One thing certain about the dates of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics: July 24 to August 9, 2020. It will be hot and muggy!
One less obvious thing recently occurred to me about the dates. The final week of the Tokyo Olympics falls on the 75th anniversaries of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Was it intended to bring attention to the worst days in Japanese history, during the proudest days of the nation’s history?
Of course it was. It’s impossible to imagine that no one in the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee or the IOC noticed that the closing ceremonies of the Olympics would take place on the day the second atomic bomb was dropped on Japan, thus expediting the eventual end of the war six days later.
On the contrary, the organizers must have thought that the final day of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics would be an opportunity to solemnly (and hopefully tastefully) implore the world that peace and love trump war and hate.
Such a closing ceremony would provide a poetic bookend to the opening ceremony of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Only 19 years removed from the end of WWW II, it was a 19-year-old student from Waseda University named Yoshinori Sakai who carried the sacred flame up the National Stadium’s steps to light the Olympic cauldron on October 10, 1964.
Sakai was born in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, the very day that the Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb called “Little Boy” on Sakai’s hometown.
Bob Hayes, a student at Florida A&M, was eating dinner in the university’s student union building when he heard that the campus police wanted to speak to him. When he found the police, they told him they were taking him to jail for robbery.
According to Hayes’ autobiography, Run, Bullet, Run, a friend named James Vickers said that he and Hayes had robbed a fellow student. Vickers held up a plastic gun and got what the student had: eleven cents and two sticks of gum. Hayes said he had no idea what the police were talking about, but he was carted off to the city jail, where Hayes stayed for 7 days without showering and changing clothes. With no money, no lawyer, no idea what to do, Hayes said he signed a confession and pleaded guilty in the hopes of getting out of jail.
When it was time for sentencing, Hayes’ coach, Jack Gaither made an appeal to the judge: “If you give me this boy for four years, I guarantee you he won’t get in trouble and he’ll make you proud of him.” Hayes was put on probation for ten years and had to report to a probation officer once a month. All that for eleven cents and two sticks of gum, taken with a plastic gun, by someone else.
Thanks to Gaither, Hayes had a fruitful college football career. He then went on to win two gold medals at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, be crowned the fastest man in the world, and win a Super Bowl with the Dallas Cowboys, the first of only two people to have reached such heights. Retired from sports, Hayes anticipated a trip to the NFL Hall of Fame, thanks to the way he revolutionized American football, stretching defenses with his speed. Bob Hayes was on top of the world. Until the police came calling again.
It was the middle of the night in March, 1978, when the police banged vigorously on Hayes’ door. The police arrested him for selling drugs, and carted him off to the local jail. A man named Denny Kelly, described as an airline pilot and an undercover policemen in the Dallas area, where Hayes was living, apparently befriended Hayes, and little by little would ask for drugs. Hayes wrote that first he provided Kelly with methaqualone (also known as Quaaludes), and connected Kelly to people who could sell him cocaine. Hayes introduced Kelly to another person who would end up selling Kelly cocaine. As conversations and video of Kelly and Hayes were recorded, including one at Hayes office at a computer company he was working at.
Two pills of Quaaludes, apparently “sold” to Kelly when Hayes borrowed ten dollars from Kelly to pay for gas, as well as five grams of cocaine sold by a person introduced by Hayes in a case that suspiciously looked like entrapment – this should have resulted in a light sentence, slap on the wrist perhaps – but this was a second offense. Because Hayes had a previous arrest record in the case where he allegedly stole 11 cents and two sticks of gum, his case could have gone to a jury trial where, if convicted, Hayes could have gone to prison for many years. Even though his teammates all testified that Hayes was not a drug dealer, they knew that the risk of Hayes going to a jury, one that could have been packed with whites, was too great, so they encouraged him to plead guilty with the hopes of getting off lightly.
Unfortunately, the judge sentenced Hayes to five years in prison. No longer the iconic #22 wide receiver, Hayes was inmate number 290973 of the Texas prison system. Here’s how he described his life in prison in his autobiography:
After living the good life – a nice house, and the best hotels when I traveled – I found myself in an eight-by-ten foot cell for several weeks of orientation and then in a dormitory with about a hundred other inmates, most of whom were fifteen or so years younger than me, using a public shower like I had with the Cowboys and eating in amess hall. We had to be counted four times a day to make sure that none of us was missing and a count could take as long as an hour if someone was unaccounted for.
Being in prison taught me a little more about the values of life. I saw the things I was missing and how I always took things for granted. You don’t really miss freedom until you don’t have any choice. Just being able to get a glass of milk or a Pepsi whenever I wanted one meant so much more to me after I got out.
