Nikolai Prodanov and Diana Yorgova from the book, Tokyo Olympiad 1964_Kyodo News Agency
Nikolai Prodanov and Diana Yorgova from the book, Tokyo Olympiad 1964_Kyodo News Agency

As UPI put it, Japan was “in the midst of a wedding boom” in 1964, where the Meiji Memorial Hall, very near the Olympic Village, was marrying 35 to 40 couples a day.

But the biggest wedding during the Olympics was between two Bulgarians, Nikolai Prodanov and Diana Yorgova. Held at the International Club in the Olympic Village, the wedding was attended by the Bulgarian Ambassador, Christo Zdravchev, as well as the President of the International Olympic Committee, Avery Brundage. Superstar gymnast, Takashi Ono and his wife joined the festivities, as Prodanov was a fellow gymnast.

From the book, Tokyo Olympiad 1964_Kyodo News Agency
From the book, Tokyo Olympiad 1964_Kyodo News Agency

As this was the first wedding ever at an Olympic Games, everybody likely wanted to be a part of the ceremony. A director of Nippon Rayon played the traditional role as the “go-between” and financed the couple’s 24-hour honeymoon to Kyoto, back in time to attend the closing ceremony.

If you’re curious, here’s film of the wedding!

What surfing in the Olympics could look like, for better or worse. Photo: WebberWavePools.com
What surfing in the Olympics could look like, for better or worse. Photo: WebberWavePools.com

Surfing in the Olympics? It’s been selected by the Tokyo Olympic powers that be. But why is it even being considered? Technology.

The challenges up till now for holding surfing competitions in the Olympics is how to ensure a level playing field for all surfers. After all, waves with the same or similar difficulty levels don’t come when you want them to in the big blue ocean. And what do you do if the venue for the summer games is land-locked?

Technology appears to be the wave that surfing enthusiasts in support of making it an Olympic sport are betting on. Now wavepools are becoming so sophisticated that specific heights and shapes of waves can be created and repeated consistently so that wave patterns can be replicated for competition.

According to Fernando Aquerre, President of the International Surfing Association, surfing wasn’t initially selected as an Olympic sport in 2011 because of the lack of proper wave-making technologies. “But now the proper wave technology or world-class or Olympic surfing competitions is available,” he wrote in this article.

Apparently it’s still open as to whether a competition in 2020 in Tokyo would be in a wave pool or in the ocean. But the debate is on as to which is more appropriate. Here are a few point/counterpoint from Surfermag:

Surfing should be an Olympic Sport for sure. It would be hard to have the event when the hosting city is land locked, but with the way technology is going it seems we will be able to bring world class waves and surfing anywhere. – Taylor Knox, Veteran World Tour Surfer

No, no and err…no. Olympic sports are all anchored around fairness and level playing fields, but the ocean doesn’t offer that. The only way surfing would ever be considered an Olympic sport is if it was held in wave pools, and if it was held in wave pools then I wouldn’t consider it surfing. The fact that no two waves are ever the same is what makes surfing, surfing. It’s not designed to be fair. The ocean isn’t fair, and unless you’re Kelly the ocean really doesn’t give a shit about you. – Sean Doherty, Surfer Senior Writer

Yes, I think surfing should be included, and I would absolutely love to surf in the Olympics. It would be such a great honor to represent my country. Plus, it would be a sick competition with the Brazilians teaming together against the other counties. And of course we would win. Haha! Hopefully it will happen. – Gabriel Medina, World Champ

…the thought of surfing in the Olympics brings a familiar dab of bile to my throat. Can we just all agree to pretend, for a little while longer, that surfing is a unique thing to do? That this difference has in fact always been its strength? – Matt Warshaw, Surfer Historian

What is it like to surf in a wave pool? Take a look!

Igor Ter-Ovanesyan in 1964
Igor Ter-Ovanesyan in 1964

In 1964, there was an expectation that athletes would defect. It was the time of the Berlin Wall and the Cuban Missile Crisis, George Smiley and James Bond. The Cold War was real, and spooks were everywhere. According to a Sports Illustrated article from November 2, 1964, though, rumors were often just rumors.

In the Olympic Village, sportswriters had recurrent visions of Soviet athletes popping over the back fence and dashing for the U.S. Embassy. One report got around that Broad Jumper Igor Ter-Ovanesyan was practically under house arrest. The truth was that if concern was rampant among Soviet worriers over life in post-Khrushchev Russia, there was no panic and defections were not likely. Ter-Ovanesyan seemed to have complete freedom of movement and freedom of speech.

