Here is my list of books penned by Olympians from the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, continued from Part 1 here.

Inside Five Ring Circus Cover

Inside the Five Ring Circus: Changing Global Sports and the Modern Olympics, is written by Ollan Cassell, a gold medal member of the 4×400 US men’s track team in Tokyo, and long-time executive within the AAU, the powerful governing body of amateur sports through much of the 20th century. Cassel’s book is less about his track career and more about the fascinating history of amateur athletics in the United States. He was front and center in the debate and transition of the professionalization of sports in America.

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In The Long Run – US 5000-Meter Olympic Gold Medalist Tokyo 1964 is an autobiography by the first and only American to win the 5,000 meter finals in an Olympics, Bob Schul. Co-written by Laura Rentz Krause, In the Long Run tells the story from his childhood growing up in West Milton, Ohio, to his torturous training sessions under legendary coach Mihaly Igloi in California, to meeting high expectations of victory in Tokyo.

Mary Mary cover

Mary Mary – An Autobiography of an Olympic Champion is by British long jump champion, Mary Rand. She was definitely one of the brightest stars at the 1964 Olympics. While expected to win gold in Rome, but didn’t, Rand redeemed herself in Tokyo, not only breaking the world record and winning gold in the long jump, but also taking silver in the pentathlon and bronze in the 4×100-meter women’s relay. An electrifying presence in person, Rand’s charm oozes through the pages as well.

No Bugles No Drums

No Bugles No Drums is an eloquent look of double middle-distance gold medalist, Peter Snell, the incredible double champion of the men’s 800 and 1500-meter middle-distance races at the ’64 Games. Written with Garth Gilmour, No Bugles No Drums is the appropriate title for a smart but understated athlete, who writes with wit and understated insight.

Brightwell Golden Girl vocer

Robbie Brightwell and His Golden Girl is by Robbie Brightwell, the captain of the Great Britain’s track team at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. It is the story not only of his journey to a fantastic silver medal anchoring the 4×400 relay team, but also of the journey of his wife, Ann Packer, who won gold in the 1500 and silver in the 400 meters (losing only to Betty Cuthbert). This is a story of self-discovery and leadership told with intelligence and charm.

Run Bullet Run cover

Run, Bullet, Run: The Rise, Fall, and Recovery of Bob Hayes is the incredible story of the career of Bob Hayes, one of only two people to win both a gold medal and a Super Bowl championship. Co-written with Robert Pack, Run, Bullet, Run is the story of a young black American whose rise to Olympic gold and stardom as a Dallas Cowboys wide receiver was as stunning as his fall due to drugs and alcohol.

wokini

Wokini: A Lakota Journey to Happiness and Self-Understanding is by Billy Mills and co-written by novelist, Nicholas Sparks. Mills was one of the biggest stories of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Unlike Schul, who was pre-determined by the press to win the 5,000 meters, Mills was practically unapproached by the press, who hardly knew him. Mills went on to win the 10,000 meter finals in Tokyo in an incredible come-from-behind victory, inspiring Team America and millions around the world. Mills has gone on to great works in helping young Native American Indians in the United States, and wrote this inspirational parable of self discovery, Wokini.

See the other recommended books in Part 1.

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Snell in 800 meters in Tokyo
Peter Snell ahead of George Kerr of Jamaica, Wilson Kiprugut of Kenya (bronze) and Bill Crothers of Canada (silver)

Peter Snell was confident. He had ran a time trial run of 800 meters in 1 minute and 47 seconds, a very fast time in 1964, despite the poor conditions of the track. This is when he knew he was peaking at the right time, and thought, not only could he win the 800, but also the 1500 meter competition at the Tokyo Olympics.

In the finals of the 800 meters, Snell drew the first lane, which he thought was unlucky because he would have to either “go like a madman and hit the front so you can maneuver with the field behind you and allow only as many pass as you want, or you can start slowly and try to work your race from the back of the field,” he wrote in his autobiography, No Bugles No Drums. “Either way can be troublesome and an in-between start can cause all sorts of jostling and tangling.”

