Admit it. You’ve done it. Maybe it was at an Independence Day picnic in America, or a company offsite in Penang. You got down and dirty, strained every sinew in your body, and pulled that rope as if your life depended on it. If you had strength and rhythm on your side, you basked in glory as your enemy fell splashing into the mud pit.

Tug of war.

If you were a slave to the boob tube in America in the 1970s, then you watched “Battle of the Stars”, a program where teams of actors and celebrities competed against each other in athletic competitions, the highlight being the tug of war.

There was a time when nations competed for medals at the Olympics in this contest of strength and teamwork: gold and glory was won by a combined team from Denmark and Sweden in Paris in 1900, by the US in 1904 in St Louis, by Great Britain in London in 1908, by Sweden in Stockholm in 1912, and by Great Britain again in Antwerp in 1920.

1920 Olympics_tug of warBut ever since 1920, Olympic tug of war went the way of the horse and buggy.

One hundred years later, the tug of war is attempting a comeback. According to NBC OlympicTalk, tug of war is one of 26 sports hoping to be included

usain bolt in ny
Usain Bolt, left, of Jamaica, winning the 200-meter dash in 20.29 seconds Saturday at the Adidas Grand Prix at Icahn Stadium in New York. Credit Hilary Swift/The New York Times

Wow! Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the world, won the 200 meters in New York in a very slow 20.29 seconds. That’s only .01 seconds faster than Henry Carr’s gold medal time in 1964.  Will Bolt be ready for Rio?

http://olympictalk.nbcsports.com/2015/06/13/usain-bolt-slow-in-adidas-grand-prix-victory/

Seattle Times, October 9, 1964
Seattle Times, October 9, 1964

This is a bit of a mystery to me. The above ad states that the Opening Ceremonies of the Tokyo Opening Ceremonies would start at 1 am in Seattle, which would have been 16 hours earlier than Tokyo, or 5pm in Tokyo. That would mean that NBC would have started live coverage two hours after the beginning of the opening ceremonies. Did people stay up late to catch the Opening Ceremonies two hours in? Did they bother to show anything live on the East Coast? So much was made out of NBC’s decision to broadcast the Olympic Games live from Tokyo through the technological magic of the satellite, Syncom III. In the end, the only live coverage was this partial showing of the opening ceremonies. Of course, if you’re living in the US, that’s to be expected with a time difference of 13 hours in the East Coast, and 16 hours in the West Coast.

Syncom III, the satellite that sent live pictures across the world from Japan to America...just once.
Syncom III, the satellite that sent live pictures across the world from Japan to America…just once.

But apparently, NBC’s overall coverage was pretty bad. Wrote one viewer to The Sunday Star TV Magazine, “May I be the first of many (I’m sure) who will register discontent with NBC’s coverage of the Olympics in Tokyo. The first objection I have concerns the time the games are being shown… It seems to me that more could be shown earlier in the evening. The second objection I have is the poor continuity of the clips…. The whole affair seems to lack enthusiasm… I guess I’m just disappointed after the excellent job done by ABC during the Winter Olympics.” According to the US press, NBC was not wholeheartedly invested in showing the Games during prime time, when sponsors pay the big bucks to watch their favorite entertainers. Wrote the TV Writer for The Oregonian on October 23, 1964, “Instead of pretending to ‘cover’ the games on a day to day basis, NBC would have been better advised to save the film and tapes, edit them and

katahajime_180x210Training in the martial arts can be brutal. Olympian Syd Hoare felt this keenly when he moved from his home country of England to Japan to study judo with the very best. Wrenched knees, broken noses, dislocated shoulders, ripped-off toe nails – doesn’t matter. Stay calm, and carry on.

One of the more notorious training routines of judo (back in the day) was to purposely strangle someone to unconsciousness. This was partly done to teach the judoka how to revive the unconscious. It was also done to educate (to not get oneself in a position to be strangled, I suppose).

Hoare-Syd-A-slow-boat-to-Yokohama-a-Judo-odyssey1Hoare, who represented Great Britain at the 1964 Summer Games, wrote in his wonderful book, “A Slow Boat to Yokohama”, how his training in England included the “kata-hajime” strangle technique. Here is a somewhat chilling description.

