Jules Noel

he great long-distance runner, Emil Zátopek, drank a glass of beer after his tough training every day.

The first ever winner of the marathon, Spyridon Louis, was said to have made a pit stop at his uncle’s tavern for a glass of wine before winning gold at the 1896 Athens Olympics.

But discus thrower, Jules Noël, was a beneficiary of the US government’s decision to suspend the importation and imbibing of alcohol.

From 1920 to 1933, it was illegal to produce, import, transport and sell alcoholic beverages. This teetotaler era in the United States, known as Prohibition, happened to be in force during the 1932 Olympics hosted in Los Angeles, California.   But according to David Wallechinsky and Jaime Loucky in their book, The Book of Olympic Lists, “in the interests of international goodwill the US government suspended its prohibition against alcoholic beverages to allow French, Italian and other athletes to import and drink wine.”

Anti prohibition protest in New York City
Anti Prohibition Protest in New York City in 1932.

Frenchman, Noël, believed that “wine was an essential part of his diet,” according to sports-reference.com. Apparently, the world record holder and eventual gold medalist in the discus throw, John Anderson, led nearly the entire competition. But in the fourth and final round, after Anderson’s leading throw of 49.49 meters, Noël was reported to send a discus way past Andersen’s best throw at the time. But apparently, “the officials were watching the pole vault and did not see it land. Noël was given an extra throw but could not produce his top throw again and he would eventually place fourth.”

Before his mighty but unofficial throw, Noël was said to be “swigging champagne with his compatriots in the locker room between rounds at the discus event.”

True?

In vino veritas!

Tokyo Big Site in Odaiba
Tokyo Big Site in Odaiba

There were fears at one stage that costs of the Tokyo2020 Olympics would balloon to some USD30 billion, which would approach the USD40 billion that was spent on the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

While it is unlikely that cost estimates will drop to the initial budget of USD7.5 billion, the amount presented to the selection commission of the IOC at the bid presentation, the IOC and the organizers of Tokyo2020 are hoping to get the costs below USD 15 billion.

Currently, costs estimates for Tokyo2020 are JPY1.8 trillion or nearly USD16 billion. But there are always hidden costs, or at least costs not spoken about openly, like cost overruns. In this March 2017 article, The Japan Times cites Asahi Shimbun, which reported that “the original bid estimate for constructing new Olympic venues was ¥499 billion and that is now ¥680 billion. Transportation costs have increased from ¥23.3 billion to ¥140 billion, security from ¥20.5 billion to ¥160 billion and ‘software’ expenses from ¥257 billion to ¥520 billion.”

Currently, organizers intend to host the media and broadcasting center for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics at Tokyo Big Sight, which is a large convention center in the Odaiba waterfront district. To accommodate the Olympics, plans include closing off the convention center to all trade shows from April 2019 to November 2020. In a January, 2017 article, The Japan Times cites The Japan Exhibition Association, which claims that the shut down could translate to more than ¥1 trillion in lost sales and affect 1,000 companies associated with the exhibition industry, including booth decorators and logistics firms, if exhibitions are canceled or downsized.

It’s a “matter of life and death,” said Masato Suzuki, deputy general manager of Tokyo-based manufacturer Sanko Tsusho Co. Ltd.’s inspection equipment department. “We small and midsize firms don’t want the Olympics if it means canceling or scaling down exhibitions. It’s by far our most important business opportunity,” he said, adding that about 70 percent of his company’s sales are generated by clients established at the exhibitions.

In a May, 2017 article in Japan Today, it was reported that the city government may be losing a fight to get the national and regional governments to pick up part of the costs of refurbishing sports venues or building temporary sports venues in locales outside Tokyo. As an example of possible costs unanticipated by the organizers in Tokyo, the governor of Kanagawa is looking to add to the bill. Enoshima, the intended venue for sailing events, is a part of Kanagawa prefecture. Governor Yuji Kuroiwa believes his prefecture will have to compensate fishermen who will be prevented from fishing during the Olympic Games, and thus will lose revenue.

Very often, organizers cite the increase in tourism revenues for a city and country hosting the Olympics. But that argument is countered by economist, Andrew Zimbalist, in his book, Circus Maximus – The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup. He explained in his book that at big tent events like the Olympics or the World Cup, tourism actually falls.

Still another problem is that when a foreign soccer fan spends $100 at a Brazilian restaurant during the World Cup competition, it might not be a net gain for the Brazilian economy. This is because between June 12 and July 13, 2014, there may have been tens or hundreds of thousands of people (tourists or businesspeople) who would otherwise have traveled to Brazil but instead chose to avoid the congestion, tight security, and high prices during the World Cup and either went elsewhere or stayed home.

