Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Rome 1960

Wherein from this book: The Story of the Olympic Games, 776B.C. to 1960 A.D.

The tawny Tiber twisted its tortuous way through Rome during the Games of the Seventeenth Olympiad just as it had in the days of Caesar, oblivious of the fact that two thousand years had slipped by.

Is there anything about the chapter's first sentence that impels you to keep reading? Maybe if they continued the tongue-twisters for the next forty pages I'd be interested. But seeing as how I've already gone through 300 pages and after I finish lunch I'm also finished with the book...let's get this over with.
Unlike all other postwar Olympic Games, where financing was a prime worry, the Roman holiday was a carefree endeavor, and money was no object. The new temples to amateur idealism were built with funds siphoned off the weekly lottery on professional soccer. The pursists[sic] in the International Olympic Committee did not even blink an eye. They merely looked in the other direction and then got muscle-bound from patting the Italian Organizing Committee on its collective back.

The Winter Games, not so smooth:
Then in 1954 a brainstorm swept over Cushing like an avalanche spilling down a mountainside. This, too, inexorably carried everything in its tracks. Why not bring the 1960 Winter Olympics to that dazzling capital of the refrigerated world, Squaw Valley?

All that Squaw Valley then had to offer were: one ski lift, two tow ropes, a miniscule ski lodge, magnificent scenery, and promises. When the late Donna Fox of the U.S. Olympic Committee saw the layout for the first time, he recoiled in dismay.

"Great grief, Alec," he gasped, "you have nothing but a glorified picnic grounds." [...]

Before it was over [the California legislature] were to shell out at least $9,000,000, and now California has a winter sports paradise which cannot pay its own way on the original investment. [...]

Torrential rains, lashed by winds up to 100 miles per hour, were funneled down the mountainsides to the basin below. But before the snow was washed off the peaks and the valley was turned into a turbulent river, a drop in the temperature converted the 30-hour rainstorm into a 24-hour blizzard. The Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley were saved.[...]

This set up the drama of the final hockey game on the schedule. Sure of at least a first place tie with Canada, the American team trailed Czechoslovakia, 4-3, at the end of two periods. At the intermission Nikolai Sologubov, captain of the Soviet team, visited a dressing room.

It wasn't the quarters of satellite Czechoslovakia. It was the quarters of the imperialists from the United States. Using sign language that could not be mistaken, he urged the Americans to take whiffs of oxygen to counteract the thin air of the mile-high arena. They did and beat the Czechs, 9-4.

Here's a biography of Nikolai Sologubov. Doesn't mention this Olympic episode, but does say he played in the "very first ice hockey game in Russia." was called the "Russian Bobby Orr." At ESPN, The First Miracle on Ice covers it, along with the whole 1960 U.S. hockey campaign.

On to Rome.
Knud Enemark Jensen of Denmark, pedaling furiously around the velodrome in the closing stages of the 100-kilometer team race, suddenly toppled off his bike. The assumption was that he;d suffered a sunstroke in the fierce 92-degree heat. Treated by a doctor on the scene, he was rushed by ambulance to a hospital. A few hours later he died.

This was bad enough. But a few days later the death of the 22-year-old Dane assumed ugly, scandalous proportions. The trainer of the Danish team admitted that he'd administered drugs to his cyclists in order to intensify blood circulation. Two other Danish cyclists also had collapsed during the race, but both were to recover. It was a shocking denouement, one that was not ameliorated by the disclosure that most professional riders constantly use drugs. But the pros at least know how much their bodies can take. The amateurs do not. Italy and Denmark immediately began investigations. [...]

The first surprise was supplied by Carolyn Schuler, a 17-year-old California schoolgirl, who had been outranked by the even more precocious Carolyn Wood of Portland, Ore., aged 14. But little Miss Wood stopped in the middle of the 100-meter butterfly.

She clutched the lane marker and burst into tears. Some unidentified man, fully clothed, dived into to rescue her, impetuously assuming she'd suffered a cramp and needed rescue. She didn't at all. Emotion had overcome her. The Olympic Games were just too much for a 14-year-old.

According to the International Swimming Hall of Fame Carolyn Wood swallowed water and choked. She still won two gold medals at Rome. MIss Wood explains the amateur rules of the day:
In swimming, amateur rules even prevented me from earning money lifeguarding ($1.25/hour at Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District) so when I was hired after high school swim season in 1962 I gave up any chance of returning to competition. I was 16 years old.


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