THE OLYMPICS UNFOLD
As the athletes of 32 nations raced through the first week of the Winter Games, they produced every element of drama and excitement that an Olympics could possibly provide. And with it all there was a background of humor that balanced perfectly with the intensity of the competition.
In the opening ceremony 1,200 athletes stood at attention and 10,000 spectators rose to cheer when an Italian skater named Guido Caroli swept into the ice stadium bearing the Olympic torch. Seconds later Caroli stumbled to immortality (see page 20) as he tripped over a microphone wire in one of the most agonizing pratfalls in sports history.
Undaunted, Caroli jumped back on his feet and skated to the podium to dip the still burning torch into the oil of the Olympic lamp. "I didn't let the torch go out," said the now famous torchbearer later. "Remember that. I didn't let it go out."
February 6, 1956
Then the Games were under way. The first gold medal, in the women's giant slalom, was won by an apple-cheeked German fra√ºlein, whom no one had bothered to watch in the preliminaries simply because she didn't seem to be very good. The first cross-country races were won by the most traditional of all winter-sports athletes—a Norwegian lumberjack and a Finnish forest ranger. A boisterous Italian jet pilot won the two-man bobsled, but achieved no more glory than the fourth-place finisher, the fiercely competitive Marquis de Portago, who raced his first bobsled only a year ago but was nevertheless inconsolable on failing to take home a gold medal for Spain. Asked what happened in the race, the Marquis muttered, "I loused up."
As the Games rolled ahead, however, it was the Russians who began to dominate. After five days of their first Winter Olympics, the Soviets had won four of the 10 gold medals, set three Olympic records and upset the balance of power (see page 17) which has rested with Norway, Austria and the U.S. since the Winter Games started 32 years ago. Observing the Russian phenomenon, the newspapers of the world produced some marvelously varied scoring systems, none of which meant anything but all of which added up to the fact that Russia was doing awfully well.
At week's end, with 14 events still to go, the U.S. finally began to move up when Hayes Jenkins and Tenley Albright jumped into commanding leads in figure skating. However, even with the surprises that the final days were sure to produce, it seemed unlikely that America, Norway, Austria, or any other country could match the opening performance put on by Russia, the new giant of winter sports.
UNPLACED BUT UNBOWED
Amid the pomp and glitter of the opening-day parade at the Winter Olympics, no flag-bearer walked more proudly than Baron Edward von Falz-Fein of Liechtenstein. This was a great moment, for the banner of Liechtenstein seldom moves with those of the great nations. The entire country of 13,571 souls takes up 62 square miles of Alps and pasture land on the east border of Switzerland. The army, consisting of one ancient soldier, died peacefully in bed 15 years ago, leaving the frontiers open to the dead legions of Prussia with whom Liechtenstein is still technically at war.
But here at the Olympics, Liechtenstein was honorably represented by a brave little band of skiers and—thanks to an 11th-hour inspiration by Von Falz-Fein—by a bobsled team as well.
In all of Liechtenstein before the Games, there were only two men who had ever driven a bobsled. One was the baron himself but, alas, he had made a honeymoon promise years ago never to drive again. The other was a Liechtensteiner who, in the baron's view, broke training so enthusiastically that he had to be dropped from the squad just the day before the first trials.
It was a dark hour. Von Falz-Fein could never go back on his word to the baroness, and there seemed to be no one else to drive the sled. But at midnight, with the trials only hours away, the solution occurred to the baron. He hurried to the home of a 19-year-old Liechtensteiner named Moritz Heidegger, who, undeniably, had never driven a bob but was a demon motorcycle racer. The baron shook Moritz awake.
"How would you like to drive a bob?" he demanded.
"What's a bob?" asked the sleepy youngster.
"You drive it like a motorcycle," said the baron.
"When?" asked Moritz.
"The trials start tomorrow."
"Oh, all right. I'll try it."
"By the way," the baron added, "the bobs run on ice."
Moritz reared up in bed. "On ice?"
"You have given your word," the baron reminded him.
"That's true," said Moritz, "but I'm only 19—a minor—so you must ask my mother."
His mother was delighted. So, after a restless night, Moritz left with the baron for Cortina. When they showed up at the head of the run, its icy trough gleamed wickedly in the early sunlight.
"It's not really just like motorcycles," he muttered gloomily.
The brakeman, 23-year-old Weltin Wolfinger, who was also seeing a bob run for the first time, maintained a morbid silence.
Only the baron was undismayed.