This plays out in real life: tourism in Beijing fell during the 2008 Summer Games, as it did in London during the 2012 Olympics. That is, even counting the athletes, the media, the administrators, and the Olympic tourists, the total number of visitors to these cities fell during the month of the Olympic Games. Further, some local residents may have the same impulse that foreigners have: they believe their city or country will be excessively crowded and expensive during the mega-event and that the period of the competition would be a good time to take a vacation outside the country. The amount of outbound tourism from China grew by 12 percent in 2008, the year China hosted the Summer Olympics.

Will the pride that comes with hosting a successful Olympics, and the legacy infrastructure of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics outweigh the hidden costs of running the biggest show on earth? That’s the debate that’s taking place as we head towards September 13 and the IOC meeting in Lima, Peru, when IOC members gather to decide on the fates of Paris and Los Angeles.

Paris_2024_Olympic_bid_logo.svg

It was 1921 and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) were gathered in Lausanne, Switzerland to vote on the host city of the 1924 Olympiad. Delegates from Amsterdam, Holland, as well as Rome, Italy were confident with its bid to host the 1924 Olympics. The founder of the modern Olympics, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, was 58 years old, and had overseen the birth and growth of the Olympic movement for over 30 years, and announced in Lausanne, he was ready to retire, and that he had a favor to ask of his fellow IOC members.

Would they be so kind as to select Paris, France, his hometown, to be the host of the 1924 Olympic Games?

The IOC members could not turn down the father of their movement, and thus Paris was selected as host of the 1924 Games, much to the chagrin of the delegates for Rome, who stormed out of the meeting. But the Dutch, who had bid for the 1912 Olympics, and ceded to Antwerp, Belgium in 1920, were also selected at this 1921 IOC meeting to host an Olympics, the next one in 1928.

Eventually, the IOC drew up a charter that states a host city must be selected 7 years in advance, probably assuming that changing economic or political conditions might result in regrets over a decision made so far in the future. Possibly they used the 1921 case as its benchmark. But nearly 100 years later, the IOC may need to look confidently into its crystal ball and decide yes, let’s select, both Paris and Los Angeles for the next two Summer Olympics.

On September 13, 2017, the IOC will meet in Lima, Peru to select the host city of the 2024 Summer Olympics among the two surviving candidates – Paris and Los Angeles. There has been speculation for months that they may also select the host city for 2028.

LA_2024_Olympic_Bid_Logo.svgBut which city should go first in 2024, and which city will take the longer-term plunge, agreeing to host 11 years later? Delegates from both bid committees are saying that they are only considering 2024. But from the IOC’s perspective, locking up two cities for the next two Olympics would be a relief as cities and nations are now commonly reluctant to bid for this biggest of big tent events.

Rich Perelman, who edits the insightful newsletter The Sports Examiner, recently posits a scenario for the upcoming selection prior to key IOC visits with the bidding committees in LA and Paris in May. Perelman believes that the IOC needs to reward Paris who has been active in hosting Olympic-spots events, and help turn the tide in Europe, which has seen major cities like Rome, Hamburg and Budapest drop bids due to weak support in their own countries.

Perelman explains that later may be better for LA. Even though Los Angeles has fantastic facilities ready to go, particularly an Olympic Village infrastructure that Paris does not currently have, the city of angels still has significant transportation infrastructure issues, among other things, that they could use the time to resolve.

So if one assumes that the members of the IOC vote to select Paris as host of the 2024 Olympics, then Perelman believes that the IOC, driven by president Thomas Bach, have to make a strong offer to Los Angeles to accept the rights to host in 2028. Such inducements would include start-up funding for four year from next year, say USD10 million a year, and perhaps early access to monies from television rights and sponsorships prior to 2022, which is when such payments would normally be made for a 2028 host city selected in 2021.

Interestingly, I have yet to see a scenario if the IOC vote to select Los Angeles as host in 2024. Would Paris agree to wait 11 years and host in 2028?

In 1921, Los Angeles also bid to host the 1924 Olympics, but failed. In 1923, the IOC met in Rome to decide on the host city of the 1932 Olympics, nine years later. The IOC selected Los Angeles. And the circumstances then may be similar to the circumstances today. The IOC had only one bid for 1932 – Los Angeles. If Paris wins the bid in September, the IOC may think they have only one bid for 2028 – Los Angeles. Will history repeat?

Posto da Torre
Posto da Torre in Brasilia, Brazil.

The Posto da Torre is a busy gas station in Brazil’s government seat of Brasilia. Before 2013, Posto da Torre (Tower Gas Station) was just one of many of gas stations in the capitol. After 2013, Posto da Torre became the symbol of corruption in Brazil.

A drug investigation by police into a money exchange shop located on the Posta da Torre property revealed that billions of dollars secretly skimmed from the accounts of Petrobras, Brazil’s state oil enterprise, as well as construction companies, were moved into the hands and accounts of Brazil’s most prominent politicians. In fact, over 100 of Brazil’s top politicians have been implicated in what is today called Operation Car Wash, known in Portuguese as Operação Lava Jato.