Fortunately for Hayes, he did not serve five years. His case was overturned on appeal, and he was free. In today’s terms, it appears to be a tough punishment for someone who only introduced another person to a very persistent undercover cop, and did not technically sell anything to anyone. And yet, his time in prison followed him like a dark cloud. At the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, twenty years after Hayes’ triumphs in Tokyo, Hayes was shunned from the Games by the US Olympic Committee. And in this interview with Frank Gifford during ABC’s coverage of the Games, you can tell that Hayes is miffed at his treatment.
I’m in between jobs now. It has been very difficult for me. It very difficult to get someone to trust and believe in me now as a citizen because no one thinks of me in terms of my accomplishments. Just the drug conviction. Frank, I spent ten months in incarceration for a total of 700 dollars that I was indirectly involved in. I would love to get a good writer, like an Alex Haley, a director like a Norman Lear, and a TV network like an ABC, who can really get out there and show the American public what has happened to named athletes. Not only a named athlete but everyone. I want people to see what has happened. It has been a downhill situation. It’s very difficult to come out on top again when someone continues to kick you and stab you in the back, to redeem yourself.
When Hayes said he was on the stand, he had admitted: “I’m not the smartest guy in the world. If I was, I wouldn’t be up here. I’m guilty. I was wrong. I’ve paid the price in my image and my respect. People see me as Bob Hayes, dope dealer, not Bob Hayes, the citizen. It hurts.”
In his autobiography, Hayes went further: “My whole prison experience turned out to be a waste, a nightmare that never should have happened.”
When he passed away, the only man to win a gold medal and a Super Bowl ring, a man who disrupted NFL defenses with his speed and skill, was denied entry into the NFL Hall of Fame. Eventually, Hayes was inducted, albeit over 6 years after Hayes’ death. Thinking that he might eventually get in, he wrote a Thank You note that was read posthumously at the 2009 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony:
You know I am not sure I am going to be around if I get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame so you must read this for me, I am not sure, I guess I am feeling sorry for myself at this time but you must remember everything I want you to do and say. Mother said you would do what I want because you always did. So read this for me.
I would like to thank everyone who supported me to get into the NFL Hall of Fame, the Dallas Cowboys organization, all of my team mates and everyone who played for the Cowboys, (thank the San Francisco 49rs [sic] too). Thank the fans all around the country and the world, thank the committee who voted for me and also the ones who may did not vote for me, thank Mother and my family, thank Roger Stauback [sic] and tell all my teammates I love them dearly.
Thank the Pro Football Hall of Fame, all the NFL teams and players, Florida A&M University, thank everyone who went to Mathew [sic] Gilbert High School, thank everyone in Jacksonville and Florida and everyone especially on the East Side of Jacksonville. Thank everyone in the City of Dallas and in Texas and just thank everyone in the whole world.
He was born on Third Street on the east side of Jacksonville, Florida. People called it Hell’s Hole.
The youngest of four, Bob Hayes remembers growing up chopping firewood to keep the house warm, his mother working as a maid to keep the children fed and clothed, and a father that made little effort to recognize his son.
In his, at times, brutally honest autobiography, Run, Bullet, Run, Hayes writes of his father George Sanders, who had an affair with Mary Hayes, while her husband, Joseph Hayes, was fighting in World War II in the US Navy. When Joseph returned, he accepted the situation. But when Sanders, who also went off to fight in World War II, came back, he rarely recognized Bob Hayes as his son. When Sanders was asked if Bob was his son, he would reply, “That’s what his mother says.”
And yet, his father needed his son. Sanders ran a shoe shine parlor in Hell Hole, but that was not his main source of revenue. In fact, as Hayes explained in his book, the shoe shine shop was a front for a numbers racket, and a lucrative one at that. Bob was helping out by manning the shoeshine parlor in the afternoons.
When Bob Hayes was in high school, the football coaches all thought Hayes was a potential talent and wanted the young man to be groomed into a star. But Sanders refused, putting his business ahead of Hayes’ potential. In the end, the assistant football coach, Earl Kitchings, and Jimmy Thompson, the head coach of the football team, visited Sanders to plead their case. When told no, a prominent alumni in Hayes’ high school, Josh Baker, stepped in and said he would fill in at the store while Hayes attended afternoon practice. At that stage, Sanders relented, and Hayes started practicing with the high school football team. Baker went to work…but for only two days. By then, Sanders couldn’t be bothered, and Hayes began a hall of fame football career.
