The high school girl in Japan is as iconic an image of Japanese popular culture as the ninja, Mt Fuji and Hello Kitty.

For whatever pop psychology reason you want to imagine, the teenage girl in a uniform, particularly those that echo the naval uniforms of Europe in the 19th century, is a constant in Japan’s mainstream (and not so mainstream) culture. More interestingly, the fighting high school girl is a uniquely popular phenomenon in Japan – case in point, the iconic characters of Sukeban Deka and Sailor Moon.

1989 High School Sumo Kanazawa Tournament
1989 High School Sumo Kanazawa Tournament

In promotion of the 101st High School Sumo Kanazawa Tournament, to be held on Sunday, May 21, 2017, a video called “Sumo Girls Eighty Two Techniques” was released. The Japan pop culture site, SoraNews24, provides details on these 82 techniques.

Most people, however, are likely more interested in the visuals.

 

Sumo Girls 2

Sumo Girls 1

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.

Paula Radcliffe's world record setting marathon time
Paula Radcliffe’s world record setting marathon time

When Bob Beamon set the world record in the long jump at the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games, his victory was so dominating that the record held for nearly 23 years. Perhaps as amazing, when Mike Powell finally broke Beamon’s mark, Powell’s world record has held even longer – now over 25 years.

The European Athletics Association (EAA), the governing body for athletics throughout Europe, are making recommendations to bring greater integrity to historical track and field records that could result in the erasure of Powell’s records from the books. As far as I can gather, the EAA is assuming that standards for doping tests were not robust enough in the 1990s, and thus it is possible to assume that existing records from that time are suspect.

To that end, the EAA is proposing to the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) to adopt the following standards for athletics records, according to The Sports Examiner:

  • Performances would have to be achieved at competitions on a list of approved international events where the highest standards of officiating and technical equipment can be guaranteed;
  • The athlete will have been subject to an agreed number of doping control tests in the months leading up to the performance, and
  • The doping control sample taken after the record is stored and available for retesting for 10 years.

According to The Guardian, blood and urine samples have been stored by the IAAF as early as 2005. Thus the current speculation is that any track and field record set prior to 2005 no longer demonstrate acceptable levels of integrity. Not surprisingly, holders of records set prior to 2005 are outraged.

Jonathan Edwards, who set the current world record holder in the triple jump in 1995, said “I thought my record would go some day, just not to a bunch of sports administrators. It seems incredibly wrong-headed and cowardly and I don’t think it achieves what they want it to. Instead, it casts doubts on generations of athletics performances.”

Jonathan Edwards
Jonathan Edwards and his world record setting jump

Paula Radcliffe, also quoted in the Guardian article, expressed dismay at the inference her record in the women’s marathon set in 2002 is thanks to doping. “I fully understand the desire and need to restore credibility to our sport but don’t feel that this achieves that,” said Radcliffe. “It is yet one more way that clean athletes are made to suffer for the actions of cheats.”

And here’s how Radcliffe expressed herself in Twitter.

I am hurt and do feel this damages my reputation and dignity. It is a heavy-handed way to wipe out some really suspicious records in a cowardly way by simply sweeping all aside instead of having the guts to take the legal plunge and wipe any record that would be found in a court of law to have been illegally assisted. It is confusing to the public at a time when athletics is already struggling to market itself.

As quoted in The Sports Examiner, the EAA president, Svein Arne Hansen of Norway, believes that these recommendations are essential to improving the integrity of records in sport. “Performance records that show the limits of human capabilities are one of the great strengths of our sport, but they are meaningless if people don’t really believe them. What we are proposing is revolutionary, not just because most world and European records will have to be replaced but because we want to change the concept of a record and raise the standards for recognition to a point where everyone can be confident that everything is fair and above board.”

