Nikolai Prodanov and Diana Yorgova from the book, Tokyo Olympiad 1964_Kyodo News Agency
Nikolai Prodanov and Diana Yorgova from the book, Tokyo Olympiad 1964_Kyodo News Agency

As UPI put it, Japan was “in the midst of a wedding boom” in 1964, where the Meiji Memorial Hall, very near the Olympic Village, was marrying 35 to 40 couples a day.

But the biggest wedding during the Olympics was between two Bulgarians, Nikolai Prodanov and Diana Yorgova. Held at the International Club in the Olympic Village, the wedding was attended by the Bulgarian Ambassador, Christo Zdravchev, as well as the President of the International Olympic Committee, Avery Brundage. Superstar gymnast, Takashi Ono and his wife joined the festivities, as Prodanov was a fellow gymnast.

From the book, Tokyo Olympiad 1964_Kyodo News Agency
From the book, Tokyo Olympiad 1964_Kyodo News Agency

As this was the first wedding ever at an Olympic Games, everybody likely wanted to be a part of the ceremony. A director of Nippon Rayon played the traditional role as the “go-between” and financed the couple’s 24-hour honeymoon to Kyoto, back in time to attend the closing ceremony.

If you’re curious, here’s film of the wedding!

Igor Ter-Ovanesyan in 1964
Igor Ter-Ovanesyan in 1964

In 1964, there was an expectation that athletes would defect. It was the time of the Berlin Wall and the Cuban Missile Crisis, George Smiley and James Bond. The Cold War was real, and spooks were everywhere. According to a Sports Illustrated article from November 2, 1964, though, rumors were often just rumors.

In the Olympic Village, sportswriters had recurrent visions of Soviet athletes popping over the back fence and dashing for the U.S. Embassy. One report got around that Broad Jumper Igor Ter-Ovanesyan was practically under house arrest. The truth was that if concern was rampant among Soviet worriers over life in post-Khrushchev Russia, there was no panic and defections were not likely. Ter-Ovanesyan seemed to have complete freedom of movement and freedom of speech.

It wasn’t just 1964 that people thought Ter-Ovanesyan was susceptible to defecting. There was an actual attempt to do so in 1960. At those Games in Rome, American sprinter, David Sime, was in the running for a medal, if not the gold medal, in the 100 meters. Sime (sounds like “rim”) was pulled into the spy vortex, and was recruited by the US government to assist in persuading an athlete from the Soviet Union for defection. The mark was Igor Ter-Ovanesyan, a 22-year old at the time, who appeared to have a Western flair and a love for things Americana. He self-taught himself English. He listened to jazz. And his idol was Jesse Owens.

According to David Maraniss’ fascinating account in his book Rome 1960: The Olympics That Changed the World, Sime approached Ter-Ovanesyan on the track during a practice. They talked. They liked each other. They agreed to meet again for dinner. When they met for dinner, they talked about Ter-Ovanesyan’s life in the Soviet Union, which he claimed was pretty good: “In the Soviet Union, he was taken care of; he had an apartment, a car, a teaching slot at the sports university. ‘And they give me a lot if I win a medal here,’ he said. Sime said he did not know what the United States could offer, except freedom, maybe set up him up as a track star out in sunny California, out near the film stars and beautiful people and fast cars.”

David Same, Armin Hary and Peter Radford - silver, gold and bronze medalists in the 100 meter race in Rome 1960.
David Sime, Armin Hary and Peter Radford – silver, gold and bronze medalists in the 100 meter race in Rome 1960.

In other words, was Ter-Ovanesyan really looking to defect? Well,

Markus Rehm

Markus Rehm, a long jumper from Göppingen was left off the German national team being sent to the IAAF World Track and Field Championships, despite the fact that his jump is the longest by a German this year.

The reason? His right leg is a prosthetic limb, and the German Track and Field Federation “has used biometric studies to rule that his carbon-fiber prosthesis gives him an unfair advantage,” according to the Associated Press.

And so goes the cat-and-mouse chase between advances in technology and the authorities in charge of creating an even playing field.

In the 1960s, rigid steel poles gave way to carbon-fiber poles. While the pole vault leap increased during Olympic competition from 4.56 in 1956 to 4.70 in 1960, it lept to 5.10 in 1964 and again to 5.4o in 1968. First movers in the technology had the advantage.

When the full-body swimming suits were all the rage, and over 100 world records were broken in an 18-month period in 2008 and 2009, FINA, the international swimming federation, decided to ban certain suits made of polyurethane, according to this New York Times article.

And now, track and field organizations are trying to figure out when the artificial limbs on athletes are creating an advantage or not. There are likely to be fine lines, and difficult choices as the technology improves. Will a runner with an artificial arm be allowed to compete with full-body athletes?

And for that matter, can’t we say eyeglasses or contact lenses for riflemen or archers are a competitive advantage versus those who do not need them?

Has anyone asked?

Go to this link to see fascinating video of Rehm and his jumps.