Yoshinori Sakai-Sports Illustrated

Yoshinori Sakai (坂井義則) was born on August 6, 1945, the day the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. As a symbol of Japan rising from the ashes, Sakai momentously carried the Olympic torch into the National Stadium, and lit the Olympic cauldron at the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo Games.

He was on the Waseda University track team and won gold and silver at the 1966 Asian Games in 4X400 relay and in the 400 meter race.

With the explosion of television as a mass media channel in the 1960s in Japan, it was clearly apparent to Sakai, who was the focus of attention of billions of people in the most global event in the world, that mass media was a booming industry. Sakai decided in 1968 to join Fuji Television, a major network in Japan, as a journalist.

And while he never represented Japan in an Olympic Games, he worked as a reporter in them. He was at the Munich Games in 1972, when Israeli athletes were murdered by terrorists. He put on a Japan Team uniform and snuck

Adolph and Rudolph Dassler
Adolph and Rudolph Dassler

The battle between Adidas and Puma is no coincidence – their cut-throat competition founded on a blood rivalry.

There once was a company called Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik, formed after World War I by Christoph Dassler in the town of Merzogenaurach in Germany. Christoph’s two sons Adolph and Rudolph became active in the family business. With the help of partner blacksmiths who made spikes for track shoes, they built shoes for runners, and famously got American Jesse Owens to wear their track shoes at the 1936 Olympic Games. Owens won four gold medals in those shoes, and the Dassler brothers got incredible insight into the power of branding.

But the family business would not last. As Andrew Jennings wrote in his book, The Lord of the Rings: Power, Money, and Drugs in the Modern Olympics, “…the two brothers had a dreadful argument. So dreadful was the dispute that Adolph and Rudolph decided never to speak to each other again. They parted company and ran rival shoe businesses in the town on either side of the Aurach River.”

james cleveland owens – modell waitzer – 1936, sprint shoe worn at the olympic games in berlin; shoe size: 7,5 (uk), 162 g image © adidas
james cleveland owens – modell waitzer – 1936, sprint shoe worn at the olympic games in berlin; shoe size: 7,5 (uk), 162 g image © adidas

Adolph, who was called Adi by family and friends, combined his nickname and the first syllable of his last name to form the brand “Adidas”. Rudolph chose a sleek and powerful big cat to represent his shoe company “Puma”. The company not only split in two in 1948, so did the town, as Richard Hoffer explains in his book on the Mexico City Games, Something in the Air.

“This created a civic tension in the town, as well, as scores of employees were now forced to take sides, some with Adolf’s newly formed Adidas company, others with Rudolf’s Puma. It was said that townspeople walked the streets with their heads down, the better to check out their neighbors’ footwear, and thus identify their family allegiance.”

Adi Dassler and his son Horst would

adidas-vs-puma

Way before there was a Nike, there was Adidas and Puma. The basketball shoe wars of today are echoes of the battles that took place between two rival German shoe manufacturers. And in these battles emerged a hugely lucrative sports marketing business that benefited both maker and athlete. At the Melbourne Summer Games in 1956, the son of Adidas owner, Horst Dassler, convinced officials to prevent the shipment of Puma shoes from passing through Customs. At the same time, the Adidas shipment came through allowing him to give away shoes to eager Olympians. When American sprinter Bobby Morrow won three gold medals in Melbourne, he was wearing a free pair of Adidas running shoes. When Americans saw Morrow and his triple-striped shoes on the cover of Life Magazine, Adidas sales jumped. Bobby Morrow_Life 12-10-56 The German champion sprinter of the 1960 Games in Rome also got free shoes, and a whole lot more. Armin Hary was the first runner other than an American since 1928 to win the 100 meter race and lay claim to the fastest man on the planet. And when he crossed the finish line, it was in Puma spikes. Yet, when he stood on the winners platform to receive his gold medal, he was wearing the stripes of Adidas. (Go to this site to see the pictures.) Hary was clearly playing Adidas and Puma against each other, not only receiving shoes, but also payments.

In 1964, the human bullet, Bob Hayes was in the middle of a bidding war between

The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown
The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown

The German rowing teams had already won five of the previous six rowing events in the Olympic Games hosted in Nazi Berlin. At the beginning of the main event – the eight oars – the American crew didn’t hear the man say “start”, so lost precious seconds from the beginning. They were in the last lane, which had the hardest crosswinds to overcome. Their stroke, the pace-keeper of the eight-oared crew was so ill, he looked as if he would pass out any moment. And for the first half of the race, the men’s team from Seattle, Washington was in last place with another 1,000 meters to go.

I was on my step machine at the gym yesterday, my towel and water in their place, and my Kindle resting on the step machine display. I was reading the final chapter of Daniel Brown’s brilliant book about the legendary American crew from The University of Washington – The Boys in the Boat – Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

boys in the boat_seattle PI

The description of the race, as were descriptions of all the key races, were thrilling. And as I tapped from page to page, I noticed my pace picking up on the machine. The stroke, Don Hume, was a ghost, and the coxswain Bobby Moch, was hesitant, but shouted that he wanted the 7, Joe Rantz, to take over the stroke role. That woke up Hume, who resumed his role and picked up the pace.

And again, up went my pace.

Brown writes

Yao Ming supports Beining 2022 Bid
International and NBA basketball star Yao Ming.

It’s a sad day when the International Olympic Committee cannot even clear one of the lowest bars for choosing the host city for the Winter Games: snow.

A telling first line from the New York Times regarding the IOC awarding the 2022 Winter Games to Beijing. This is the first time the same city has ever been awarded the Summer and Winter Games, probably for the obvious reason that cities big enough to host the Summer Games simply don’t have big mountains or enough snow to host the Winter Games.

The reality is, the lack of snow did not prevent Beijing from being selected. Perhaps the main reason for Beijing’s success is that the Winter Olympics are currently considered a very expensive proposition by host cities, limiting the competition significantly. The only other candidate for these games was Almaty, Kazakhstan, which actually has snow.

In fact according to Andrew Zimbalist in his insightful book, Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup, the Olympics in general, and the Winter Games in particular, have had a declining number of applicants and candidates in the 21st century due to rising cost. As a recent example, he cites that Vancouver, which hosted the Winter Olympics in 2010 is a billion dollars in debt for bailing out investors in the development of the Olympic Village, resulting in cuts in service to education,