Ralph Boston_Tokyo 1964_from his collection
Ralph Boston and his winning leap at the 1964 Tokyo 1964 Olympics, from his collection

The 1964 Tokyo Olympics were held in October to avoid the heat and the typhoons of summer. Unfortunately, except for the beautiful Autumn weather of Opening Day, most of the two weeks of the Olympiad were wet and chilly.

On October 18, the day of the men’s long jump finals, it was 13.5 °C (56.3 °F) and it rained hard all day. According to reigning Olympic champion, Ralph Boston, “It was really coming down. The weather was raw. The air was heavy with moisture and it was just tough.”

And then, there was the wind. The way the long jump was set up for the finals, the wind blew directly into the faces of the athletes as they ran down the runway towards the sand pit. Boston observed that the long jump area was designed to go in either direction, with sand pits at both ends of the runway. In the morning during the qualifier, they ran in one direction, but in the afternoon for the finals, the officials flipped the direction. “I remember asking the official from Netherlands in charge, whether we could turn this around and run the other way, but he said we couldn’t do that,” Boston told me.

Of the 32 competitors who started that day, only 12 qualified for the finals. In those first three jumps, the Soviet favorite, Igor Ter-Ovanesyan had the longest leap at 7.78 meters. The group narrowed to six competitors, and as the day got longer, Boston recognized the day as a war of attrition – no one was going to hit anything close to world record levels. “I don’t think anyone will jump eight meters today,” said Boston to one of his teammates.

Lynn Davies and Ralph Boston
Lynn Davies and Ralph Boston in 1964

Lynn Davies, the 22-year-old Welshman representing Great Britain, overheard Boston’s remark, and found himself re-energized.

Davies told the BBC that up to that moment he had looked up to Boston and Ter-Ovanesyan as unbeatable competitors. “They were my heroes. But when I heard Ralph say that I realized the conditions were tough for them too and I thought I had a chance because I’d jumped eight meters back home in Wales in similar conditions.”

At the end of four rounds, Boston was in the lead with a jump of 7.88 meters. As Davies gathered himself for his fifth attempt, he took three deep breaths, his face set in a scowl of concentration. Lynn launched himself down the runway, flew through the air, and hit the sand just right so that he was able to pop right up. Lynn was impassive as he walked out of the pit, but when the scoreboard flashed 8.07 meters, he brought his hands to his head in a mixture of joy and disbelief.

Boston had fouled his fifth attempt, but he had one more chance. He had fallen behind, not just Davies but also Ter-Ovanesyan, whose leap of 7.99 put him in second place. Perhaps because Davies had shown that 8 meters was not insurmountable that day, Boston charged down the runway with his best leap of the finals – 8.03 meters. The American overtook the Soviet, but could not overtake the new Olympic champion, dubbed in the British press as Lynn The Leap.

Ralph_Boston,_Lynn_Davies,_Igor_Ter-Ovanesyan_1964 (1)
Ralph Boston, Lynn Davies, Igor Ter-Ovanesyan, 1964 Olympics (Asahi Shinbun) public domain

Boston won the silver medal, and told the BBC that Davies deserved the gold.

It was rainy, rainy, rainy. When it rained in America I tried not to go out in it so I wasn’t prepared for it. It was one of the most horrendous days I’ve ever competed in. But I always said it behooved a champion to take advantage of whatever’s there and that’s what you [Davies] did and all the best to you for doing it.

robbie-brightwell-in-white-city-from-his-autobiography
Robbie Brightwell, from his autobiography

The headline read “Olympic Team Revolts”.

With only two weeks to go before the start of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, the London press was saying that the Great Britain Athletics team was insubordinate over television fees, and that their captain, Robbie Brightwell was leading the insurrection.

The BBC was doing a pre-Olympics show with the hopes of interviewing members of Team GB before they took off for Tokyo. Appearing on television or radio often resulted in payments to the athletes. In order to protect their amateur status, very often a third of these fees were, based upon an agreement with the media, would go to the charity of their choosing (after two thirds were deducted for administrative and tax purposes). Those in track and field commonly sent their fees to the International Athletics Club (IAC), who organized training fees and helped absorb parts of their participation fees in meets, for example.

To the surprise of the athletes, they learned that the BBC had made a separate agreement with the British Amateur Athletic Board (BAAB), the sports authority accountable to selecting those to compete in the Olympics, which required the television fees to be sent to the BAAB.

