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

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Elvira Ozolina
Elvira Ozolina

She was the best, holding the world record in the women’s javelin throw from May 1960 to October 1964. Elvira Ozolina, the native Latvian who was representing the Soviet Union at the 1964 Olympics, was primed to repeat as Olympic champion in Tokyo, after taking gold in Rome in 1960.

However, you have to play the game as they say. And when the competition ensued, Romanian Mihaela Penes threw nearly 7 meters better than Ozolina to win the gold medal. Ozolina threw poorly, and the Rome Champion landed in fifth place.

Then the rumors began to swirl. The US wire services filled newspapers across the country with this story from AP.

Various headlines from AP news wire stories on Ozolina
Various headlines from AP news wire stories on Ozolina

“There’s a bald-headed beauty who speaks Russian roaming the Olympic Village today. And a new Olympic mystery is swirling around her. Less than 24 hours ago the girl had beautiful, shoulder-length chestnut hair. Then she walked into a Village beauty parlor and ordered it shaved off. She walked out 20 minutes later, tears streaming down her face and her head bald as a billiard ball.”

The press suspected that it was Ozolina, but the Russian officials and press so strongly denied the report that the mystery remained a mystery. In fact, Ozolina appeared in a press conference a few days later. The AP report, without directly saying so, hints that Ozolina was now wearing a wig, but Ozolina waved the idea off. When asked why she cut her hair off, she said “Cut my hair off? Take a good look at my head.”

So did she, or didn’t she? As they say, only her hairdresser knows for sure.

Hair Salon in Olympic Village, from the book
Hair Salon in Olympic Village, from the book “Tokyo Olympiad 1964_Kyodo News Agency”
Hiroshi Hase, wrestler and minister
Hiroshi Hase, Olympian, wrestler and Minster of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology

He was a teacher in classic Japanese literature. He was an Olympian, competing in Greco-Roman wrestling at the 1984 Olympiad in Los Angeles. He had a long and successful career as a pro wrestler, starting his career in Puerto Rico, Canada and the Soviet Union before becoming a star in Japan, particularly in his tag team performances with Kensuke Sasaki. Towards the end of a storied career in wrestling, Hiroshi Hase ( ) followed in the footsteps of his mentor, Antonio Inoki, by being elected into the Upper House of the Japanese Diet in 2005, as an independent in Ishikawa Prefecture.

Which brings us to today.

Today, Hase is the head of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. And in the Japanese bureaucracy, it is the sub-departments in this Ministry that make decisions regarding the Olympic Games. And Hase has already stated that he intends to push hard for the protection of the rights of the LGBT community in Japan, using the Olympics as a platform.

“Let me be clear on this: I believe sexual-minority students at elementary and junior high schools have been left out” to the extent that people around them, including teachers, friends and family, have little understanding of the issues they face, said Hiroshi Hase, a few days ago in this Japan Times article.

In another Japan Times article from 7 months ago, Hase was quoted as saying that the Sochi Olympics were a lesson for us all, hearing that many Western leaders did not attend the opening ceremonies due to the openly hostile attitude towards the LGBT community in Russia.

As a four-time Olympic host, Japan has the responsibility of calling for social change through sports, Hase said.

Is the bureaucracy in Japan ready for this? Skepticism reigns, but optimism can conquer.

Cartoon entitled "Onna no Manako: Aki no Yoru wa Nagai",, from the November 11, 1964 issue of Shinfujin
Cartoon entitled “Onna no Manako: Aki no Yoru wa Nagai”,, from the November 11, 1964 issue of Shinfujin

One of my purchases in Jimbocho, the center for old books and magazines in Tokyo, is a copy of a popular woman’s magazine, Shinfujin (新婦人). The term “shinfujin” or “new woman” was a phrase that grew out of a feminist movement in Japan in the early 20th century. As Wikipedia states, shinfujin “denoted women who wore fashionable Western dress, socialized with men in public, and chose their own romantic partners.”

Shinfujin, 11 November1964
Shinfujin, 11 November1964

This particular issue was published a month after the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games. In addition to a quick feature on the venues of the Olympic Games, it gives guidance on flower arrangement, fashion and the latest in stereo systems, for example. Towards the end of this issue is a striking cartoon about a single woman’s evening. It is surprisingly dark, with the illustration representing the start of the woman’s evening as the entrance into a snake’s mouth. A date turns into a leche, the train commute home is filled with gropers, and while she dreams of marriage, she cannot escape the nightmare of a snake.