One of the more well-known names caught up in web of Operation Car Wash is former mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Eduardo Paes, whose name has appeared on lists of people receiving payments from construction companies, presumably related to the development projects for the 2016 Rio Olympics. According to this post from Inside the Games, Paes is alleged to have received over USD5 million from from engineering giant Odebrecht.

Paes, who ended his role as mayor at the end of 2016, has denied wrongdoing, calling allegations “absurd”.

Former Brazil President, Henrique Cardoso is also under investigation for taking bribes from Odebrecht, has spoken recently about Operation Car Wash and its significance. “Car Wash has played a very important role in Brazil because it lifted the lid, which was necessary. But that will not resolve things immediately. It is a process,” he said in this Reuters article. “How do you change a culture? With time and by setting a good example – there is no other way.”

An interesting aside: there is no car wash in Posto da Torre. As The New York Times cheekily point out, the closest this Brasilia gas stop has to a car wash is a laundromat. At any rate, it is money that gets washed, not cars. When politicians will come clean is anyone’s guess.

Citi Field 2
April 18, 2017 – great start, lousy finish at CitiField

I had never sat behind home plate in a baseball games. But I sat with my son about 10 rows back, staring straight down center field at Citi Field, home of the New York Mets. It was mid-April in Queens, which meant it was a chilly evening. But the Mets were holding onto a 2-1 lead late into the game…until they didn’t. A dropped pop up by Jose Reyes led to the tying run, extra evenings, and the Metsies’ eventual demise. But as they say, it’s a long season. And I got to spend a few fun hours with my son in a beautiful ballpark.

When I was growing up, Shea Stadium was where we worshipped at the Mets’ altar. When it opened up in 1964, it carried the aura of the 1964 World’s Fair – of a bright shiny future! But as Shea Stadium, located next to the tennis courts of the US Open in Flushing Meadows Park – just a short bike ride from my home – got into it’s 40s, and major league teams were opening new and 21st century ballparks, Shea was looking and feeling its age.

The ownership of both the New York Mets and New York Yankees had been lobbying the New York City government to build new stadiums for years, but the city government showed little interest in allocating tax dollars or tax breaks in the early 2000, when the economy was weak. That is, until Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s and Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff’s New York City bid for the 2012 Olympics bandwagon went off the tracks.

As explained in Part 2 “West Side Story”, the NYC2012 organizers were pinning their hopes on approval for an American football stadium for the New York Jets on the Hudson Yards, over the Long Island Railroad terminal in the southern part of Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan. This stadium would also have played hosts to the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2012 Olympics. When the New York State government, only one month prior to the International Olympic Committee’s selection of the host city, rejected approval for a New York Jets stadium, the organizers suddenly had to scramble.

Citi Field 1
Me at Citi Field

According to this detailed report by Mitchell L. Moss Director of the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management, the New York City government suddenly became very interested in building a baseball stadium in Queens for the New York Mets, announcing a plan to help finance the new stadium, which would also host the Olympics. In those hectic 72 hours of negotiation, the New York Mets agreed to build and pay for a new stadium next to their old stadium for USD600 million. The city would not only not charge for use of the city property, they would spend $180 million on infrastructure projects around the stadium, as well as offer tax-free bonds for construction costs.

Moss explains in the report that “had the IOC awarded the 2012 Games to New York, the stadium would have been converted into an 80,000 seat Olympic stadium for the Games at a cost of $100 million – paid by the City and the State – then converted back to its original baseball configuration.”

In other words, thanks to the New York City bid for the 2012 Olympics, and the failure of the Mayor to win approval of a new stadium in Manhattan for the 2012 Olympics, plans for a new stadium in Queens came to fruition.

Citi Field was born.

 

At the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, the Olympic Village was more than serviceable. It was an actual neighborhood.

The neighborhood was called Washington Heights, an American military compound designed to make American soldiers and their families feel like they never left America, as you can see in the video above. If you watch until the 1:18 minute mark, you’ll see Washington Heights before it was transferred from the US Government to the Japanese government for the purpose of being re-fashioned into an Olympic Village.

I got my hands on a booklet that was published by the Organizing Committee of the 1964 Olympics, called “XVIII Olympiad Official Bulletin No. 12”. This booklet, published in November 1963 to update officials on the progress of the organizing committee, featured pictures and blueprints of the dorm rooms in the Olympic Village.

Here are the descriptions from that bulletin with the images. If you’re an Olympian from 1964, let me know your memories of living in those former military family quarters.

There are two types of housing facilities: one is a ferro-concrete four-storied building of a dormitory type, and the other, an independent wooden house of one or two stories. The men’s quarters will consist of these two kinds of housing, while the quarters for women will be of the dormitory type especially prepared for the fair sex.

