The USA team looked sharp in blue blazers over white slacks and skirts. But to cap it off, the men were given a typically American touch – a white cowboy fedora. Some knew it was the idea of President Lyndon Johnson, a proud Texan. Some loved the hat enough that when thousands of pigeons were released during the opening ceremony, they made sure to take them off and shield them from the inevitable bird droppings. Some were pleased they had something to keep their hair from getting dirty.
The bottom line is that athletes and officials from other countries wanted the American hats! Jeff Mullins was a member of the gold medal-winning men’s basketball team in 1964. Like every other athlete in the Olympic Village, he enjoyed the United Nations vibe, but couldn’t really communicate…except when they were bartering.
“Trading,” said Mullins, “was our form of communication. Bill Bradley got us started. He brought a whole bunch of Princeton beanies with him, and we tried to fill them with lapel pins for our pins – red, white and blue pins with a pearl in it.”
“And we always were trading up,” said the man who would go onto play for the champion Golden State Warriors in the NBA. “Our uniforms were popular. So were our basketball shoes. But the thing that was worth the most was the Western hat. None of us liked it,
I 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
On September 30, 1964, the film crew was far removed from the hustle and bustle in Tokyo, as the organizers raced to ensure that everything was ready for the start of the Olympics on October 10. This crew was instead shooting a scene for a film at the Oh River in Fukushima, directed by Koji Wakamatsu.
Two prisoners, recently escaped from a prison, were wading across the river, handcuffed together. As The Japan Times of October 1, 1964 reports, one of the actors, Shinobu Takasuga “stumbled and fell, pulling (Sanzo) Akaozeki with him, and the two men were swept downstream. The river current was unusually strong, the eyewitnesses said.”
Apparently, the 28-year old director, Wakamatsu jumped in the river along with three others with the hopes of saving the two actors, but they had to be rescued themselves 100 meters down the river. As of that writing, the bodies still had not been found.
While Wakamatsu would go on to have a long career as a film director, this was a dark time at an early stage in his career. The title of this unfortunate film? “Misjudgment”.
Don Schollander was Mark Spitz before Mark Spitz, winning four swimming gold medals and setting three world records at the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. At that time, the 18-year old blonde from Lake Oswego, Oregon was one of the most popular people in Japan. As a staff writer for the Greensboro Daily New put it, “The Japanese have gone wild over him. His mother and father have given to a Japanese orphanage some 80 boxes of gifts Don received from his Japanese fans.”
And yet, when he participated on a popular game show in America called “To Tell the Truth”, several months after the 1964 Games, two of three judges failed to identify the golden boy.
The one person who wasn’t selected by the judges was contestant #1, John Farrow, the sister of actress Mia Farrow.
Mali gained its independence from France in 1960 – four years later it joined the Olympic community at the XVIII Olympiad in Tokyo. The weirdly-shaped landlocked nation of West Africa had very little experience in or resources applied to organized sports. And yet, Mali sent three officials and two athletes to join the party.
22-year old Dramane Sereme was one of the two. A medical student in East Germany, Sereme was clearly considered a good athlete. But a decathlete? The decathlon is considered the most grueling of the athletic competitions, and the winner is crowned the “World’s Greatest Athlete”.
Well, in the first of the ten disciplines, Sereme finished the 100 meters race in 11.1 seconds, beating out athletes from Germany, the US and Canada. He was only 0.1 seconds behind the favored C. K. Yang of Taiwan, a close friend of Rafer Johnson, the man won the decathlon in Rome just ahead of Yang.
Next came the long jump, and Dramane must have leveraged his sprinter’s speed for a decent 6.51 meter leap, which dropped him to only 15th of 22. But reality must have begun to weigh heavily,
Communist China didn’t enter the Olympics until 1984 in Los Angeles, but they entered the nuclear race 20 years earlier in Olympic fashion.
The Tokyo Games began on October 10, 1964. Six days into the competition, on Friday, October 16, China exploded an atomic bomb. While the Chinese government released a statement promising never to be the first to use a nuclear weapon, this atomic test did not diminish the shock and fear that reverberated globally. On top of that, Japan being relatively close to mainland China, there were immediate concerns of radiation fall out in Japan.
The ability for high performance athletes to focus is