With that understanding, Snell chose the first option with the intent of just trialing the lead runner, Wilson Kiprigut of Kenya, who was expected to jump out to a fast start. By sticking to the shoulder of the pacesetter, he would be able to avoid being boxed in and slowed. As it turned out, Kiprigut did not race out to the lead, and Snell ended up boxed in amidst a group at the front.

With 250 meters, Snell’s plan was to go all out. But he was trapped.

My pre-race plan had called for a sustained sprint from about 250-to-go. Now the whole position was confused. I was running easily within myself and, unlike Rome, where the circumstances were similar, I felt I was capable of dropping back out of the box, going around the field and still being able to challenge. That’s what I had to do. This involved two separate moves: a surge from the rear of the field to about fourth position with a clear run three or four wide which took me to the end of the back straight; then a second and final effort as I fought past Kiprugut and Kerr, who were locked together, and sprinted desperately into the curve. It was desperate because my plan had gone wrong and my run was coming late against fast finishers.

Snell on the victory stand_800 meters
Crothers, Snell and Kiprugut

But soon, desperation gave way to elation. Snell hit the tape, setting an Olympic record. Despite having to drop back and swing wide to take the lead, Snell still relaxed at the end, as he wrote, “subconsciously” holding back for the 1500 meter competition to come.

Watch this video highlighting Snell’s exciting victory in the 800 meter race in Tokyo.

Peter Snell
Peter Snell of New Zealand, from the book “The Olympic Century – XVIII Olympiad”

 

Peter Snell was the 800-meter Olympic champion, coming out of relative obscurity to set an Olympic record at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome and win the gold medal. But in Tokyo in 1964, Snell was not only the favorite in the 800 meters, he and many others were expecting him to compete and win in the more glamorous 1500-meter race.

While our stereotypical view of Olympic champions are they are super confident and expect to win, the reality is that many oscillate between expectations of victory and the inevitability of disaster. Peter Snell of New Zealand may have exemplified the latter.

As British Olympic reporter, Neil Allen, noted in his book, Olympic Diary Tokyo 1964, Snell was shy and filled with doubt prior to the start of competition.

Two years ago the shy New Zealander and I had sat on the grass in Geraldon, Western Australia, and I had listened to him ponder, with worried brow, his problems in training for the forthcoming Commonwealth Games. Now he was behaving as though he was the last man in the world to hold the records for 800 meters, 880 yards and the mile, the last man you could imagine had won the Olympic 800 meter title four years ago.

“Running both events here might take it out of me, you know,” he said, staring at the ground. “My training was going so badly back at the beginning of last month that I got to the pitch where I couldn’t care less about the Olympics. There are times when you wonder how on earth you could run a 4:30 mile. You no longer have the ability to punish yourself.”

After a successful trial run in the 800 meters, Snell decided he would go for both the 800 and 1500 meter championships. He understood the ramifications of having to run heats in both races, with the possibility that the effort and strain of competing in both could mean doing poorly in both. And those doubts would not go away, as Snell wrote in his autobiography, No Bugles, No Drums.

My most nerve-racking period of the Games was the night before my first race. I’d made the decision to try for the double and promptly that night all sorts of doubts crowded into my mind in a sleep-wrecking procession. Quite seriously I wondered whether the decision was the right one. I felt I could produce a really good performance over 1500 meters. But if I ran in the 800 meters first, there was a strong possibility that not only could I run out of a place in that event – or even fail to qualify at all – I could find myself too tired for the 1500. I could, through tackling both, miss out on both. Was I being too greedy?

No Bugles No Drums

National Olympic Stadium and underground tunnell
Blueprint for the National Olympic Stadium for the 1964 Olympics, including underground tunnel. Source: Japan Sport Council

In his book, No Bugles No Drums, Olympic track legend, Peter Snell of New Zealand, wrote about an underground tunnel at the National Olympic Stadium, where he competed at the 1964 Olympic Games.

“Ten minutes before the gun, we were led through an underground tunnel which took us right underneath the track diagonally to a point at the beginning of the back straight. Then a walk around to the start.”

