There will be 2 new additions to the list of sports showcased in next years 2016 Summer Olympics. The 2 sports are rugby sevens, and golf. Rugby and golf actually aren’t new to the Olympics. The 2016 Summer Olympics will mark their return to the event. Fifteen-man rugby had previously been an Olympic sport, debuting […]

https://sportinglifelc.wordpress.com/2015/10/19/new-sports-in-the-olympics/

Tommie Smith (center) and John Carlos (right) on the podium after the 200 meter race at the 1960 Summer Games in Mexico City. Peter Norman took silver and is the person on the left. All three wore the OPHR button and went barefoot in protest.
Tommie Smith (center) and John Carlos (right) on the podium after the 200 meter race at the 1960 Summer Games in Mexico City.

An amazing post from the blog whatwesee has been making the rounds – The White Man in the Photo – which focuses on the story of Peter Norman, the Caucasian sharing the podium with Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Mexico City Games.

You would think with all the attention Smith and Carlos got with their black-glove protest, two fists thrust defiantly in the air, that they had placed first and second in the 200 meter race. But it was Norman who took silver in front of Carlos. And while Smith and Carlos were famous runners from “Speed City”, Lloyd (Bud) Winter’s San Jose State College track team, Norman was no slouch. In fact, according to Richard Hoffer in his book, Something in the Air: American Passion and Defiance in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, Norman, Smith and Carlos traded places on record paces several times.

“Smith tied the record of 20.3 in the first round; Norman, who had never run faster than 20.5, ran 20.2 to break it in his head; and then Smith came back in his to tie it. This was inspired running. In Wednesday’s two semifinals, both Smith and Carlos won their races in new Olympic records of 20.1.”

Tommie Smith won the finals in world record time of 19.83 seconds, but Peter Norman snuck ahead of John Carlos at the end as Carlos was turning his head. According to Hoffer, Norman really wanted in on the protest, and bumped into Harvard rower, Paul Hoffman. Hoffman, a Caucasian, was part of a crew team that went out of their way to support the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR) and their demands for equality for Blacks in America. Hoffman was the type of who invited the women’s track team, who were Black, to an all-white Harvard alumni event in Canada, and who set up a meeting with the Black Panthers to discuss ways the Harvard rowing team could show their support.

OPHR Button
OPHR Button

So when Norman walked by Hoffman, he said, “Hey mate,” you got another one of those, Hoffman was suspicious. Norman was from Australia, which had an apartheid-like policy of its own…and yet he was asking for Hoffman’s OPHR button. Hoffman wondered whether Norman was joking. Hoffman decided that he wasn’t.

And the rest is history. Norman shared that incredible moment with Smith and Carlos, shoeless and defiant. And while our eyes never really notice the white guy in the photo, as the popular blog post notes, Norman did suffer the consequences when he went home to Australia. As stated in the “whatwesee” blog post, Norman was treated like an outsider, an outcast, and subsequently couldn’t get stable work. Norman eventually had to deal with depression and alcoholism. As the whatweesee blog post states,

Jesse Owens at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, from the book
Jesse Owens at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, from the book “Tokyo Olympics Special Issue_Kokusai Johosha”

It’s hard to believe, but there has never been a major film on Jesse Owens. Eighty years after Owens’ monumental achievements at the Berlin Summer Games in 1936, the film, Race, will be coming to a theater near you.

During the Tokyo Summer Games fifty one years ago, Owens was asked to write a daily column for the Newark Star Ledger offering his memories from the Berlin Games, as well as his thoughts on the athletes and events of the 1964 Games. In his October 11, 1964 column, he wrote about a moment when he felt the weight of the world on his shoulders.

“Forget the competition. Run your own race. Don’t look at the people who’re watching you. Just do your best and be satisfied, win or lose. I always followed that creed too, and I think it helped me to become a better athlete and a better man. I always followed it – except once. That one I didn’t compete just as Jesse Owens, or just me as an American. That one day I ran as a Negro.”

Jesse Owens went on to write how he was feeling the pressure of representing his race, and fouled in his first two attempts at the long jump trials. Then a reporter asked Owens if he thought the German refs were purposely calling foul and how Hitler was reported to have bad mouthed Owens.

“Since that day, I’ve told thousands of boys that I just turned the other cheek – and that that’s what they should do when those things come up. But that day, that minute, I really couldn’t forget it. Not just as a Negro, but as a human being, it hurt me in that place you can’t put medicine.”

That’s when the athlete from Oakville, Alabama decided to draw a line in the sand…literally. In order to ensure that he didn’t foul, Owens marked a line a foot before the launching point, and easily won the trial, which helped Owens to continue his journey to gold and Olympic glory.

Below is the trailer for Race. This highly anticipated film is scheduled for release on February 19, 2016. When it does, don’t walk…race to your local theater.

Hiroshi Hase, wrestler and minister
Hiroshi Hase, Olympian, wrestler and Minster of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology

He was a teacher in classic Japanese literature. He was an Olympian, competing in Greco-Roman wrestling at the 1984 Olympiad in Los Angeles. He had a long and successful career as a pro wrestler, starting his career in Puerto Rico, Canada and the Soviet Union before becoming a star in Japan, particularly in his tag team performances with Kensuke Sasaki. Towards the end of a storied career in wrestling, Hiroshi Hase ( ) followed in the footsteps of his mentor, Antonio Inoki, by being elected into the Upper House of the Japanese Diet in 2005, as an independent in Ishikawa Prefecture.

Which brings us to today.

Today, Hase is the head of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. And in the Japanese bureaucracy, it is the sub-departments in this Ministry that make decisions regarding the Olympic Games. And Hase has already stated that he intends to push hard for the protection of the rights of the LGBT community in Japan, using the Olympics as a platform.