Ferro concrete four story dorm_XVIII Olympiad Bulletin No12
Ferro concrete four story dorm

Each floor of the dormitory is of the same plan and has 18 bedrooms and a common bath and toilet facilities. There will be a total of 69 bedrooms per building. A central heating system is provided, but the temperatures in October in Japan will not require its operation. The staircases and corridors are covered with asphalt tile, the walls with plaster, and the ceilings with sound-absorbing materials.

Each bedroom, 25.5 square meters in area, faces the corridor on one side and has windows on the other. Lockers will be prepared along one of the two blank walls, in addition to beds (three beds in a room on the average), desks chairs and boxes for small articles will be provided, in each bedroom. For comfortable living conditions, bedside lamps have been installed, and insect nets and curtains are attached to the windows.

There are nine types of independent housing units. One frame house is composed of one to four housing units of one or two types. The combination of such unites varies 50 different ways. A house may be of one to four unites of the same types and another house may be of two to four unites of two different types. Building may be of one storied, while the others may be two storied. Although the types of houses are quite varied, the interior décor is limited to only nine types.

One-story wooden house dorm_XVIII Olympiad Bulletin No12
One-story wooden house dorm

The outside of those houses is covered with cement mortar, and the roofs are tiled. A-1 Type house is the simplest; it is one-storied and has four bedrooms and a utility room. One of the two doors leads to the entrance hall and the other to the utility room. Eight persons will be accommodated in each house of this type.

In the larger two-storied B-1a Type house are four bedrooms, the rest being almost the same as in the A-1 Type. Nine athletes are to be provided with lodgings in this type of house. The wood floor is covered with a carpet, and the (board) walls are painted. The ceiling is covered with fibre board. These houses will be furnished in the same way as the dormitory rooms and wardrobe closets will be added, if necessary.

Each house has a gas hot furnace for heating, and the room for the chef de mission is equipped with a telephone. The utility room contains a gas heater and a sink.

Two-story wooden house dorm_XVIII Olympiad Bulletin No12
Two-story wooden house dorm

Kunalan, Tomizawa, Haque and Hamid
Canagasabai Kunalan, the writer, Anwarul Haque and Hamid Supaat at the Singapore Cricket Club
We gathered at the prestigious Singapore Cricket Club on May Day, and enjoyed fish and chips and beef Guinness pie reminiscing about 1964. I had the honor of having lunch with three Singaporean Olympians who went to the Tokyo Olympiad:

  • Canagasabai Kunalan, who held the fastest 100-meter time in Singapore for over 30 years, and competed under the Malaysian flag at the 1964 Olympics, as well as under the Singaporean flag in 1968,
  • Hamid Supaat, who competed in the grueling individual cycling road race in the chilly hills of Hachioji at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, as written about here, and
  • Anwarul Haque, who was a goalie on the 1964 Malaysian field hockey team, went on to become a lawyer, as well as serving eight years as president of the Singapore Cricket Club, where we ate and reminisced.

In 1964, Singapore was undergoing political upheaval, having gained independence from Britain in 1963, and joining a federation of states that became Malaysia. Previous to that, Singapore had been a colony since Stamford Raffles arrived on the tiny island in 1819 to claim it as a trading post for the East Indies Company and the British empire.

Before independence, Singapore was a bustling harbor town, its population growing quickly, but still relatively small at 1.5 to 1.8 million in the first half of the 1960s. So it’s quite understandable that in the sports history of Singapore, only 5 medals have been won by Singaporeans in the history of the Olympics, the first one – Singapore’s first silver – in 1960 and the last one – Singapore’s first gold – in 2016.

Tan Howe Liang wins silver at Rome
Tan Howe Liang wins silver at Rome
Tan Howe Liang migrated with his family from southern China to Singapore and at an amusement park saw an exhibition of weightlifters and was hooked. He joined a weightlifting club, and soon became internationally competitive, finishing ninth in the lightweight category at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, and then gaining confidence by winning gold at the 1958 Commonwealth Games, the 1958 Asian Games and the 1959 SEAP Games. In Rome, Howe Liang brought glory to Singapore with a silver medal in the lightweight category.

Lloyd Oscar Valberg

Even earlier, at the 1948 London Olympics, Singapore had a representative as a part of British crown colonies. His name was Lloyd Oscar Valberg, and he competed in the high jump as Singapore’s sole athlete in the first Olympics after the Second World War. Valberg came in 14th. But he set the Singapore record for the high jump at the age of 17, and is a symbol of how far Singapore has come. Valberg’s nephew was Colin Schooling, and his son saw his famous relative as a role model.

Inspired by his grand uncle, Joseph Schooling went on to take gold in the 100-meter butterfly in one of the most dramatic races at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Schooling beat a very strong field, including his childhood idol, Michael Phelps to win Singapore’s first gold medal.