Bjorn Haslov had never been to Japan. His country Denmark (43,000 sq kilometers) is about a ninth the size of Japan in terms of area. But nothing prepared him for the difference in population size.

“I was surprised,” Haslov told me. “My country had around 4 to 5 million people at that time.

Bjorn Haslov, member of the gold medal winning Danish coxless fours
Bjorn Haslov, member of the gold medal winning Danish coxless fours

When you are coming from a small country like Denmark you have no idea what it is like to live in a country of 100 million. The train system was fantastic, and worked perfectly all the time. But it took me 15 minutes just to change platforms because there were so many people.”

Fortunately, Haslov competed on the water where he won gold as a member of the Danish coxless four rowing team.

On land, nobody was spared the mass of humanity in Tokyo. My father was a journalist in Tokyo in the late 1950s. In June of 1957, he wrote this dispatch for the Louisville Times about the consequences of jamming too many people in one place.

Thomas Tomizawa_Stars and Stripes_Tokyo_circa 1957
Thomas Tomizawa, Tokyo, 1957

Tokyo, Japan — Jiro Matsushima, a skinny accountant, stood 25 minutes without once shifting his feet while waiting for a bus that would take him home. When the bus came, he sprang into action, ramming his way past other homeward -bound Japanese. Matsushima and his brief-case barely made it inside the bus before the door closed in front of a frail old kimono-clad woman. In this jampacked city, two of your most valuable assets are patience and sharp elbows. Matsushima has both.

The whole metropolis, on a giant scale, sometimes resembles the crushing scene of a department store bargain-basement during an annual sale. Waiting in lines and bulling through throngs have become a way of life. If you think Louisville is suffering from growing pains, take a look at Japan’s capital city: 

In recent years, Tokyo has grown at the rate of 250,000 to 300,000 a year. Because of high birth rates and migrations into the city from other prefectures, there are now about 8,350,000 persons in Tokyo.

Babies are born into crowded hospitals, children attend overflowing classes, breadwinners work in cramped offices, and the oldsters have hardly enough room to die. The last statement is no exaggeration. Most of the public cemeteries are filled up. One city-operated cemetery had a little space a few weeks ago, but there so many applicants that a drawing had to be held.

That is only one of the things which caused Tokyo Governor Seiichiro Yasui, in commenting on the state of the city to say, “Overpopulation is an evil. Tokyo is overpopulated.”

As Paul McCartney wrote:

Leon de Lunden of Belgium won the live pigeon shooting event at the 1900 Olympics in Paris
Leon de Lunden of Belgium won the live pigeon shooting event at the 1900 Olympics in Paris

Up in the air they flew – 8,000 pigeons released into the piercing blue sky, free as a….um….bird.

Many remember the Summer Games in 1964 for the moment pigeons filled the National Stadium during the Opening Ceremony. Not many remember the Summer Games in 1900 for the moment when pigeons were blown out of the sky.

Hard as it may be to believe, pigeon shooting was an Olympic sport at the Games in Paris 115 years ago. The Olympian would stand at the ready with a rifle when pigeons were released in front of him. About 300 pigeons were shot down dead in what must have been a grisly messy event. The gold medalist was Leon de Lunden of Belgian with 21 kills. The silver and bronze medalists shot down 20 and 18 respectively, as part of a total 300 birds killed.

Pigeon shooting was replaced by clay pigeon shooting at the 1904 Games in St Louis, Missouri.

Clay Pigeons is also the name of my favorite Blaze Foley song.

No animals were harmed in the writing of this blog post.

Beantown out. Is USOC California dreamin’?

OlympicTalk

Boston will not bid for the 2024 Olympics, but another U.S. city just might.

The USOC is withdrawing the bid that it first announced Jan. 8, after Boston mayor Marty Walsh said that he would not sign a document on Monday that could put taxpayers at risk if there are cost overruns.

The USOC “would very much” like to have another U.S. city bid for the 2024 Olympics, USOC CEO Scott Blackmun said in a statement.