The athletes felt that the BAAB were not responsive to their needs. For example, the athletes requested a pre-Tokyo training camp, but was rejected by the BAAB, which only got involved once the IAC agreed to fund such a training camp. When Brightwell explained the situation to his team, he wrote in his autobiography, that his teammates felt their individual rights were being violated:

“Hold on,” said one, “this isn’t a simple contractual dispute between two parties. It involves personal liberties. Whilst the Board is acting quite properly negotiating fixture contracts, that right doesn’t extend to binding individuals to appear in interviews. That is a personal matter for us to decide.”

“And there’s another important principle at stake,” added another. “Apart from flouting our right to decide whether we wished to appear on television, the Board is also set upon pocketing our appearance money.”

“That’s right,” piped up Ann. “I’ve just begged a ten-shilling parachute from my parents to keep the wolf from the door. If we all direct our fees to the IAC to reduce their running costs, they will be able to give us a rebate on the moneys we’ve paid to be here.”

“Damn right,” interjected Cooper. “Let’s have a vote on the issue.”

In the end, Brightwell explained to the influential secretary of the BAAB, Jack Crump, that his teammates “refused” to participate in the BBC program. But Crump was incensed. “Refused? Refused? I’m not negotiating with a trade union. I’m secretary to the British amateur athletic board, giving instructions to the British Olympic team captain.”

The two parties were at a standstill. There were compromises. The BAAB agreed that athletes had the right to choose whether to participate in the interviews or not. But the BAAB would not budge on where the fees would go. Brightwell was overseeing a split in his own team, as some athletes chose to appear on tv, and others did not. Brightwell, his fiancé Ann Packer and two of his 4×400 teammates, John Cooper and Adrian Metcalfe chose not to.”

brightwell-revolt-off_upi_sept-26-1964

The mantle of leadership weighed heavily on Brightwell. He escaped to a quiet spot with Packer and broke down in tears.

“What in God’s name is happening? We should be focused on the Olympics, not wrangling with a fossilized governing body about the rights and wrongs of appearing on television. Why are we in this situation?”

The next morning, the newspapers were writing of the “revolt”. On top of that, Brightwell was made aware of a move within the BAAB to take away Brightwell’s captaincy. Would his place on the Olympic team follow?

Brightwell, wracked with uncertainty, went to the team and told them that he was willing to step down as captain. Lynn Davies, the eventual gold medal winner of the long jump in Tokyo, knew that if the team put it to a vote, that Brightwell would have to change his mind. Davies proposed they vote, and the vote was unanimous – the team supported Brightwell.

In the end, the team manager, Pat Sage, approached Brightwell and said that this fight had to end. “I don’t intend going to Tokyo with this fracas hanging over me.” Sage said that he would support Brightwell in his captaincy with a desire to forge team unity if Brightwell would support him as team manager. Brightwell remained captain. And the headlines finally changed for the better:

“UK Olympic Team Calls Off Revolt Against Manager”

As the UPI article of September 26, 1964 stated, “We shook hands chatted, and so far as I am concerned the argument between Sage and myself is finished. I take back nothing of my views about the official bumbledom which led to these differences of opinion. But let’s bury the hatchet and look forward to Tokyo.”

1964 Tokyo Olympic Admission Ticket Front

I’ve got my ticket for the Tokyo Olympics!

It’s Gate L of the National Stadium, section 27, seat O-20. It’s a Class-3 ticket, which is not as good as Class 1 or Class-2, but it has a far better view than Class-4 or 5.

One problem. The National Stadium has been torn down. And the date of the ticket is Sunday, October 18, 1964.

Yes, in my occasional hunt for Olympic memorabilia, I purchased an original unused ticket from the XVIII Olympiad held in Tokyo nearly 52 years ago.

I love this piece of history, the red circle, followed by a blue circle and the runner icon which represents Athletics. The clock at the top shows the start time – the white circle with black hands indicating that this is the first time slot of the day, and that I would only be able to see the second time slot of the day if I had the relevant ticket with a black clock with white hands.

1964 Tokyo Olympic Admission Ticket Back
Back of the admission ticket

 

The stubs are serrated in logical fashion – the first stub removed at the gate, the second removed as you enter the section, leaving you with the seat number. The price on the ticket is JPY1,000, which at that time was priced at USD2.80 or GBP1.000. Better seats would have cost one to three thousand more yen, the cheaper ones 500 yen less.

But who cares, as long as you were in the National Stadium that day. What could I have seen with this ticket? While I am not sure what times of the day these events happened, I could possibly have witnessed:

It rained most of that day, as it did most of the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. But that Sunday at the National Stadium would have been an amazing day indeed!

Tokyo Olympic Admission Tickets
From the book, The Games of the XVIII Olympiad Tokyo 1964