"There they were," he related afterward, reveling in the memory. "The Liechtenstein team gloriously standing on a bobsled run for the first time in their lives. Then the officials waved them on. The silence that fell over the whole bobsled run was the most impressive thing I have ever lived through."
Only the voice of the loudspeaker cracked the stillness. "They are at Stries [the first bend]," the speaker boomed. "Now they are at the Labyrinth, they are past Bandion, past Antelao, past Cristallo, past the final bend." A single shout went up from all over the hillside. Liechtenstein had arrived at the finish.
The baron rushed to ask his men how it had been. Moritz spoke thus: "Every curve I try not to go off. It's my only idea. Go good, but not off and over." Brakeman Wolfinger reported: "It was trees and trees and trees. I was petrified. But Moritz kept shouting 'Brake! Brake!' So I put on the brake." Dourly, bobsled officials concluded that he had dug his brakes so thoroughly into the crust of the run that it might never be the same. They ordered Liechtenstein to run last. "Then," said the committeemen, "it doesn't matter if you spoil the track."
Indeed it did not. In the final trials, Liechtenstein finished last among 25 nations. But in the actual Olympic competition a few days later, in the race for the gold medal, the baron's faith was repaid. At the end of three official heats Liechtenstein had bested the second sled of Norway, a traditional winter sports giant. It was a cruel blow when their final run was canceled on the grounds that the track was by then too cut up But the Liechtensteiners stood up bravely, for as far as they had gone, they had beaten someone. In the fine phrase of the Olympic oath, they had achieved glory and honor for their land.
A day or so after trumpets sounded at Cortina to signal the opening of the Winter Games, a semiforgotten man named John Landy, half a world away, blew a blast of his own. It was rather like an offstage trumpet, a warning, you might say, of things to come.
Australians had been thinking of Landy as a suitable chap to trot into Melbourne stadium next November bearing the traditional Olympic flame—an honor usually reserved for an athletic hero of a bygone day. But John Landy, who recently unretired himself, got on his mark at Melbourne one day last week for his first competitive mile in 17 months and blasted home in three minutes 58.6 seconds—the second fastest mile ever run by man. Incidentally, the fastest ever run was by John Landy too, before he gave up running to be a schoolteacher.
Landy, of course, is not the man to be satisfied with a mere 3:58.6. He has set himself a March goal: "To run inside four minutes...I mean well inside four minutes [SI, Jan. 23]."
Australia can start looking for another retired chap to do that torch-bearer bit next November.
TWO VIEWS OF FOOTBALL
Horrible as it may sound to Dr. Robert Maynard Hutchins, the University of Chicago came close to taking up intercollegiate football once again. Chancellor Lawrence A. Kimpton, who succeeded Bob Hutchins as head man at Chicago and showed how different he was by announcing he liked football, appointed a faculty committee last spring to study the problem of whether Chicago should resume the game. By petition the student body had already endorsed the idea, and Kimpton decided it was high time to review the whole situation. It had been 16 years since Hutchins had succeeded in having football banished from the campus, and obviously there was a different sentiment as well as a different chancellor abroad on the Midway.
Last December, Kimpton's special committee recommended dropping Chicago's ban on football as a first move toward restoring the game in a modest way. "We believe that the University of Chicago should be able to play football on a truly amateur basis, without overemphasis and its attendant problems," said the committee report. "Football, like all other athletic activities at the university, should be supported from educational funds, and its continuance should not depend on gate receipts or spectator interest. The emphasis should be on enjoyment of the game by the players."
The recommendation went directly to the university's Senate Council, a faculty board with life-and-death authority over such matters. There, on the suggestion of Professor Morton Grodzins, a political scientist who considers intercollegiate football subversive, discussion was cut short. "We all know what we think," said Grodzins. "Why don't we vote right away?" So, without referring the matter to the customary subcommittee for study, the Senate Council voted 24-14 to keep the ban.
There is, of course, another attitude toward intercollegiate football, and it was recalled by the death last week of Colonel Blake R. Van Leer, the 62-year-old president of Georgia Tech. In one of the best short endorsements of the game on record, President Van Leer said a while back:
"Football at Georgia Tech is entirely beneficial. Our young men, in varying degrees, like to engage in physical bodily contact and competitive sports. At their ages (16 to 25) I think they should. I think that competitive intramural and intercollegiate athletics are a fine part of their education even when they do nothing but participate as spectators.
"In every generation there are always those who would like to turn our youth into cloistered monks who only contemplate things or try to devise new theories about life. I see no harm that football does to education, general or professional....
