The red cinder track with white vinyl lines in the National Stadium stood out in beautiful contrast to the green infield and the blue sky.

But compared to the synthetic tracks of today, not many runners miss the cinder tracks. Ollan Cassel, winner in the 4X400 relay team, said they referred to cinder tracks as “British garbage”.

Cinder tracks were often made by a British company called “En–Tout-Cas“, which was also the name of the surface they first created for tennis courts in the early 20th century. As noted in the link to this company, this British bricklaying and construction firm turned another man’s garbage into gold. They procured vast amounts of rubble that was the result of German bombing raids over London during World War II and created tennis courts and running tracks all over the world.

By 1968, cinder tracks were replaced by synthetic tracks. Cassell said that there was a big difference, between the two. “The cinders were always uneven and needed long spikes, which dug into the track and attracted the material into the shoes. This made it more difficult to glide and run like on a cloud.”

The shift from cinder tracks to artificial tracks had another effect, according to Cassell. “The all-weather track made it necessary for shoe companies to make special shoes with much shorter spikes, often called brush spikes, to keep the damage to the track to a minimum. You could also get a better stride rhythm with less resistance, as well as receive more bounce form each stride.”

From the report, "THE GAMES OF THE XVIII OLYMPIAD TOKYO 1964"
From the report, “THE GAMES OF THE XVIII OLYMPIAD TOKYO 1964”

My cats have flown from Tokyo to Seattle to Singapore to Tokyo over a five-year period. To be fair, the whole experience of Vet exams, shots, cat containers, transportation to airports, planes with other animals and loud sounds….probably not the best thing for our cats. But we needed them where we were going, so on the plane they went.

Equestrians need their horses where they are going. And in 1964, horses did not fly well. In fact, in an AP report on October 1, it was reported that an 11-year-old gelding named Markham on the US team went berserk in her stall in the airplane only an hour after it took off from Newark Airport. Markham was causing such a commotion that officials felt that the horse had to be put down so as not to jeopardize the safety of the plane.

From the book, “Tokyo Olympics Special Issue_Kokusai Johosha”

He was 6 foot 6 inches or nearly 2 meters tall. When Anton Geesink entered a judo tournament, in a time when there were no weight classes and a 120-kilogram giant like Geesink could compete against a 70-kilo judo-ka, he intimidated. Geesink was a European storm, and the Japanese could hear it coming in the early 1960s. In 1961, Geesink defeated the Japanese champion Koji Sone, ending Japanese domination in the sport.

In 1964, it seemed pre-ordained that Geesink would make it to the finals. But the Japanese held out hope that Akio Kaminaga, would rise to the occasion and uphold national pride. And there they were, in the Budokan, facing off. Ada Kok, winner of two silver medals in swimming at the Tokyo Olympics, was there to witness. Kok is Dutch, and as a reward to medalists, the Dutch Olympic Committee invited Kok to watch her compatriot, Geesink, in the judo open weight finals.

Geesink vs Kaminaga_Tokyo Olympiad 1964_The Kyodo News Service
Geesink asking the crowd to quiet down. From the book “Tokyo Olympics Special Issue_Kokusai Johosha”

“I had just turned 16, so I accepted this invitation as something normal. It was just a fight to me at the time. But on reflection, I realized I was watching a culture shock of sorts, going throughout Japan. The Budokan was silent. Quiet. I could hear people crying. It was like a solar eclipse had suddenly blackened out all of Japan. It was a feeling of doom.

“But of course, it was tremendous for us, the Dutch. And I remember the Dutch officials were elated, and wanted to jump on

From the book,
From the book, “Tokyo Olympics Special Issue_Kokusai Johosha”

Every time you hold a mega-sports spectacle like the Olympic Games or the World Cup, you simply won’t have enough accommodations to handle the spike in visitors. The Tokyo Government anticipated 30,000 visitors so they asked area hotels to expand and refurbish for foreign tourists, schools and companies to open up their dormitories, and people living in Tokyo to make their homes available to foreigners.

They also had 10 passenger liners visit Japan during the Olympics. These were big ships, 5,000 to 11,000-ton ships with names like “The Brazile Maru”, “The Vladivostok”, “The Oriana”, “The Khubarovsk” and “The Empress of England”.

Ten passenger liners arrived in the ports of Tokyo and Yokohama from October 8 to 13, housing over 5,000 visitors, serving as the perfect temporary housing units. All of the ships departed Japan by October 26, two days after the completion of the Games.

According to Sports Illustrated, around 115 buses were prepared to shuttle the visitors between their floating hotels in Yokohama and the Olympic venues.

Handling the spike in 2020 is definitely a concern for planners. Think Airbnb – get that closet under the stairway ready. Could get you 20,000 yen a night.

From a magazine called
From a magazine called “Olympiku Tokyo Taikai Tokushuu No. 4”, Tokyo Shinbun

Is this ad selling the prospect of listening to music in glorious stereo, or the chance to get three free discs from Columbia Records, or something else?

Columbia Records, owned by CBS at that time by CBS (Columbia Broadcasting System), was one of the first to release LPs in stereo in the mid 1950s. Apparently, Columbia also manufactured the delivery device, these beautiful all-in-one radio-record players.

My parents didn’t own a Columbia Stereo. Ours was a Victor, which our cat Miiko enjoyed immensely.

Miiko_circa 1965 #1

water_polo_aug08_main_631_jpg__800x600_q85_crop

On December 6, 1956, Hungary and the Soviet Union faced off in the pool at the Melbourne Olympic Games in arguably the most famous water polo match ever.

It was only a month earlier when a spontaneous uprising by Hungarians against their Soviet overlords throughout the country was crushed by tanks and troops from the USSR. And as the fickle finger of fate always has its way, Hungary ended up in a match with the Soviet Union in the Olympic water polo semifinals.

As this fascinating Smithsonian article explains, this was not just a water polo competition. This was war.

“Within the game’s first minute, a Russian player put a hammerlock on a Hungarian and was sent to the penalty box as the crowd jeered. A Hungarian player scored the first goal, punching a Russian player on the chin with a windmill motion while shooting. The Hungarians scored three more goals, including two by Zador. They taunted the Russians, who were being shut out and becoming increasingly frustrated. Two more Russians were sent to the penalty box after slugging Hungarian players.”

Freedom's FuryThe picture up top is of Emil Zador, who was punched at the end of the match as he turned his head away from the competition for a moment, his bloodied visage a reminder that the removal of politics from the Olympic Games was a whack-a-mole experience at best.

But even more amazing than that picture is the film from that match! Here is a clip from the 2006 documentary, Freedom’s Fury, narrated by Mark Spitz. In addition to interviews of the players from that game are the spellbinding images of grappling and punching in the pool.

Hungary would go on to beat Yugoslavia to win gold. Emil Zador, the famous bloody face, stayed