It wasn’t just 1964 that people thought Ter-Ovanesyan was susceptible to defecting. There was an actual attempt to do so in 1960. At those Games in Rome, American sprinter, David Sime, was in the running for a medal, if not the gold medal, in the 100 meters. Sime (sounds like “rim”) was pulled into the spy vortex, and was recruited by the US government to assist in persuading an athlete from the Soviet Union for defection. The mark was Igor Ter-Ovanesyan, a 22-year old at the time, who appeared to have a Western flair and a love for things Americana. He self-taught himself English. He listened to jazz. And his idol was Jesse Owens.

According to David Maraniss’ fascinating account in his book Rome 1960: The Olympics That Changed the World, Sime approached Ter-Ovanesyan on the track during a practice. They talked. They liked each other. They agreed to meet again for dinner. When they met for dinner, they talked about Ter-Ovanesyan’s life in the Soviet Union, which he claimed was pretty good: “In the Soviet Union, he was taken care of; he had an apartment, a car, a teaching slot at the sports university. ‘And they give me a lot if I win a medal here,’ he said. Sime said he did not know what the United States could offer, except freedom, maybe set up him up as a track star out in sunny California, out near the film stars and beautiful people and fast cars.”

David Same, Armin Hary and Peter Radford - silver, gold and bronze medalists in the 100 meter race in Rome 1960.
David Sime, Armin Hary and Peter Radford – silver, gold and bronze medalists in the 100 meter race in Rome 1960.

In other words, was Ter-Ovanesyan really looking to defect? Well,

Billboard Top of the Charts_October 2_1964

UPI used to survey teenagers buyers to determine the 20 most popular records in the US. And in the first week of October in 1964, the week leading up to the Tokyo Summer Games, the top five most popular songs among teenagers in the US were:

  1. Oh Pretty Woman, Roy Orbison (#4 in the US Billboard Hot 100 in 1964)
  2. Do Wah Diddy Diddy, Manfred Mann (#1 in the US Billboard Hot 100 in October)
  3. House of the Rising Sun, Animals (#1 in the US Billboard Hot 100 in September)
  4. Remember (Walking in the Sand), Shangri-Las
  5. Last Kiss, Frank Wilson and The Cavaliers (#2 in the US Billboard Hot 100 in October)

Here’s the song I had never heard before – #5, Last Kiss.

The Olympic torch relay passing through Bangkok, Thailand.
The Olympic torch relay passing through Bangkok, Thailand.

The 1964 Tokyo Games were the first Olympics to be held in Asia, and not only was Japan busting with pride, so was a good part of Asia. Thus it was decided that the tradition of transporting the Olympic flame to the host country should include a roadshow through Asia.

“It was the first time the Olympics were held in Asia,” Charanjit Singh told me. “And during that period the Japanese just rose to the occasion. There was so much devastation (after the war),” explained the captain of the Indian field hockey team. “But instead of giving up, they built it back up themselves. The Olympics were a very good show there, and it showed the world that Asian people can do it very well, like the rest of the world.”

From August 21 to September 6 the torch wended its way through Eurasia, first from Greece to Istanbul. After a day in Turkey, the flame hopped on a plane to Beirut, Lebanon, and then to Teheran, Iran. The course continued on to Lahore, Pakistan, New Delhi, India, Rangoon, Burma, Bangkok, Thailand, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Manila in the Philippines. What I learned was that the sacred flame traveled by plane from point to point – which in hindsight makes total sense but removes the romance of this lonely flame traversing thousands of kilometers by foot.

Picture of Sacred Flame readied for travel.
Picture of Sacred Flame readied for travel.

In the end, the Sacred Flame traveled a total over 16,000 kilometers, about 95% by air. Are spirit-infused flames eligible for mileage points? Did they offer the flame a cool welcome drink?

