This is part 2 about an article written in “Tokyo Olympics Official Souvenir 1964”, a book designed to make sense of Japan to visiting foreigners during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. While the article was interesting, the pictures were fascinating.

As stated in part 1, the Olympic Organizers wanted to put foreign visitors at ease, that Japan wasn’t so different. The article shows a picture of the family Kato. Kato is a typical Japanese name, but the house they live in – definitely not typical!

A Visit with a Japanese Family_1

1 Here we are-this is the Kato   home.   Nice, isn’t it? Kato-san is a company manager and he, with his wife and eldest son’s family live in a nine-room, upper middle class home. The house, constructed recently at a cost of ¥9 million (S25,000), is of hinoki (Japanese cypress), considered the best home building material.

Hmmm, I don’t know about you, but 9 rooms, even for an upper middle-class home seems insanely spacious. And then there is the space around the house itself. If you’ve lived in a typical neighborhood, even in an upper-middle class abode, you rarely see such space around the house. More likely is that you could open your window and practically touch the house next door.

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2 This is the front entrance. As we slip out of our shoes and into house slippers, we meet- Kato-san’s eldest son who is making the opposite change. He’s on his way to the office.

Clearly the eldest son is Westernized. He’s not in kimono – rather, he’s in the modern-day office wear of white shirt, trousers and necktie. And another familiar cultural cue of the 1960s: the wife stays at home to do the housework while the husband is working hard for the family.

3 With her husband off to work, the wife is in the living room, guiding the   vacuum   cleaner   over   the   rug and under the Western-style furniture. You’ll notice the display shelves, a genuine Japanese touch.   Resting   on them are some of the family’s art treasures.

A Visit with a Japanese Family_3

Not only are the Japanese Westernized, they’re civilized!

8   The clock has ticked by a few hours and Mother is in the garden hanging out the wash. She smiles as she hears her daughter practicing scales upstairs. Musical education at home was a rarity in prewar   Japan, but is extremely popular now, especially for young people. Japan is proud to be the producer of some of the world’s finest pianos.

A Visit with a Japanese Family_8

9 Kato-san’s three grandchildren are on late summer vacation now, from late July to early September. The oldest girl, home from college, is spending her leisure time playing the piano, while her brother, who is a high school student, and the youngest boy, who is in junior high school, are making plastic models and assembling a radio.

A Visit with a Japanese Family_9

But not everything is Westernized. The Japanese actually do enjoy their green tea. And thanks to this article, foreigners can avoid the embarrassing faux pas of adding sugar to their green tea.

4 Upstairs, Kato-san is sipping hot green tea (without cream or sugar) which his wife has just brought him. He doesn’t have to go to the office until later. This sunny spot is a typical all-purpose Japanese room-a simple airy living room during the day, a dining area when you bring the low table to the center of the room, and at night, when the bedding is taken from the closets, and placed on the tatami presto, It’s a bedroom!

A Visit with a Japanese Family_4

A Visit with a Japanese Family_15

Organizers of the Tokyo Olympic Games in 1964 were worried about how they were going to accommodate all of the expected 30,000 visitors during the peak. In addition to hotels, youth hostels and even large passenger liners, owners of private homes were asked to make rooms available for foreign visitors. Over 580 private homes alone added an additional 1,445 beds to capacity.

Those who stayed at a Japanese private home likely had a unique and wonderful experience. But there must have been some initial concern by foreigners in crashing at a stranger’s place, particular in the land of the rising sun, where the people were inscrutable and the food moved on its own.

Perhaps the Organizing Committee felt a need to explain the Japanese family to the Westerner. Towards the end of the book, “Tokyo Olympics Official Souvenir 1964”, the publisher, Dentsu, dedicated a few pages to demystifying the Japanese family.

Dentsu’s approach was to apply the tried but true formula of the harmonious meeting of East and West. In this article, we visit the Kato family – a symbol of this pleasing integration:

We’ re on our way to Mr. Kato’s or “Kato-san’s” home. Let me give you some tips before we get there. You’ll find “dual” living arrangements there-Western modes and time-honored Japanese tradition peacefully co-existing under one roof. The Japanese have not dispensed with tatami rooms (straw mat floors), but one room is usually Western style with a rug and furniture. Kimono at home is the rule and Western dress outside, for the office, school and business.  

It’s not just the house and the rooms, but also how the typical Japanese family eats and sleeps.

At mealtime you’ll see the family is as dexterous with fork and knife as with chopsticks (called hashi), but on the other hand they may favor chopsticks even for Western food. Each family member will have his own set of hashi, and guests are provided with disposable ones which are discarded after use. With the same relish, Kato-san and his son drink hot Japanese sake (rice wine) or whiskey on ice. At night some of the family may sleep on futons (feather bedding) and others will sleep in beds. The people of this country are “sensitive pragmatists”­ – there is beauty, versatility and comfort in their homes and lives.