"Man doesn't live by bread alone, as the saying goes, and if we are to educate the whole man we must concede that there is something else in the world besides a community of scholars."
DON'T TELL MANTLE
It is doubtful that Frankie Sinatra himself, even in the era when his admirers screamed and swooned at his glance, ever received adulation quite as specific as that which came the way of the New York Yankees' Mickey Mantle a few days ago. A female fan from Pennsylvania (presumed to be a baseball bobby-soxer) directed a letter to Manhattan's Lenox Hill Hospital asking the establishment to send her the young outfielder's tonsils.
Mickey, it should perhaps be explained, had just had them removed; thus no special surgery would have been necessary in complying with the request.
Lenox Hill authorities answered rather stiffly. All "postoperative specimens," they informed her, are sent to the hospital's department of pathology (eventually to be unfeelingly incinerated) and hence could not be relinquished. A standoffish attitude was also adopted toward the patient. "As you may know," a Lenox Hill spokesman said in an aside for the press, "many of the doctors here are Yankee fans. Therefore, after due consideration, it was decided not to tell Mickey Mantle that a request for his tonsils had been made—he is probably conceited enough."
LOEFFLER'S RULES OF WAR
Just when college basketball seemed becalmed in the mid-year lull, the news perked up. The University of San Francisco won its 40th game in a row (albeit by the odd modern score of 33-24 when the University of California attempted a private filibuster with the ball) and in so doing set an alltime record of unbroken victories. The underdog University of Louisville upset the second-ranking University of Dayton, and the underdog Vanderbilts upset the third-ranking Kentuckys. After each of these engagements, losers congratulated winners and coach shook hands with coach in the customary ritual of sportsmanship which nobody ever thinks of challenging.
Almost nobody, that is. Down in Texas, Coach Ken Loeffler of Texas A&M was challenging the ritual and making headlines of his own.
By Texas A&M standards (won 6, lost 40 in the last two seasons), Coach Loeffler is doing well in his first year. So far the Aggies have won six games, while losing only 10. But Loeffler (SI, Dec. 12) is a coach who cannot bear to lose at all. Part of his pedagogy in his first year at A&M has been to indoctrinate his Texas boys with the same all-out philosophy. Thus, in a recent game with Rice, he angrily wigwagged one of his players to hustle over to the bench, after the player had fouled out, rather than stop and shake hands with his opponent. Thus, after a recent game with Texas (which the Aggies won, but by a smaller margin than Coach Loeffler found creditable), he stalked off the floor without waiting to shake hands with his Texas rival, Coach Slue Hull.
Texas sportswriters blew the whistle. Asked Jack Gallagher in the Houston Post: "This is character building?" Last week Coach Loeffler sent his answer to Gallagher and other critics.
"As you may suspect by this time, I'm a highly competitive individual of the old school who believes in complete concentration on the job at hand. Coming to Aggieland, I found many boys who played (let us say) gracefully, crowd-consciously with a hero-worshiping complex always of the other fellow. With that paragraph as a premise I'll go on.
"I want my teams (they always have in the past) to start to burn inside about an hour before the game and about an hour after with the intense desire to beat the opponent and dispense with the little superficial niceties that are crowd-pleasing, particularly to nice old ladies and the Back Bay set who look you in the eye and wring your hand in undying fellowship.
"Is there anything more phony than the prizefighters who embrace after gouging each other or the football player who knocks a guy down and then picks him up?
"Hell, this is a contest (a measure of war) and as long as you play by rules let's let him pick himself up. He calls himself a warrior and gets the accolade due one. Part of being a warrior is picking himself up.
"So I don't want my players running all around the floor congratulating people. Maybe after the game, yes. Most of the international trouble of the world today is due to the handshake without meaning...."
Loeffler's concluding injunction to Texas critics: "Get thy foot off my neck."
With parental regret the golfing fathers inserted a new paragraph (1-13) in The Rules of Golf at the annual U.S. Golf Association meeting. The new rule denounces excessive gambling, an action the USGA explained with the following release:
"The United States Golf Association disapproves of gambling in connection with golf tournaments because of the harm it can do the best interests of the game. Golf is a game to be played primarily for its own sake, especially amateur golf. When it is played for gambling motives, evils can arise to injure both the game and the individual players.
"Therefore, the USGA urges its member clubs, all golf associations and all other sponsors of golf competitions to prohibit gambling in connection with tournaments....
"The association will deny amateur status or refuse entry for USGA championships to players whose activities in connection with golf gambling are considered by the association to be contrary to the best interests of golf...."