Hansen is not alone and has an ally in the IAAF president, Sebastian Coe. “I like this because it underlines that we [the governing bodies] have put into place doping control systems and technology that are more robust and safer than 15 or even 10 years ago,” said Coe. “Of course, for this to be adopted for world records by the IAAF it needs global approval from all area associations. There will be athletes, current record holders, who will feel that the history we are recalibrating will take something away from them but I think this is a step in the right direction and if organized and structured properly we have a good chance of winning back credibility in this area.”

Coe speaks to the challenge of driving dramatic change. Will the records of Powell, Edwards and Radcliffe, among others, be wiped from the record books? Stay tuned.

Roy with 1964 Tokyo Olympic Torch
Roy with 1964 Tokyo Olympic Torch
The Olympians has been a labor of love for exactly two years. It is my sketchbook as I prepare for the mural masterpiece, a book on the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

While my book’s focus is on the XVIII Tokyo Olympiad, I use my blog as an excuse to write about anything even remotely related to these areas: the Tokyo Olympics, the Olympics overall, Japan, and sports in general. In other words, I think of my blog as therapy for a restlessly curious mind.

How else could I go 730 straight days without missing a post?

Enjoy!

Japan 1964

 

Tokyo 2020

 

Random Rambles

Roy's 2nd Birthday
Roy’s 2nd Birthday
It’s been exactly two years since I started my journey to understand the context, the organization and the stories of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. My father was at those games as a news producer for NBC, and I turned one years old on Opening Day.

I moved to Tokyo for a third time in January, 2014, excited by Tokyo’s selection as the host city for the 2020 Summer Games. Surprised to find not a single book on the 1964 Tokyo Olympics in English, I endeavored to write the definitive record. On May 1, 2015, I started my blog, The Olympians is in many ways, the first draft of my book.

All, thank you for your wonderful comments and support!

 

Olympians 1964

 

Amazing Olympians

Mary Rand and Whillye White in the UK 2
Mary Rand and Whillye White in the UK

It was February 19, 1965, a few months after the Tokyo Olympic Games. A collection of international track stars, many fresh from medaling in Tokyo, gathered at Madison Square Garden in New York City for the AAU National Indoor Track Championships.

Billy Mills, the first and only American to win the gold in the 10,000 meters in the Olympics, won the three-mile race. In a rematch of the Tokyo Olympics men’s long jump, USSR’s Igor Ter-Ovesyan outdistanced America’s Ralph Boston. Tamara Press repeated as champion in the shot put. Iolanda Balas of Romania continued her dominance in the high jump. And Mary Rand was also in town.

But the women’s long jump champion of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics faded quickly in Madison Square Garden, crashing out in the preliminary rounds by fouling two of her three jumps. The runway for the long jump did have a quirky quality: there were two take-off boards on the runway, the white indicators that tell the athlete exactly how far they can step before they launch themselves into the air. But she didn’t feel that was the reason for her poor performance, as she wrote in her autobiography, “Mary Mary“.

We were having problems because on the long jump approach there were two take-off boards very close to each other. You had to pass over the first one just before taking off, which was a bit distracting. I wasn’t jumping particularly well. In fact I was fed-up with my jumping more than irritated by the other board.

Mary Rand second stripe
Mary Rand jumping from the second take-off board. Click on the image to watch the actual video.

So Rand was in her hotel room when she heard a knocking on her door. It was American long jumper, Whillye White, silver medalist in the long jump at the 1956 Melbourne Games, and silver medalist in the 4X100 relay at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. White came to explain to Rand that she had protested the outcome of the preliminary round because the first take-off stripe should not have been on the track in the first place. White said to Rand that she had told officials that the first stripe upset her, and it must have upset the other competitors as well, and that she said Rand could join the other six in the finals.

I might have said something about it being “stupid” – but I would never have dreamed of protesting. I said I wouldn’t come back unless it was absolutely all right with all the other jumpers, because it did mean that I might go ahead and win. But Willye had already put it to all the other athletes, I was told, and they had all agreed.

