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.
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.”
Today, the taxi driver in Tokyo, and Japan for that matter, is polite, knowledgeable, chatty and silent as you wish, and above all else, safe. As visitors realize their first time in Tokyo, you pay for this.
But in 1964, apparently, taxi drivers had a public relations issue. Sports Illustrated described taxis in Japan in their October 19, 1964 issue as “those four-wheeled hearses operated by frustrated Kamikaze pilots”.
Remember, the Tokyo Summer Games were held only 23 years after Pearl Harbor, so I wonder how much emotional baggage was packed inside that moniker. This is typical of the patronizing tone of the American journalist at the time. “(Taxi drivers) do not speak much English, and very little Japanese for that matter. All of them were hired 30 minutes ago and have no idea how to find the Imperial Palace. But they can all find the Olympic Village. In fact, they take every pale-faced passenger there, whether he wants to go or not.” (October 2, 1964).
“Everyone who goes to Tokyo must, sooner or later, find himself in a battle of nerves with the famous Tokyo cab drivers. (Bill) Lied had his experience and he isn’t likely to forget it. ‘The Japanese taxi ride isn’t to be forgotten,’ he said. ‘The Tokyo residents call the taxi drivers the Kamikaze Squad (on the wings of God) – and so they are’,” as the Wagner College Wrestling Coach explained to The Star-Ledger (November 6, 1964).
Not all was bad. Taxis were cheap, some 30 or 40 yen per trip, so at 360 yen to the dollar, that’s 8 to 11 cents a ride. And there were, of course, conscientious taxi drivers. As is cited in the book, “The Olympic Century – XVIII Olympiad”, some taxi drivers tried to reverse the bad PR with PR of their own, placing signs in their vehicles in English that read, “I Am Not a Kamikaze Driver.”
They appear to waddle more than walk. But that’s how you attain speeds of 8 km per hour without ever having a foot leave the ground at any time.
Ken Matthews, the electrician from Erdington, England, tasted bitter disappointment in Rome, failing to complete the 20km walk at the Rome Olympics. Determined to compete in Tokyo, he clocked out at 5pm from the local power plant, and pounded the roads in training. As he said in this FT.com article, he gave himself “a thrashing”, building up his stamina and
power in his legs.
And there he was, all alone as he entered the National Stadium on October 15, setting an Olympic record in the 20-kilometer walk.
And there she was, all of a sudden, on the track and embracing her husband, the Olympic champion.
In a time of social media hyperbole, where lists tell us who or what is number 1, it may be hard to compare any athlete with James Francis “Jim” Thorpe, or as he was known by his Native American friends, Wa-Tho-Huk.
Jim Thorpe won gold in both the decathlon and the pentathlon at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, which means he could run, jump and throw better than almost anyone else in the world.
And that’s not all.
He played baseball for the New York Giants, Cincinnati Reds, and the Boston Braves. He played basketball for the “World Famous Indians”, a travelling basketball team. And he played football for the Canton Bulldogs, which won championships in the American Professional Football Association, a precursor to the NFL.
Thorpe suffered from alcoholism, struggled in poverty after the Great Depression, and passed away broke in California. And that’s when his life really got interesting.
Thorpe was brought back to his birth place in Shawnee, Oklahoma, lying in state. Somehow, Thorpe’s third wife, Patricia, stole the body and shipped it to Pennsylvania. Neither Thorpe or his wife had any connection to Pennsylvania. But the towns of Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk smelled a business opportunity. They bought
The Hotel Okura was part of the wave of new hotels built in anticipation of the hordes of tourists that would descend on Tokyo with the 1964 Summer Games. Based on the design of a Kyoto temple, the Hotel Okura was considered one of the poshest places in Asia. If you’ve seen the 1966 Cary Grant movie, “Walk, Don’t Run”, then you saw the Hotel Okura preening in a glow of newness and modernity.
But at the age of 53, it’s apparently time for architectural euthanasia. I’ve stayed at the Hotel Okura, a couple of times, most recently two years ago. Despite the obvious care with which management maintains the hotel, it is looking its age. I suppose a face lift was considered, but the true aim is probably more rooms in a prime location. The Hotel Okura’s 2nd coming will
As the democratization of the hotel industry takes the inevitable step of your home becoming another hotel room, Rio knows it will need to consider all options to accommodate the spike in visitors during the 2016 Summer Games in Brazil.
According to ESPN, Airbnb is now the official “alternative accommodations” sponsor of the 2016 Games. That’s an amazing 20,000 spaces in peoples’ homes available to visitors.
During the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, the government came up with various ideas to increase the number of rooms. One of the ideas was asking owners of private homes to make rooms available to foreign guests. A total of 1,445 beds in 588 homes were available to guests, a 20th century version of Airbnb. But, different from Airbnb, the government made sure that Japanese in charge of restaurants, hotels and shops were provided training and information on food sanitation, medical and first aid services for foreign guests, even to the owners of the private homes.
The USA team looked sharp in blue blazers over white slacks and skirts. But to cap it off, the men were given a typically American touch – a white cowboy fedora. Some knew it was the idea of President Lyndon Johnson, a proud Texan. Some loved the hat enough that when thousands of pigeons were released during the opening ceremony, they made sure to take them off and shield them from the inevitable bird droppings. Some were pleased they had something to keep their hair from getting dirty.
The bottom line is that athletes and officials from other countries wanted the American hats! Jeff Mullins was a member of the gold medal-winning men’s basketball team in 1964. Like every other athlete in the Olympic Village, he enjoyed the United Nations vibe, but couldn’t really communicate…except when they were bartering.
“Trading,” said Mullins, “was our form of communication. Bill Bradley got us started. He brought a whole bunch of Princeton beanies with him, and we tried to fill them with lapel pins for our pins – red, white and blue pins with a pearl in it.”
“And we always were trading up,” said the man who would go onto play for the champion Golden State Warriors in the NBA. “Our uniforms were popular. So were our basketball shoes. But the thing that was worth the most was the Western hat. None of us liked it,