These few paragraphs, coming as an abrupt and welcome epilogue to last year's scandal at Deepdale (SI, Nov. 14), have already cast a gloom over some of the gaudier spas of the winter season, particularly along the Florida gold coast. The word is around that without those fabulous Calcutta pools that have recently jazzed up a number of the tournaments in this playground, many of café society's hustling golfers don't plan to show up. The reaction elsewhere is: good riddance.
THE COST OF DREAMS
Ever since a large group of wise and wealthy ockey Club members incorporated the Greater New York Association last year, the state's increasing number of disgruntled racing fans have been consoling themselves with pleasant dreams of the new super track which was promised them by the wise and wealthy. Last week the GNYA awoke the dreamers with a surprising although not entirely unexpected announcement: the group had come to the realization that the $30 million available to it (from an original guaranteed loan of $47 million) was insufficient to build anything along super-duper lines. The best that could be hoped for, it appeared, was a lot of so-called major re-modeling at either Belmont Park or Aqueduct.
When would it happen? Oh, maybe in time for fall racing in 1958. In the meantime the look of newness would be supplied through such common devices as those which will be obvious to visitors at Saratoga next summer: a new coat of paint here and there, a new 54-stall barn which cost $60,000 and some $40,000 worth of seats to replace some old benches.
In its preliminary surveys the GNYA was discovering something elementary which every U.S. home builder well knows: the cost of building is still going up. Back in 1934 the initial capital investment to build Santa Anita totaled just $1,000,000. Four years later Hollywood Park cost $2,500,000. Building costs, so the wise men have been informed, have risen 25% just since 1950 and over 8% in the last 18 months. One good example is the new Woodbine Park near Toronto. Planned for approximately 8,000 seats, it figured to cost about $8 million. Now nearing completion, final costs will come close to $12 million. In other words, building a modern race track can, as a general rule of thumb, be estimated to cost about $1,500 per seat.
Where does all this leave New Yorkers and their dreams? It leaves them on the hook until early summer when the GNYA will receive its first official engineering and construction survey with suggestions as to what can be done for $30 million.
The audience for boxing—as SI has said before—has marvelously increased since television began to bring it into the American home. This is the reason why millions of watchers, and not just the ringside thousands of the past, have a concern in boxing's basic honesty. But there is another result of the attention with which the multimillion audience has been following boxing on TV: millions who never before knew a kidney punch from a right cross can now distinguish a dirty fight from a good one.
That is why watchers all over the country have written to SI about the unforgiveable performance of Featherweight Champion Sandy Saddler in his fight with the young Filipino, Flash Elorde (SI, Jan. 30), and why SI this week devotes its entire letters column to their verdict (see 19TH HOLE).
MOTOR BOAT SHOW
Helen of Troy, divinely fair,
Obviously isn't there;
But nautical guys with hearty paunches
Aim to ship a thousand launches.
CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD
International Olympic officials, in session at Cortina, gave Californians till April 3 to raise the further $4,000,000 it will take to put Squaw Valley in shape for the 1960 Winter Olympics—otherwise the honor will revert to the runner-up site at Innsbruck in the Austrian Tyrol. The California delegation promised to meet the deadline and to have Squaw Valley ready, in fact, for the between-Olympics winter sport world championships of 1958 as well.
Snow conditions at Squaw Valley last week, incidentally, were in magnificent contrast to the patchy, warm-weather ones at Cortina. The California site offered sunny cold weather (zero to 22°), with 60 inches of snow on the lower slopes, more than 100 on the upper slopes.
January weather oddities plagued sports elsewhere. In Hawaii, where magnificent rolling surf is to be expected in January, the international surfboard championships had to be postponed because the Pacific was producing only four-foot ripples. Quebec's three-day dog derby had to be postponed because of too little snow.
Ford Motor Company has little to say, officially, about the challenge implied in Chevrolet's decision to aim some special Corvettes for such races as Sebring's 12-hour endurance run next March. The Thunderbird is a "personal car," not a racing machine, Ford emphasizes. Nonetheless, look for a private Thunderbird or two to compete at Sebring after racing adjustments made under the expert eye of Pete DePaolo, veteran Indianapolis winner and Ford's adviser on competition activities.
Rousing news for aficionados is the word that Spain's great Luis Miguel Dominguín, putting his retirement firmly behind him, will compete with his brilliant successor, Venezuela's César Girón, in a two-man program (mano a mano) in Venezuela Feb. 26.