“Then it was my turn to strangle my partner out but he was one of the fighters. Even as I was putting my hands in place for the kata-hajime strangle, he tensed his neck, preventing me from taking the full position. So, I softly started again, and then locked it on hard and quickly. Immediately he grabbed my hands and tried to tear them away from his throat, but the strangle was on securely. He began to flail around gagging and choking. At one point he arched violently

 From
Joe Frazier, recovering from surgery to his thumb at a hospital in Philadelphia after returning from Tokyo. From “The Olympic Century – XVIII Olympiad – Vol 16.

What a great picture of Joe Frazier, the butcher from Philadelphia, and gold-medal heavyweight from the Tokyo Summer Games. For years, Frazier was the verbal punching bag of Muhammad Ali, tolerating all sorts of insult regarding his looks. But here, Frazier is looking handsome and cool in his PJs.

You can see the left hand in a cast. At the Tokyo Summer Olympics, he apparently broke his Joe Frazier in Tokyo USA shirtthumb in the semi-final match with Vadim Yemelyanov, the Soviet boxer he knocked out in the second round. He knew something was wrong with his hand as he had trouble gripping with it. But the hand felt better after soaking in cold water, and so he didn’t bother getting x-rays. Frazier went on to gain a 3-2 decision over Hans Huber of Germany to win gold. While he clearly favored his right, he did occasionally throw a left hook. In the locker room, he must have been feeling supremely

Kon Ichikawa
From “The Games of the XVIII Olympiad Tokyo 1964”

Kon Ichikawa’s film, “Tokyo Olympiad“, is considered a classic documentary. Perhaps since Leni Riefenstahl’s famous film on the Berlin Olympics, it has become de rigeur to make a film about the Games so that audiences can re-live the excitement.

Planning for this film began in 1960, when the Japan Olympic Organizing Committee sent famed Japanese director, Akira Kurosawa to scout the Summer Games in Rome, and observe how the film on the Summer Games in Italy were produced. When Kurosawa and his team provided a budget estimate of about $1.5 million dollars, and also informed the committee that the receipts from distributing the Rome Olympic film was only half a million dollars, they realized they had to scale back.

hundred years of filmHaving said that the committee eventually selected Kon Ichikawa to be the director. And while the film is visually beautiful, Japan film historian, Donald Richie, writes in his book, “A Hundred Years of Japanese Film“, that so much, as they say, was left on the editing floor.

“Aesthetically, the picture is superb – a masterpiece of visual design,” writes Richie about this documentary by the renown Ichikawa. “One remembers the incisive use of slow motion during the track and field events; the beautiful repeated shots in the pole-vaulting competition; the fast zooms in the shot-put event, and the long, brilliant climax of the marathon – the work of the director and a staff of nearly six hundred people, including sixteen cameramen.”

“None of this, however,

TOKYO, JAPAN - OCTOBER 17:  (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) Henry Carr (2nd L) of United States crosses the finishing line to win the gold medal in the Men's 200m at the National Stadium during the Tokyo Olympic on October 17, 1964 in Tokyo, Japan.  (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN – OCTOBER 17: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) Henry Carr (2nd L) of United States crosses the finishing line to win the gold medal in the Men’s 200m at the National Stadium during the Tokyo Olympic on October 17, 1964 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)

In Rome, the US men’s team did not take its customary gold in any of the 100 or 200-meter races. Along with Bob Hayes, Henry Carr returned sprint supremacy to the United States in Tokyo in 1964. Carr won gold in the 200-meter race as well as in the 4X400 relay competition.

Carr passed away on May 29, 2015.

In Tokyo, his running mate on that world-record setting 4X400 team, Ollan Cassell, told me nobody was going to take gold from Carr in the 200. “Mike Larrabee and I were practicing our 200 meter sprints, and Henry wanted to join. I told him that the times were really fast. He was not really dressed for a serious sprint as he was wearing his sweats and fat running shoes with no spikes. The coach even told Henry that he could hurt himself running without spikes. Henry then proceeded to finish ahead of both me and Mike. An Italian 200 meter runner was watching. He realized he would be running for second.”

Carr would go on to