New York Times, October 16, 1964
New York Times, October 16, 1964

Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev, the First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was at the height of his influence and powers in 1960. At the kickoff of the Olympic Summer Games in Rome, he released a letter to all Olympians that grew feelings of good will towards the Soviet Union.

Rome 1960_MaranissAs David Maraniss wrote in his brilliant book, Rome 1960: The Olympics That Changed the World, “Khrushchev’s message was meant not just for the Soviets but for all athletes gathered in Rome, even if it was boilerplate Soviet rhetoric… ‘The Olympic Games were worthy because they improved brotherly contact among sportsmen of different countries,’ he noted, concluding: ‘I wish all sportsmen taking part the best success in sports as well as in work, studies, and their private lives.’”

Maraniss emphasized that “American diplomats had been frustrated for days by the seeming propaganda coup the Soviets gained when newspapers around the world reported on the message of peace and friendship that Premier Khrushchev sent to the Olympians in Rome.”

Khruschev, in the summer of 1960, was heading to New York City to address the United Nations, and he was at the top of his game.

But four years later, at the end of the first week of the Tokyo Summer Games, the world learned that one of the most powerful men in the world was deposed. As Ron Barak, US gymnast at the 1964 Games related to me, it was all a bit of a mystery.

“The day in the Village began like any other day during that two-week period. Then people began noticing the Soviets were gone. No one had witnessed their departure and until they returned late in the day, no one knew what was behind it. But there

Fusanori Nakajima at Enoshima 3He’s taken pictures of America’s Cup skippers Ted Turner and Dennis Conner, the regatta at the bicentennial birthday party in New York Harbor, as well as the sailing competitions at the Tokyo Summer Games in 1964.

Fusanori Nakajima, who’s lived most of his life in New York, is enjoying life back in Japan. Below are a few of his photographs, which are now on display at the Enoshima Yacht Club, where I caught up with him.

Photograph by Fusanori Nakajima: 5.5 meter competition at 1964 Tokyo Olympics
Photograph by Fusanori Nakajima: 5.5 meter competition at 1964 Tokyo Olympics

Nakajima, who goes by the name “Fred” in the US, recollects being very busy with the Olympic work….taking shots all day in the water, and then driving back home to develop the film, and starting all over the next day. As he was asked by the Japan Olympic Committee to take on this job, he was provided an official JOC car

Kyu Sakamoto, crooner of hit song, Sukiyaki, visiting the Olympic Village in 1964. From the book,
Kyu Sakamoto, crooner of hit song, Sukiyaki, visiting the Olympic Village in 1964. From the book, “Tokyo Olympiad 1964”.
It hit number one on the American Billboard Hot 100 in June, 1963. Number 1. And not a word in English. The title – Sukiyaki – had nothing to do with the song lyrics.

The man who sang this international hit was Kyu Sakamoto, pictured above hanging out with Aussie athletes at the Olympic Village. During the Olympics, Sakamoto performed the song on Swedish television – live – which was a big deal in those days.

The song was first released in the Fall of 1961 under the title, Ue o Muite Aruko (上を向いて歩こう), and enjoyed number 1 status for several months until early 1962. The owner of a British record label heard the song in Japan, and likely due to its catchy melody, thought there would be an audience in England, despite the fact that the song was in Japanese. The record owner’s instincts, including the decision to re-name the song after a popular Japanese dish, were superb as the record hit #6 on the charts in Britain, as well as #1 in countries like Australia, Canada and Norway.

By the time the Summer Games in Tokyo rolled around in 1964, many an Olympian would have been familiar with the song, Sukiyaki.

While Sakamoto travelled the world singing his hit song, appearing on programs like The Ed Sullivan Show, he never climbed beyond one-hit-wonder status. And at the young age of 42, Sakamoto died spectacularly in the deadliest plane crash in Japan’s history, the Japan Airlines Flight 123 that slammed into a mountain side in Gunma, Japan, ending the lives of 505 people on board.

The cheerful title (Look Up and Walk) and melody belies the lyrics, which describe a man smiling and whistling through pain and loss, holding the tears at bay as he contemplates another night alone. Listen to Sakamoto’s syrupy version above. Get uplifted by the cheery melody. You’d never think the song is about pain.

Below is a version of the song in English by Jewel Akens in

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?

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