“We are out of time if the USOC is going to be able to consider a bid from another city,” Blackmun said. “As a result, we have reached a mutual agreement to withdraw Boston’s bid to host the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

“The USOC would very much like to see an American city host the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2024. We will immediately begin to explore whether we can do so on a basis consistent with…

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So FIFA, despite being a part of the IOC ,doesn’t take scheduling conflicts into account regarding the Olympics.

OlympicTalk

Brazilian soccer superstar Neymar has told his club team, Barcelona, that he wants to play in the Olympics and Copa America Centenario next summer, according to O Globo.

Neymar may be the 2016 Olympic host nation’s most famous potential Olympian, but there is at least some question of whether he will suit up at the Rio Games.

Copa America Centenario takes place from June 3-26. Soccer at the 2016 Olympics takes place from Aug. 3-20. Neymar plays for Barcelona in La Liga, whose season usually begins in late August. That would be a busy summer of national team duty, which may not sit well with Barcelona.

In 2012, FIFA ordered club teams to allow its players to compete in the Olympics. In 2008, the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled Barcelona did not have to release Lionel Messi to compete in the Olympics, though Messi did end up winning…

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Team picture of 1964  US Judo Team from DC Judo; from left to right: Paul Maruyama, Jim Bregman, George Harris, Ben Nighthorse Campbell)
Team picture of 1964 US Judo Team from DC Judo; from left to right: Paul Maruyama, Jim Bregman, George Harris, Ben Nighthorse Campbell

Paul Maruyama grew up in Tokyo with three other brothers who were always fighting each other. His mother, a Seattle-born Nisei, was fed up and said, “if you’re going to fight, then fight at the dojo.” She dragged the brothers to a neighborhood judo dojo, where the brothers all started their journey to black belt. For Paul, his journey would continue as member of the US Judo Olympic team in 1964, and Head Coach of the 1980 and 1984 US Judo Olympic Teams.

Competing at the Olympic level is a challenge. But Paul Maruyama readily acknowledges that his efforts and accomplishment pale in comparison to those of his father.

After the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, the Soviet Union invaded Manchuria, where the Japanese had a significant colonial population. The Soviet army captured Japanese Imperial Army soldiers and sent them to labor camps in Siberia, while non-combatant Japanese who were in many cases pioneer families who volunteered to cultivate farmlands in Manchuria, were trapped on the Asian continent, denied exit by the Soviet Union.

Maruyama’s father, Kunio Maruyama, had made his way to Japan with two other men, Hachiro Shinpo and Masamichi Musashi. As Paul Maruyama describes in his book, Escape from Manchuria, the three men maneuvered covertly out of Manchuria. They were on a mission to inform the government in Japan that some 1.5 to 1.7 million Japanese were unable to leave the former Japanese colony, where thousands were dying daily due to disease and starvation, as well as at the hands of Soviet soldiers, and revenge-seeking Chinese and Manchurian mobs.

Escape from Manchuria coverThe three then had to convince the head of the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP), General Douglas MacArthur, that an urgent rescue was needed. It took over two years, but by August 1948, three years after the end of the second world war, American warships had repatriated over a million Japanese. So many more remained – children abandoned or taken in by Chinese families, Japanese women married to Chinese and their children who were not considered Japanese citizens, as well as men who were imprisoned in Siberia.

What a legacy! Think about it. The greatest growth in Japan’s

Here is an American gymnast to start tracking. If they start calling you the “Michael Jordan of….”, you must be pretty darn good.

OlympicTalk

Simone Biles easily defeated Olympic champions Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman in their first U.S. competition together at the Secret Classic in Hoffman Estates, Ill., on Saturday night.

Biles, the two-time reigning World all-around champion, posted the highest score of all gymnasts on three of the four events and totaled 62.4 points. She’s won eight straight all-around competitions dating to 2013.

“I’m just really proud of myself,” Biles said on Universal Sports. “I was just really nervous [debuting new routines].”

Douglas, the 2012 Olympic all-around champ, beat Biles on uneven bars (15.4 points) and finished second overall, 1.9 points behind.

“I really wanted the confidence in myself, to go in here and I’m going to hit, hit, hit, hit,” Douglas said on Universal Sports. “There still needs to be more improvements for me. I need to be more consistent and trust myself a little bit more.”

Raisman, the 2012 Olympic floor…

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