“Let me be clear on this: I believe sexual-minority students at elementary and junior high schools have been left out” to the extent that people around them, including teachers, friends and family, have little understanding of the issues they face, said Hiroshi Hase, a few days ago in this Japan Times article.

In another Japan Times article from 7 months ago, Hase was quoted as saying that the Sochi Olympics were a lesson for us all, hearing that many Western leaders did not attend the opening ceremonies due to the openly hostile attitude towards the LGBT community in Russia.

As a four-time Olympic host, Japan has the responsibility of calling for social change through sports, Hase said.

Is the bureaucracy in Japan ready for this? Skepticism reigns, but optimism can conquer.

sakura fujiyama,tokyo

In 1964, Japanese officials expected 130,000 foreigners to visit during the Olympics, so they encouraged proprieters to get ready for the world to flock across the seas, not only to Tokyo, but to the beautiful vistas around Tokyo and beyond.

But alas, government projections proved to be overly optimistic as only 70,000 tourists were estimated to arrive that October. Millions of dollars were spent to accommodate more people and make the experience for non-Japanese tourists a good one in popular resorts like Atami and Hakone, but facilities never got close to capacity.

Kyoto hoteliers turned down reservations by Japanese wanting to see the old capitol in all its beauty during the refreshing Autumn season in anticipation of the busloads and trainloads of foreigners instead saw occupancy rates plummet, when instead they should have been near capacity.

When a country holds the Olympics, there is a promise that the tourists will come and the money will flow for hotels and restaurants. It is a promise that goes unchallenged, and proven time and time again to be baseless.

circus maximusEconomist Andrew Zimbalist explains in his fascinating book, Circus Maximus – The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup,  that a country which hosts the Olympics may very well be welcoming a large number of foreign visitors (athletes, coaches, judges, media, family members, etc.), anywhere from 10 to 25,000 related to the Olympics. But rarely have there been instances where the number of tourists actually increase. Very often, it is the opposite – tourism decreases, sometimes significantly.

Zimbalist cited China, which dropped 6.8% in foreign visitors from 26.1 million in 2007 to 24.3 million in 2008 when the Olympics were hosted in Beijing. London experienced a year on year drop of 6.1% in overseas visitors from July and August 2011 to July August 2012, when the Summer Games were held there. Athens expected 105,000 foreign tourists per night during their Olympic Games in 2004, but in actually hosted only 14,000 per night.

Zimbalist does write that Sydney’s number did increase modestly from 2.5 million in 1999 to 2.7 million in 2000 when the Games were held in Australia, but that was more than a quarter less than projected, resulting in low occupancy rates on top of expansion hotel expansion in anticipation of higher numbers – just like in Tokyo in 1964.

So what’s happening?

A dynamic that is not understood is that Olympic traffic is not adding to overall numbers – it is merely replacing traffic that would have come. And yes,

From The Games of the XVIII Olympiad Tokyo 1964
From The Games of the XVIII Olympiad Tokyo 1964

As I am a former journalist, I know that if you keep asking questions, in different ways, and you’re patient, your victim may very well cough up something interesting or important or both. Athletes who aren’t used to the interview may find out very quickly that they should probably avoid reporters at all costs, for their own good.

800 and 1,500 meter champion, Peter Snell, addressed this issue in his book “No Bugles No Drums“. Snell describes a possible encounter between an unwary athlete and a reporter:

Under the great conditions of stress and emotion produced by the Games atmosphere, it’s very easy for an athlete to say things he wouldn’t say in normal circumstances. It’s not difficult to imagine a runner just finishing a particularly fine trial. He’s elated by the time but, before he’s had time to evaluate it properly a pressman bowls up:

“Hullo, there. Google from the London Explode. Just a few questions.”
“Why, yeah, sure,” jogging around, jumping out of his skin.
“How’s your training programme coming along?”
“Terrific.” Still jumping. “Just ran a terrific quarter…/”
“That so?” that’s great. How do you feel you’re going to run next Tuesday?”
Still jumping. “I’ll lick the pants off that lot the way I’m feeling.”
“What’re your plans for the race? Tactics, I mean?”
“Well, after this trial, nothing scares me. I was going to hold a sprint as long as possible but I figure if it’s got to be the last lap sprint I’ll be In it.”
“You mean, you’ll sprint from the bell?”
“Oh, I guess I’ll go from about 300 yards.”
“Who’d you pick is going to be the hardest to beat?”
“Heck, I don’t even care who else is running.”

secret olympianSnell’s point? “You can be caught with your pants down in a moment of elation – or depression.”

And as described in the book, Secret Olympian: The Inside Story of the Olympic Experience, by Anon, you also need to aware of how your words can be misinterpreted. In this case, one can turn an innocent question into an answer of ungratefulness.

One of the first trials of the recently christened Olympian-to-be is the local newspaper interview. The journalist is buzzing, looking forward to an uplifting story of the local boy or girl made good.

The obligatory first question, ‘How long have you dreamed of being an Olympian?’

The automatic response, “Since I was a kid’ or ‘Since I can remember.’

Whilst such a response may make a nice sound bit and an uplifting ‘Dream comes true for local boy’ page two lead, in the main it’s not actually true. I didn’t dream about going to the Olympics and neither did most of my compatriots. We answer yes to the leading question from journalists because it seems expected and it sounds ungrateful not to have dreamt of going.

The best advice you can give an inexperienced athlete prior to engaging a reporter? Know your cliches. Watch this clip from the movie, Bull Durham, as Crash Davis teaches the rookie that “cliches are your friend.”