And yet, Hayes yearned for his father’s support. And in his first year as a football player in high school, Hayes did not get that many touches, carrying the ball only 9 times as the team’s backup halfback. But there was that one play, when he took the hand off in his own end zone and scrambled for a 99-yard touchdown. “That’s when my father finally claimed me as his son.”
As Hayes grew up, one could say, like father, like son.
His first sexual experience, at the age of twelve, as he describes in his autobiography, was with his father’s girlfriend, a woman named Edith who was fifteen years older. At the age of sixteen, Hayes got a girlfriend pregnant, who had an abortion as they both felt they were not ready to take that next step as a parent.
During and after his days as an NFL star, Hayes would provide Quaaludes to women in order to have his way. “You give a female a lude, and all she knows how to say to you is yes.”
By the time he got to college, Hayes had two daughters, whom he did not raise. In fact, he was surprised one time after his football career had ended to have a woman in her early twenties come up to him and say, “You’re my dad.”
Hayes wasn’t a great father, which he readily admitted. When he and his then wife, Janice, had his first legitimate son, Bob Jr., he flew to Jacksonville to see his father George Sanders. Sanders had been in poor health since returning from the War in the Pacific. But a few hours before Hayes made it to Jacksonville, his father passed away.
Hayes won two gold medals and a super bowl championship, one of only two people to do that. He had the right coaches at the right time which helped him develop into a tremendous athlete. And yet, he never had the right coach in the game of relationships.
In The Long Run – US 5000-Meter Olympic Gold Medalist Tokyo 1964 is an autobiography by the first and only American to win the 5,000 meter finals in an Olympics, Bob Schul. Co-written by Laura Rentz Krause, In the Long Run tells the story from his childhood growing up in West Milton, Ohio, to his torturous training sessions under legendary coach Mihaly Igloi in California, to meeting high expectations of victory in Tokyo.
Mary Mary – An Autobiography of an Olympic Champion is by British long jump champion, Mary Rand. She was definitely one of the brightest stars at the 1964 Olympics. While expected to win gold in Rome, but didn’t, Rand redeemed herself in Tokyo, not only breaking the world record and winning gold in the long jump, but also taking silver in the pentathlon and bronze in the 4×100-meter women’s relay. An electrifying presence in person, Rand’s charm oozes through the pages as well.
Run, Bullet, Run: The Rise, Fall, and Recovery of Bob Hayes is the incredible story of the career of Bob Hayes, one of only two people to win both a gold medal and a Super Bowl championship. Co-written with Robert Pack, Run, Bullet, Run is the story of a young black American whose rise to Olympic gold and stardom as a Dallas Cowboys wide receiver was as stunning as his fall due to drugs and alcohol.
Wokini: A Lakota Journey to Happiness and Self-Understanding is by Billy Mills and co-written by novelist, Nicholas Sparks. Mills was one of the biggest stories of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Unlike Schul, who was pre-determined by the press to win the 5,000 meters, Mills was practically unapproached by the press, who hardly knew him. Mills went on to win the 10,000 meter finals in Tokyo in an incredible come-from-behind victory, inspiring Team America and millions around the world. Mills has gone on to great works in helping young Native American Indians in the United States, and wrote this inspirational parable of self discovery, Wokini.
I have searched far and wide for books in English about the 1964 Olympics, and have built a good collection of books by Olympians who competed in the Tokyo Olympiad.
My conclusion? Runners like to write! Of the 15 books written by ’64 Olympians I have purchased, 8 are by sprinting and distance track legends. But judoka and swimmers also applied their competitive focus to writing.
So if you are looking for inspiration in the words of the Olympians from the XVIII Olympiad, here is the ultimate reading list (in alphabetical order):
The Amendment Killer, is the sole novel in this list, a political thriller by Ron Barak, to be published in November of 2017. Barak was a member of the American men’s gymnastics team, who parlayed a law degree into a successful consulting business, as well as a side career as budding novelist.
Deep Water, is an autobiography of the most decorated athlete of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, Don Schollander, who won four gold medals as the most dominant member of the dominant US men’s swimming team. Co-written with Duke Savage, Schollander writes intelligently of his craft, the technique and the psychological, finding a way for a swimmer strong in the middle distances, to sneak into victory in the 100-meter sprint.
Golden Girl is by one of Australia’s greatest track stars, Betty Cuthbert, whose life path from track prodigy in Melbourne, to washed-up and injured in Rome, to unexpected triumph in Tokyo is told compellingly in her autobiography.
See the remaining book list in my next post, Part 2.