(All pictures in this post including the ones below are from the “The Games of the XVIII Olympiad Tokyo 1964: The Official Report of the Organizing Committee”)

Chief Priestess, Aleca Katselli igniting the Sacred Olympic Flame at the Temple of Zeus, from the book,
Chief Priestess, Aleca Katselli igniting the Sacred Olympic Flame at the Temple of Zeus, from the book, “Tokyo Olympiad 1964, Kyodo News Agency”

On August 21, 1964. the Priestesses of the ancient Temple of Zeus in Athens lit the Sacred Olympic Flame in a bowl using the rays of the sun. The torch was then transported to the site of the Ancient Olympics, where King Constantine II of Greece waited for it with IOC President Avery Brundage and Daigoro Yasukawa, President of the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee. Chief Priestess, Aleca Katselli lit the Olympic Torch from the sacred flame, handing it to the King, who handed it to the first runner, George Marcellos, who was the Greek 110-yard hurdle champion. And off he went, initiating the torch on a multi-country, multi-continent relay ending in the National Stadium in Tokyo.

Greek hurdler, George Marcello, takes the first leg of the Torch Relay, from the book Tokyo Olympiad 1964, Kyodo News Agency.
Greek hurdler, George Marcello, takes the first leg of the Torch Relay, from the book Tokyo Olympiad 1964, Kyodo News Agency.

There is no other way to describe this ceremony – except that it feels Olympian.

This ceremony, wrapped in myth and ceremony, actually emerged out of Nazi Germany. Joseph Goebbels, who was Adolph Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda from 1933, saw the 1936 Berlin Olympics as an opportunity to legitimize the German way in the eyes of the world, that life with Germany, under Germany, was good and glorious. And so Goebbels formed an organizing committee inside his propaganda ministry with the mission to extract, as Daniel Brown wrote in his brilliant book, Boys in the Boat, “the maximum propaganda from the games. No opportunity was to be overlooked, nothing taken for granted.”

Brown went on to write, “at one of those meetings, one of Goebbels’ ministers proposed an entirely new idea – a potent bit of imagery designed to underscore what the Third Reich saw as its ancestral roots in ancient Greece – a torch relay to carry a flame from Olympia in Greece all the way to Berlin.”

And so since 1936, the Olympic Torch Relay has been a permanent fixture in the ritual of the Olympic Games.

See this short clip of

The baseball cards of Shaun Fitzmaurice and Chuck Dobson, who played in the Olympic baseball exhibition at the Tokyo Games in 1964.
The baseball cards of Shaun Fitzmaurice and Chuck Dobson, who played in the Olympic baseball exhibition at the Tokyo Games in 1964.

Baseball has a long history in Japan, from the time in 1934 when Babe Ruth played in an exhibition series in Japan, to when Hideo Nomo and Ichiro Suzuki exploded on the scene in Major League Baseball, to the recent years of Japan’s success in the World Baseball Classic Series.

But baseball is not an Olympic sport. And it wasn’t in 1964 either.

While baseball was not an official event at the Tokyo Olympics, it was in fact a demonstration sport. On October 11, 1964, a team of 21 American college ball players played a team of Japanese amateur all stars. And the American team went on to win 6 to 2 in front of 50,000 fans at Meiji Stadium.

The baseball cards of Gary Sutherland and Ken Suarez, who played in the Olympic baseball exhibition at the Tokyo Games in 1964.
The baseball cards of Gary Sutherland and Ken Suarez, who played in the Olympic baseball exhibition at the Tokyo Games in 1964.

That was the first of a series of exhibition games that the Americans would have with Japanese teams across the country, in cities like Numazu, Hamamatsu, Nagoya and Osaka. Japanese fans got to see future major leaguers like Chuck Dobson (Athletics), Gary Sutherland (a utility man who played for 7 major league teams), and Shaun Fitzmaurice (Mets), who hit the first pitch of the first exhibition game for a home run.

But the reality is, baseball was not an official event, and was thus given little attention by the press, which may have suited some of the players fine. As told in this interesting history, “Baseball in the Olympics“, by Peter Cava, the American players were not Olympians, and so did not live in the Olympic Village, or live by strict curfews.

The contingent wasn’t considered part of the official U.S. Olympic team. Instead of quarters in the Olympic village, the baseball players found themselves staying in an antiquated YMCA. Eventually the team moved to more suitable lodgings in a Tokyo hotel. They soon became the envy of the other American athletes. Unlike their brethren in the Olympic village, the baseball players weren’t subject to curfew. One team member recalls attending a party with sprinter Bob Hayes and Walt Hazzard of the basketball team. When Hayes and Hazzard had to leave early to make curfew, the baseball player continued to boogie to his heart’s content.

The overriding purpose