So Rand returned, and she landed a jump of 20 feet 4 inches, over a foot shorter than her Olympic record in Tokyo, but good enough for first place in New York. Thanks to Whillye White!

Mary Rand at home

When you emerge victorious far from home, people may say that the hometown folks are all so excited about your accomplishments. But you don’t understand that until you finally make it home. Just in the recent Rio Olympics, the greetings that Joseph Schooling got in Singapore and the Fijian Rugby 7’s team got on their return home were beyond what any average citizen can comprehend.

Even back in 1964, decades before the internet brought us instantaneous news, in many cases, Olympic medalist often returned home as conquering heroes. The same was true for Brit Mary Rand, who won three medals at the Tokyo Olympics: a gold in the long jump, a silver in the pentathlon and a bronze in the 4×100 relay. But in the 1960s, athletes had to deal with the extra burden of deciding whether to go professional or not, regaled with offers that often seemed irresistible.

Along with her fellow members of TeamGB, Rand landed after a long flight from Japan, had a champagne breakfast at 6 am, and were told they had to ready for lunch at Buckingham Palace, to meet the Queen of England.

As Rand related in her autobiography, “Mary Mary“, the Queen said she explained to her son, Prince Andrew, how far Rand had jumped by measuring out the Olympic record of 6.52 meters on the floor in the palace. The conversation about the Queen’s son reminded Rand that she still had not seen her own daughter, Alison. They had not seen in each other in weeks, and so Rand’s description of the mother-child reunion is charming:

She came into the room with Diane. She looked at me and I could see she wanted to come to me, but she was looking at me as if to say, “If you think I’m going to make a fuss of you when you’ve been away this long, you’re wrong.” But she came over, and then she in my arms, I was terribly cut-up and I had to hold back the tears so as not to upset her.

There were the ticker tape parades, first in Henley, and then in her hometown of Wells. Then came the invitations to dinners and luncheons, opening and to shows….and as she explained of her quandary: “you were really expected to do all these things – it was very hard to say no – and a woman can’t just turn up in the same old dress each time.”

Mary Rand_Mary Mary 3
From the autobiography, Mary Mary

Mary Rand was not only a hero, she was marketable. Seen as part sexy siren and girl next door, accentuated by being Great Britain’s first female gold medalist, commercial opportunities came flying her way. But going commercial would come at a cost.

I could make money if I wanted to, straightaway. In Tokyo I’d get a telegram offering me a contract to feature in advertisements. Every day a lot more offers were coming in. Possibly there was much as GBP20,000 to be made. Of course it would mean giving up my amateur status and never competing again. But when you love a sport it’s hard to resign yourself to just suddenly giving up forever. You’re scared of committing yourself and then eventually thinking, one fine morning, how great it would be to get out on with our new house, there lots of financial commitments to be met, and the money was very tempting.

Fortunately, she found an agent who helped think it through. Were there opportunities out there that would not jeopardize her amateur status and maintain her potential to continue competing? One job they settled on quickly – a column for the Sunday Mirror, which paid her to write about housekeeping. She was safe as long as she didn’t write about athletics! (Yes, those days are long gone.)

When Rand was in Cannes for the debut of Kon Ichikawa’s film on the 1964 Tokyo Olympics at the film festival, she was approached with a very intriguing idea by film producers:

The idea was for a series of ‘women James Bond’ films. They said they thought I’d be great as a female 007, with my build and athletic ability. It was a fantastic idea, they said, it could be a huge success, on the other hand it could be a complete flop. They talked about locations like the South Sea Islands, the South Pole, Japan. It was terribly exciting but I was wary too. I wasn’t sure how provocative I was going to have to be in the roles – and how long it would mean being away from home. I told them I’d have to talk it over with my husband.

Rand was actually offered a contract for the female Bond films. When she examined the details, she realized that she would be away from home for such long stretches that it would take her away from what she wanted to be: a mother, and an athlete.

So it was no for “Rand. Mary Rand.”