Now Dentsu figured that the visiting Westerner has been programmed by WWII propaganda of how Japanese children and mothers were under the total subjugation of the man of the household, and how entire families were under the total subjugation of the Emperor of Japan. In this article, Westerners were reassured that times have changed, and so have the Japanese, but not entirely:

The Japanese home is no longer ruled by a huffing-puffing patriarch. Husband, “wife and children are a close group. While the chief decision-maker is the bread-winner, wives these days usually hold the purse strings and the women’s voice in domestic affairs is to be with. The Japanese Civil Code attempts to regulate inheritance so that one third of a man’s estate goes to his wife and two­ thirds to his children. It is still common,   however, for an estate, settled in terms of a will, to award the lion’s share of the inheritance to the eldest son, reflecting the traditional value placed upon family line, rather than upon individuals.

Christo and Jean Claude The Gates._Plaza Hoteljpg
The Gates by Christo and Jean Claude, in front of thePlaza Hotel

It was February, 2005. The International Olympic Committee’s evaluation commission was in New York City, checked in at the prestigious Plaza Hotel, overlooking a picturesque Central Park draped in snow. The once-in-a-lifetime Christo and Jean-Claude exhibition known simply as The Gates – massive saffron-colored banners dotting the walkways of the park.

To this IOC commission, the one that would decide whether New York City, Paris, London, Madrid or Moscow would win the right to host the 2012 Olympics, the messaging was consistent. There’s no place like New York City. And there’s no better place to host the Summer Olympics than the Big Apple.

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Picture this, they likely said to the commission members:

  • See the iconic Batman symbol of Gotham City, see the Olympic Rings shining in the New York night.
  • Imagine athletes of the world floating down the Hudson River in an armada, their procession leading them to the Olympic Stadium on the newly revitalized West Side.
  • Know that the world’s best athletes would compete in iconic, world-renown venues: basketball at Madison Square Garden, baseball at Yankees Stadium, tennis at Arthur Ashe Stadium (where the US Open is held), soccer at Giants Stadium, the triathlon in Central Park!
  • How about a closing ceremonies that includes a massive ticker tape parade down Broadway and the Canyon of Heroes.

And don’t forget that New York City is a microcosm of the world. The Statue of Liberty has welcomed the world for over a century. As the NYC2012 slogans stated, “Every Country Gets Home Field Advantage” and “Every Flag Will Wave”.

At this time, I had just moved from Bangkok, Thailand to Tokyo, Japan. My mind was filled with the tsunami that had just hit Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia, and my relocation to Japan. I had no idea what was going on in my hometown of New York City. But if I had been aware, I’m sure I would have been on the bandwagon.

I could see that vision. I can still see that vision. It is worthy of New York City.

stamps 2

A friend of mine in Denmark recently sent me a wonderful gift – a commemorative souvenir stamp sheet that went on sale on October 10, 1964, the opening day of XVIII Olympiad in Tokyo.

It is a beautiful set that show off some of the iconic venues of the Tokyo Games, including the 30-yen stamp featuring the Nippon Budokan Hall. The popular Japanese martial art of judo was debuting at the 1964 Games, and the Japanese government decided to build  a structure just for judo at the Olympics.

Not only was the stamp publicizing the Budokan, it was helping to pay for it.

From the first Olympic Games in 1896 in Athens, governments have raised funds for Olympiads through the issuance of stamps. According to the IOC, more than 50 million Olympic stamp series have been issued since 1896, generating revenue for Olympic operating committees through surcharges on stamps.

Receipts of Olympic Fund Raising Association
From the final report of the Olympic Games

An organization called the Olympic Fund Raising Association was created in December, 1960, mandated with raising funds primarily from private sources. The Association was responsible for raising funds for the Olympic Organizing Committee, the Japan Amateur Sports Associations to help raise the performance level of athletes in Japan, as well as for the construction of the Budokan.

And according to the final report of the Olympic Games published by the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee, stamps were the Association’s best money maker, as you can see in the table below. What’s also interesting is the number of fund raising projects the Association oversaw: advertising in telephone books and trains. And not only did they make money off of selling cigarettes, but also thanks to legalized gambling in motorboat, bicycle and motorcycle racing, among many other things.

The Olympic Fund Raising Association raised a total of around JPY6 billion (USD16 million), and 16% or JPY963 million was due to stamps.