Australian track legend, Betty Cuthbert, passed away at the age of 79. Known as the Golden Girl in Australia, the woman from Merrylands, New South Wales won gold in the 100-meter, 200-meter and 400-meter sprints, covering the 1956 Melbourne Olympics and the 1964 Olympics.
In fact, Cuthbert is the only athlete, male or female to ever win those three sprint finals in the Olympics. Her four gold medals as an Australian, including a 4×100 relay victory in her momentous Melbourne Games has been surpassed only by super swimmer Ian Thorpe’s five golds. Cuthbert had struggled with multiple sclerosis for decades, died on Sunday, August 6, 2017.
See my four-part series on Cuthbert’s fantastic career below:
The Olympics left behind a new subway line extension, high-speed bus service and an urban jewel: a renovated port area filled with food stands, musicians and safe street life in a city rife with crime. These probably would not have been built without the prestige of the Olympics. But the games also imposed deadlines and drove up the price. A state auditor’s report said the $3-billion subway was overbilled by 25 per cent.
But generally, the bad according to that article outweighed the good.
The Olympics left a half-dozen vacant sports arenas in the Olympic Park and 3,600 empty apartments in the boarded-up Olympic Village. Deodoro, a major complex of venues in the impoverished north, is shuttered behind iron gates.
A $20-million golf course is struggling to find players and financing. A few dozen were on the course on a recent, sunny Saturday. The clubhouse is mostly unfurnished, and it costs non-Brazilians 560 reals ($180) for 18 holes and a cart.
Since the Olympics, the bankrupt state of Rio de Janeiro has ceased major efforts to clean the bay, its unwelcome stench often drifting along the highway from the international airport. “I think it’s gotten worse,” Brazil’s gold-medal sailor Kahena Kunze said in a recent interview. “There was always floating trash, but I see more and more. It’s no use hiding the trash because it comes back. I figured it would get worse because I haven’t seen anything concrete being done.”
Some of the politicians behind the Olympics have been accused of graft, and organizers still owe creditors about $30 million to 40 million. Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who wept when Rio was awarded the games, was convicted last month on corruption charges and faces a 9 1/2-year prison term. He is appealing. Former Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes , the local moving force behind the Olympics, is being investigated for allegedly accepting at least 15 million reals ($5 million) in payments to facilitate construction projects tied to the games. He denies wrongdoing.
The Rio Olympic organizers are still struggling under the weight of an approximate USD40 million debt. When the organizers appealed to the IOC for relief, the IOC replied no, saying “it had already contributed a record $1.53 billion to the Rio Olympics.
Fortunately, the Brazilian government was able to find more sympathetic ears in the British government. It was announced on August 1, 2017 that the British government would donate GBP80 million (over USD100 million) to Brazil, the ninth largest economy, to help “reduce poverty and fund economic development.”
Of course, it’s not all bad news.
At least Ryan Lochte, the American swimmer who lied about being robbed at gunpoint at a Rio gas station, was actually cleared last month of charges that he falsely communicated a crime to authorities.
It was September 19, 1965 at the Cotton Bowl in Texas. The Dallas Cowboys opened up their season at home against the 1964 title game runners up, The New York Giants. Over 59,000 fans came out to watch their ‘boys, and it also happened to be the debut of the two Tokyo Olympians, and arguably two of the fastest men in the world: Cowboy receiver Bob Hayes, the 100-meter gold medalist and Giant defensive back Henry Carr, the 200-meter gold medalist.
As Hayes told the story in his autobiography, Run, Bullet, Run, the Cowboy were up 24-2 on the Giants. The Cowboys had the ball, second and 4 from the Giants 45 (in other words, 45 yards from the end zone and a touchdown). Dallas quarterback, Don Meredith, tossed a somewhat wobbly ball into the right flat that Hayes caught. He waited for his blockers, spied an opening, and headed for the goal line.
Carr and his teammate Jim Patton had a bead on Hayes and converged on the Bullet at the 25 yard line, “but when they reached that point, I was already 5 yards past them. “I’ve never seen this in the NFL, where defensive backs judge the angle and then get there and are lost, “Dallas head coach Tom Landry said.
Remarking on the same play, Cowboys’ personnel director Gil Brandt said something similar – “The guy changed pro football.”
As they say, speed kills. According to this video, #2 Bob Hayes Top Ten Fastest Players (in the NFL), Hayes was revolutionary. His speed stretched the field like no one had done before. Man to man was the de rigeur defense, but coaches had to develop new zone schemes to contain the Bullet.
