create sharp contrast with the poorest parts of Japan. But he did so also to bring to life that feeling of optimism people in Tokyo felt at the time. He expresses this sense of marvel through the eyes of Suga and his girlfriend Midori, who wend their way through Tokyo in a red Honda S600, approaching the newly constructed elevated expressway that passes by the New Otani, as well as the Akasaka Prince Hotel.
Miyake Slope (Miyake-zaka) was up ahead, along with the newly finished elevated interchange. And perched high above was Metropolitan Expressway 4, like the Milky Way itself, sublimely stretching out across the sky. How beautiful were all these roads, winding in all directions. This is a city of the future, he thought.
The Akasaka Prince Hotel is no longer there – it has been replaced by a mixed-use office-hotel complex called Tokyo Garden Terrace Kioicho, where I work today. But the New Otani still stands, accompanied by taller companions developed over the decades, a legacy of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
Tickets for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics won’t go on sale until the Spring of 2019. But the ticket prices have been announced. And if you want to have one of the best views to the biggest global must-see event of 2020 – the Olympics opening ceremony – then you need to shell out 300,000 yen. But if you just want to take your family of 5 to witness a bit of Olympic history, like the marathon, then all you need is to pay 2,500 yen per person.
Based on the price list released by Tokyo 2020, here’s What’s Hot, and What’s Not for the Tokyo Summer Games:
- Opening Ceremony: JPY12,000 ~300,000
- Closing Ceremony: JPY12,000~220,000
- Track and Field: JPY3,000~130,000
- Swimming: JPY5,800~108,000
- Basketball: JPY3,000~108,000
What’s Not (or rather, What’s More Affordable)
- Modern Pentathlon: JPY2,500~4,000
- Shooting: JPY2,500~5,500
- Marathon: JPY2,500~6,000
- Weightlifting: JPY2,500~12,800
- Sailing: JPY3,000~5,500
- Taekwando: JPY3,000~9,500
Note that there will be affordable tickets at JPY3,000 for such “hot” sports as Track and Field and Basketball. But I imagine those tickets could move quickly.
Another note to note on the 2020 site: “Tickets prices as of 20 July, 2018. Prices may change based on the Games plan and competition schedule.”
It’s March 12, 2019.
It’s now 500 days to July 24, 2020, and the Opening Ceremonies of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics!
The National Stadium is taking shape.
Volunteers have raised their hands.
Tickets are close to going on sale.
In only 16 more months, the world will come to Japan for the XXXII Olympiad. Which made me wonder. What was it like on May 29, 1963 – when it was 500 days to go for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics? I took a look at The Japan Times for a week from May 23 to 31 to see what was top of mind in the press with 500 days to go.
First thing I noticed – no big deal was made that there were 500 days to go. But I also noticed that in addition to the significant progress on Olympic-related infrastructure, geo-political issues that were brewing in May, 1963, would come to a head 500 days later.
The facilities were taking shape: It was reported at a government meeting that “80% of the National Stadium, 20% of the track and field course, 25% of the boat course at Toda, 50% of the shooting range at Asaka, 50% of the sports center at Komazawa, and 75% of yacht harbor at Enoshima inland are completed.”
Indonesia’s Participation Under Threat: The IOC was scheduled to expel the National Organizing Committee of Indonesia, which would mean that Indonesian athletes would not be allowed to participate at the Tokyo Olympics. President Sukarno arrived in Tokyo unofficially before taking off for his planned trip to Europe, with hopes of improving the tone of Olympic discussions. This was part of an ongoing dispute over the politicization of sports, and it did not end well for Indonesia. As you can read here, the Indonesians could not get what they wanted, and boycotted the Games.
JFK Thanks Hayato Ikeda for Congratulating JFK: Prime Minister Hayato Ikeda received a cable of thanks from US President John F. Kennedy, for the prime minister’s message of congratulations on the successful orbiting of an American spaceship, Faith 7, which circled the earth 22 times in mid May, piloted by a single astronaut. During the Tokyo Olympics, the Soviet Union would surprisingly top that by sending the world’s first spaceship with a crew of three – the Voskhod – during the Olympic Games.
USSR, USA and Cuba: Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev threatened that things could get worse than the Cuban Missile crisis of the year before if the United States did not cease in interfering in Cuban affairs. Little did Khruschev know that he would be ousted from power a bit over 500 days later.
Nuclear Tests: The Japanese government decided in May of 1963 to cease its protests against American underground testing of nuclear explosives, after one such test took place in mid May in Nevada. The Japanese government finally realized that simply protesting the US government to change its behavior was not working. They didn’t realize that about 508 days later they would have to protest China’s decision to test its first atomic bomb, which they did on October 16, 1964, six days into the Tokyo Games.
I always avoid prophesying beforehand because it is much better to prophesy after the event has already taken place. – Winston Churchill
A good forecaster is not smarter than everyone else, he merely has his ignorance better organised. – Anonymous
In Sports Illustrated’s October 5, 1964 preview of the Tokyo Olympics, the editors stuck their necks out and picked the medalists.
As stated in Part 1, guessing US or USSR in track and field, particularly for the men, was probably not a bad bet. But here’s a few examples of why “you play the game,” as they say.
Discus thrower Al Oerter had already won gold at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics and 1969 Rome Olympics. There was no way he could keep that going, or so SI thought. Oerter, despite ripping his rib cage in Tokyo, he still sent his discus soaring the furthest for gold.
The sprinting heir-apparent to Wilma Rudolph in 1960, was Edith McGuire, a member of the famed Tennessee State University Tigerbelles. Clearly, SI hadn’t heard about Wyomia Tyus, who won the 100-meters championships and the crown of fastest woman in the world, but didn’t merit a listing in SI’s top three in that event.
SI didn’t have to stretch too much to pick Elvira Ozolina for gold in the women’s javelin. After all, the Lativan representing the USSR was the Rome Olympic champion as well as world record holder in 1964. But she did not win, and in fact finished an embarrassing (for her) fifth. However, she still got the press coverage for famously shaving her head bald after the competition.
And finally, SI can be forgiven for getting it wrong for the decathlon. After C. K. Yang’s heartbreaking loss to gold medalist, Rafer Johnson, at the 1960 Rome Olympics, the Ironman from Taiwan was expected to win gold in Tokyo and be crowned the greatest athlete in the world. But, as the great baseball manager, Casey Stengel, once said, “Never make predictions, especially about the future.”