 

Stamps 1
The inside of the commemorative stamp booklet.
Paea Wolfgramm defeats Duncan Dokiwari
Paea Wolfgramm defeats Duncan Dokiwari

Pita Nikolas Taufatofua put Tonga on the map during the opening ceremonies of the 2016 Rio Olympics. Carrying his nation’s flag, his torso bare, muscles rippling and golden skin gleaming, Taufatofua had tongues hanging and wagging.

But Taufatofua didn’t last the entire bout of even his first match, eliminated from the Olympics due to mercy rules, losing 16-1 to Sajjad Mardani. To be fair, Tonga is so small, the Pacific archipelago’s population is a bit above 100,000, which is probably about the population of my neighborhood in Tokyo. So the numbers alone make it unlikely for a world champion to emerge from Tonga.

But the tiny kingdom of Tonga, participating in the Olympics since 1984, beat the odds and claimed a silver medal in 1996. Paea Wolfgramm was a student at the university of Auckland in New Zealand where he played rugby when a schoolmate suggested that Wolfgramm give boxing a try in 1990. After 24 bouts in and around the Pacific islands circuit, Wolfgramm found himself the super heavyweight representative of Tonga, and was going to the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Wolfgramm was a big man, 185 cm tall and 140 kgs in weight, but as he had no international track record, he was a total unknown among the American, Cuban and European boxers expected to medal.

Pita Nikolas Taufatofua
Pita Nikolas Taufatofua

First up for Wolfgramm was a boxer from Belarus, Sergei Dahovich, whom Wolfgramm snuck by on points, 10-9. This set up a match with the Cuban, Alexis Rubalcaba. The Cuban boxers were always considered a threat. But Wolfgramm, a devout Morman, surprised essentially everyone, taking the fight to Rubalcaba, pummeling him at the ropes, and sending the Cuban to two standing eight counts. Wolfgramm won on points 17-12, and in that moment, to the chants of “Ton-ga! Ton-ga!” from the Atlanta crowd, went from unknown to unbelievable.

The entire island nation of Tonga was already celebrating its greatest Olympic moment as Wolfgramm had secured the nation’s first medal, guaranteed a bronze medal with the Cuban’s defeat. While the match between Wolfgramm and the Nigerian boxer Duncan Dokiwari was not televised in Tonga, the entire populace was on pins and needles when Wolfgramm took to the ring for semi-final bout.

The fight between Wolfgramm and the 1994 Victoria Commonwealth Games champion was a tight affair, tied 6-6 going into the third and final round. And the match stayed tied at 6 until the very final seconds, when Wolfgramm landed a punch to Dokiwari’s face to get the decisive point. Wolfgramm was going to the gold-medal round!

But there was a cost. Not only did Wolfgramm have a broken nose, he had broken his wrist in his desperate match against Dokiwari. And he was up against Vladimir Klitschko. The brainy PhD from the Ukraine, Klitschko would also go on to become a world heavyweight champion, in fact, the second longest reigning heavyweight champion of all time. (Joe Louis reigned for nearly 12 years, while Klitschko was champion for nearly 10.)

Wolfgramm had said that if this had not been a championship bout, he probably would have not gotten into the ring. But this was for gold, and he was reported to have said, “If I won a gold medal, I could not even imagine. I would die first, coach would die next and the king would give me half of Tonga.”

The Tongan did not win, although he made the fight a fight. After the second round, Wolfgramm was down only 3-2. But the third round was the Ukrainian’s. Klitschko pummelled away, and won the gold-medal match 7-3. Despite the lack of resources and support, the broken nose and wrist, Wolfgramm battled for himself and for an entire nation. Of his wrist, Wolfgramm was quoted as saying, “I was willing for it to break into 2,000 pieces if necessary.

Wolfgramm would turn professional soon after the Atlanta Games, and go onto a successful career, winning his first 14 bouts, and retiring with a career record of 20-4.

Vladimir Klitschko defeats Paea Wolfgramm
Vladimir Klitschko defeats Paea Wolfgramm

Jesse Owens

What is an amateur today?

Decades ago, the Olympics represented the very best of the so-called “amateur” athlete, those who excelled at a sporting discipline and did not receive financial gain from it. The Sullivan Award has had a storied history of recognizing the very best athletes in the United States who happened to be amateurs, including such greats as golfer Bobby Jones, basketball player Bill Bradley, swimmer Mark Spitz and American football quarterback Peyton Manning.

Today, athletes in a much wider variety of sports have ways to make an income in their sport, via competition prize money, professional leagues, and sponsorship deals, which render the pool for Sullivan Award recipients shallower than decades past.