The cartoon is drawn by someone called Inoue Yousuke, which is a man’s name. But I imagine the illustration still captured the unsaid thoughts of many women who read what appears to be a magazine targeting women of refinement.

Has Japan changed in 50 years?

Why does Japan today have train and subway cars that allow only women during rush hour?

womenonly

One of my go-to books for great images from the Tokyo Olympics is the coffee table to me, “Tokyo Olympiad 1964” published by the Kyodo News Agency. On one page, the book tells a wonderful story about the joy of victory through three fantastic pictures.

Ewa Klobukowska anchored a Polish women’s team that won gold in the 4 X 100 relay race, and set a world record time of 43.0 seconds, defeating the American and British teams that took silver and bronze respectively. Klobukowska, who also took bronze in the women’s 100 meter compeition, was so happy in victory that when requested by an official to return the baton, she didn’t want to give it back. I’ve provided the captions from the book below.

“Hannah, we’ve made it.” Poland’s anchor Eva Klobukowska (center) embraces Teresa Barbara Ciepla (extreme right), excited over the world record their team set in the Women’s 400 M Relay.
“Say, young lady, you can’t take it with you!”
“But I want to. I love this baton.” – Poland’s Eva Klobukowska.

“Eva, give it to me.” Poland’s Teresa Barbara Ciepla takes the baton past the official into the dugout.

Five years later,

AP, October 22, 1964
AP, October 22, 1964

“The shortest of shorts are being worn by British girls. And the tightest of sweaters appear to be worn by the women of Poland.” That’s how AP described the scene in October 22 as the 1964 Olympic Games were winding down and many of the athletes had finished their competitive pursuits.

The AMC series Mad Men have recently given us a chance to revisit the sexism of the 1960s, but it is still jarring to read in the wire clippings of the time how women were viewed by men, particularly American sports writers.

In an October 6 article, headlined “Olympic Beauty Standards Different From Any Other”, the AP writer explains “… to be brutally frank, after looking over the crop gathering for the Olympics which open Saturday, it must be reported that there are very few lady athletes whose faces will stop traffic.”

This writer goes on to explain the vocabulary used by him and his colleagues to describe women are, admittedly, hard to imagine seeing in today’s print press:

  • Attractive – Well, she must be a girl because the Russians say she is, and we can’t even get an agreement to inspect their nuclear bomb sites.
  • Pretty- Nobody has ever actually stepped on her face with a spiked shoe.
  • Lovely – She bathes after every race.
  • Gorgeous – She parked her truck outside.
  • Glamorous – She has had at last one permanent since spring.
  • Vivacious – She speaks English.
  • Shy – She doesn’t.

Somewhat relevant, here is a great video featuring Mad Men star, Christina Hendricks, showing how sexism exists in subtler ways today.

Bruce and Caitlyn_cover to coverI watched the 1976 Summer Games in Montreal. I remember watching Nadia Comaneci and her perfect 10s. I remember the Japanese gymnast (Shun Fujimoto) who helped his team to gold dismounting from the rings on a broken right knee. And I remember Bruce Jenner being crowned the World’s Greatest Athlete in the decathlon competition.

Bruce was the epitome of the all-American hero. He appeared countless times on Wheaties. (Who the heck eats Wheaties, I have no idea.) He was the 70’s platonic image of masculinity. For so many Americans, he was, The Man. And yet, as he told Sawyer in April, “Bruce – always telling a lie. He’s lived a lie his whole life about who he is. I can’t do that any longer.”

From 17 million viewers in a ground-breaking interview with Diane Sawyer to the cover of Vanity Fair, Bruce, now Caitlyn Jenner, has become the center of attention again, over 40 years later. As The New York Times reports, “…the physical copy of the (Vanity Fair) magazine with

wilma_rudolphWilma Rudolph was one of the biggest stars of the 1960 Summer Games in Rome, surprising the world by becoming the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field in a single Olympic Games. A member of the famed Tennessee State Tigerbelles, she talks in the October 1, 1964 article below of how important it was for the women’s team in Japan to handle the pressure. My understanding is that Rudolph was one of the most care-free athletes in Rome, taking naps right before competitions, seeming to run without a worry in the world.

And while her compatriots in women’s track did not equal Rudolph’s accomplishments in Rome, Wyomia Tyus took gold in the 100 meters,