Ollan Cassell, lead runner on the US 4X400 men’s team that won gold in Tokyo, also noticed the underground tunnel. “The Japanese thought of everything,” he wrote in his book Inside the Five Ring Circus. “They even built a tunnel under the stadium track so athletes and official going to their events on the infield did not cross the track.”

 

National Olympic Stadium and underground tunnell 2
A picture of the 1964 tunnel at that time. Considerable work had been done afterwards to hide the pipes and cables. Source: Japan Sport Council

Cassell asked me to confirm that his memories were correct, so I did some digging. After a few emails exchanged between me and The Japan Sport Council, the government body that manages and operates some of the largest sports facilities in Japan, including the National Olympic Stadium, I was pleasantly surprised to get confirmation on the tunnel.

Not only that, the Japan Sport Council was kind enough to provide a schematic and photos.

An underground tunnel that allows officials and athletes to get to the infield or across the stadium without crossing a track seems like a great idea. You would think that all stadiums would be designed that way. But Cassell wrote to me that in fact Tokyo’s National Olympic Stadium was unique. “I have attended every Games since then, thru 1996 and never found anything like what they did. I missed 2000 and 2004 but attended all other games and did not hear anything about a tunnel from those who attended the 2000 and 2004 games.”

The National Olympic Stadium has been torn down, a new one set to rise (once a plan is finalized). But the old one apparently had a trick under its sleeve. It will be missed. To see what the stadium looked like just before it was torn down, check out these 360 views of the stadium.

National Olympic Stadium 360

From The Games of the XVIII Olympiad Tokyo 1964
From The Games of the XVIII Olympiad Tokyo 1964

As I am a former journalist, I know that if you keep asking questions, in different ways, and you’re patient, your victim may very well cough up something interesting or important or both. Athletes who aren’t used to the interview may find out very quickly that they should probably avoid reporters at all costs, for their own good.

800 and 1,500 meter champion, Peter Snell, addressed this issue in his book “No Bugles No Drums“. Snell describes a possible encounter between an unwary athlete and a reporter:

Under the great conditions of stress and emotion produced by the Games atmosphere, it’s very easy for an athlete to say things he wouldn’t say in normal circumstances. It’s not difficult to imagine a runner just finishing a particularly fine trial. He’s elated by the time but, before he’s had time to evaluate it properly a pressman bowls up:

“Hullo, there. Google from the London Explode. Just a few questions.”
“Why, yeah, sure,” jogging around, jumping out of his skin.
“How’s your training programme coming along?”
“Terrific.” Still jumping. “Just ran a terrific quarter…/”
“That so?” that’s great. How do you feel you’re going to run next Tuesday?”
Still jumping. “I’ll lick the pants off that lot the way I’m feeling.”
“What’re your plans for the race? Tactics, I mean?”
“Well, after this trial, nothing scares me. I was going to hold a sprint as long as possible but I figure if it’s got to be the last lap sprint I’ll be In it.”
“You mean, you’ll sprint from the bell?”
“Oh, I guess I’ll go from about 300 yards.”
“Who’d you pick is going to be the hardest to beat?”
“Heck, I don’t even care who else is running.”

secret olympianSnell’s point? “You can be caught with your pants down in a moment of elation – or depression.”

And as described in the book, Secret Olympian: The Inside Story of the Olympic Experience, by Anon, you also need to aware of how your words can be misinterpreted. In this case, one can turn an innocent question into an answer of ungratefulness.

One of the first trials of the recently christened Olympian-to-be is the local newspaper interview. The journalist is buzzing, looking forward to an uplifting story of the local boy or girl made good.

The obligatory first question, ‘How long have you dreamed of being an Olympian?’

The automatic response, “Since I was a kid’ or ‘Since I can remember.’

Whilst such a response may make a nice sound bit and an uplifting ‘Dream comes true for local boy’ page two lead, in the main it’s not actually true. I didn’t dream about going to the Olympics and neither did most of my compatriots. We answer yes to the leading question from journalists because it seems expected and it sounds ungrateful not to have dreamt of going.

The best advice you can give an inexperienced athlete prior to engaging a reporter? Know your cliches. Watch this clip from the movie, Bull Durham, as Crash Davis teaches the rookie that “cliches are your friend.”