And yet, when the obvious choice for the Sullivan Award winner of 1936 was Jesse Owens, arguably the athlete with the most significant accomplishments of the Berlin Olympics, the powers that be selected Glenn Morris, the winner of the Olympic decathlon. Winning the gold in the decathlon, perhaps in another year, should have been enough to win the Sullivan. But Owens, who was a black American, took four gold medals under the glare of Adolph Hitler in a clearly bigoted regime. Morris was white, and that may have been the overriding criteria for the judges.

“We have overlooked people,” Roger J. Goudy, president of the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) acknowledged in this New York Times article. “Jesse Owens went to Berlin and won four Olympic gold medals in 1936. He did not win the Sullivan, which went to his white teammate Glenn Morris in a close vote, 1,106 to 1,013. Owens had been the overwhelming winner of The Associated Press poll for the best athlete of the year, amateur or professional.”

But yesterday, on April 11, 2017, a wrong was righted. Jesse Owens was awarded the inaugural Gussie Crawford Lifetime Achievement Award. The award was presented to Owen’s granddaughter, Gina Hemphill-Strachan. She had this to say about her grandfather:

I would say the thing that makes me most proud of his legacy is the fact that he does have a legacy. At 80 years after his accomplishments in Berlin, that he’s still relevant. People still speak about him with such passion and compassion and reverence. He certainly left a mark with so many young people because he was an unofficial ambassador, traveled all over the world, speaking to so many young people, encouraging young people, training and all that.

Carl Lewis, no slouch himself in track and field, reflected on the amazing athletic accomplishments of Owens:

“I tell you something, it is tough to win the long jump and something else, period,” he added. “I think we kind of overstate how easy it (winning four events at one meet) is. And for him to do it back then with all he had to deal with…I looked at him as someone to aspire to, someone to emulate, not just athletically.”

Jesse Owens in Tokyo_Tokyo Olympics Special Issue_Kokusai Johosha
Jesse Owens in Tokyo_Tokyo Olympics Special Issue_Kokusai Johosha

According to Ron Perelmen of the Sports Examiner, this belated recognition of Owens was due to Peter Cava, a former communications director for the AAU.

“Soon after I went to work for AAU in 1974, the ’73 Sullivan Award winner was announced,” said Cava. “Looking over the list of previous winners, it was shocking to see that Jesse Owens’ name wasn’t on the list.” When Cava noted at the Rio Olympics that it was the 80th anniversary of Owens’ historical accomplishments, he thought it was about time to recognize him. “The Sullivan Award has been called ‘An Oscar for Amateurs,’ said Cava. “The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presents Oscar Awards for lifetime accomplishments.”  

So here we are, 80 years later, finally recognizing Jess Owens as we should – as one of the greatest athletes of all time.

Carlo Airoldi
Carlo Airoldi

He wasn’t high born. He was a farmer from Origgio, Italy. And he could run, and run, and run – Forrest Gump-style. In the 1890’s, Carlo Airoldi was one of the best long-distance runners in Europe. In 1895, the year before the inaugural Olympics in Athens, Airoldi won the Milano-Barcelona footrace, a 12-leg competition of 1,050 kilometers!

So when Airoldi heard about the Athens Olympics, he likely thought a 42-kilometer marathon would not be a problem at all. Unfortunately, there was another problem. He was not a man of means like the majority of athletes attending the Athens Olympics. He could not afford to take trains or ships from Italy to Greece.

So he decided to walk. Two thousand kilometers. So that he could run 42.

He convinced an Italian magazine, La Bicicletta, to sponsor his expenses in exchange for his story. He figured if he walked and jogged some 70 kilometers a day, he could make it to Athens in a month. So, according to this article in Italian, he departed Milan on February 28, 1896, taking his first steps in the cold and windy winter weather. The book, The Olympics: A Very Peculiar History, explains that after making it 700 kilometers to Ragusa, Yugosloavia, Airoldi bought a ticket for a boat to Pattras in Western Greece, before walking another 200 kilometers to Athens.

It took Airoldi a little over a month, but he made it!

Carlo-Airoldi--il-librodi-manuel-sgarella
Not quite the build you’d expect of a marathon runner….

Airoldi arrived in the Greek capital in early April, just in time for the start of the Olympic Games. Unfortunately for him, these weren’t the Games of the ancient Greeks. These were the Games of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who believed in the purity of amateur athletics, that only those who were not tainted by victory prizes were allowed to compete.

When asked by members of the organizing committee whether he have ever received money in a competition, Airoldi replied sincerely that he indeed had, the previous year, after winning the Milan-Barcelona race a year before. Perhaps, as the Italian article explains, there was also concern that this renown distance runner from Italy was a threat to the favored Greeks in the marathon. Whatever the reason, a shocked Airoldi was declined eligibility to run in the marathon.

“If only they could walk a mile in my shoes…,” he may have thought.