According to Dallas quarterback, Roger Staubach, who played with Hayes in the latter half of the Bullet’s career, ” He got these guys from man-to-man, they played a lot more zone, and I think he was kind of a game changer.” Remember, this was the age when defenders could do almost anything they wanted to a wide receiver short of armed robbery. So to create space, Hayes made the quick screen a thing of beauty.
Watch his highlights in this video:
Over 11 seasons and 132 games, the double gold medalist and running back from Florida A&M, caught 371 passes, 71 for touchdowns, and in the 1970 and 1971 seasons, averaged 26.1 and 24 yards per catch respectively.
“He wasn’t just a guy with great speed, he had very good hands, and I wish I could have played with him longer,” Staubach said. “I don’t know of any other world class sprinter who can take that speed and transform it into football. Because speed is really, really a great asset, but there’s still more to it, and Bob had that world class speed and he played enough football where he knew how to run routes.”
The Sneaker Wars were in full force at Mexico City, where cash was handed out to athletes in exchange for wearing Adidas or Pumas. This quid pro quo was a considerably open secret in 1968.
But in 1964, getting cash for wearing sneakers was only for the privileged few. Bob Hayes, soon-to-be-crowned “fastest man in the world”, was one of the privileged few. In fact, in his autobiography, Run, Bullet, Run, Hayes admitted that he had taken some $40,000 in under-the-table payments in his “amateur” track career.
Since knowledge of these payments would jeopardize Hayes’ amateur status, and thus his eligibility for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, he could not openly flaunt his cash, or make expensive purchases. And while Hayes could have paid for a trip to Japan for his mother, Mary, so that she could watch her son win a gold medal, he didn’t, to avoid any inconvenient questioning. So he was grateful that his community of Jacksonville took up a money drive to pay for his mother’s trip to Japan.
The last person to be crowned “fastest man in the world” at the Olympics was Armin Hary. Hary was German and thus was the first non-American since 1932 to win Olympic gold in the 100 meters. Hary had retired from track and was working for Puma during the Tokyo Olympics. His job was to convince Hayes to wear Puma cleats in his 100-meter races. Here’s how Hayes’ describes their exchange in Tokyo:
“You’ve come to the right place, Bobby. Run in my shoe, and I’ll make it worth your while.”
“What do you mean, Armin?”
”I’ll pay you two thousand dollars in American money to wear Puma when you run.”
“Even if I lose?”
“There’s no way you’re going to lose, Bobby. I’m not sorry I’m hurt, so I won’t have to run against you. Nobody can beat the great Bob Hayes.”
“Thank you, Armin. Let me think it over.”
The story of Puma is intertwined with the story of Adidas – the two companies headed by brothers: Adolph and Rudolph Dassler. And the rivalry between the two brothers, and thus the two companies, was famously fierce.
Adolph Dassler’s son, Horst, was in Tokyo as well, hoping to ensure Hayes wore Adidas track shoes. And when he learned that Hayes had already talked with Hary and Puma, Horst immediately put in his bid, telling Hayes that $2,000 was an insult. Horst offered $3,000. And for the next few days, Armin Hary and Horst Dassler upped the bids.
Hayes knew he was in a bidding war, and started making suggestions himself: tailor-made handmade silk suits, and cash for the women’s 4×100 relay team. In the end, Adidas had a bottomless wallet. Hayes received $7,800 in cash and another $1,100 to buy 11 suits, as well as $400 for each of the women on the relay team.
“All that was for wearing the shoes I had been planning to run in all along,” wrote Hayes.
On top of the two gold medals, the nearly 10k in cash and kind, Hayes’ mother made out like a bandit.
“She came back to the United States loaded down with televisions, watches, and all sorts of clothing that people gave her in Tokyo. When her son won the gold medal, my mother became the first lady of track and field.”
On August 5, 2016, all eyes were on Rio de Janeiro.
Despite all the doomsayers’ diatribes about political corruption, the fears of the zika virus, the filth of Guanabara Bay, and the anemia of the Brazilian economy, the Games went on. And the Games were great!
In the moving opening ceremony, the famed Brazilian love for music and dance were on display. Super model Gisele Bundchen strolled across the field to the tune of The Girl from Ipanema. The honor of lighting the Olympic cauldron was given unexpectedly to Athens marathoner Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima, whose 2004 Olympic marathon was bizarrely interrupted by a defrocked Irish priest. And the cauldron de Lima lit was stunning, the fire’s light reflected magnificently in a shining, swirling structure of metal places and balls, creating a spectacular golden vision of the sun.