Who Won the Olympics?
If stern Avery Brundage had his way it would be an offense punishable by confiscation of all scrap paper and pencils to tally up team scores in the Olympic Games. The Games, according to Olympic officialdom, are not designed to puff the pride of nations but to prove the prowess of athletes as individuals.
This, of course, is a praiseworthy ideal, yet it is an incontrovertible and not entirely reprehensible fact that sports fans and patriots with no malice of intent were busy all over the world last week totting up the national team scores. Since there were no official rules to inhibit them, every man and every nation could feel free to make his own tally. In Russia, a leading sports magazine, the official Communist radio and the organ of a Red youth organization each used a different scoring method and they all added up to victory for the Soviets. In tiny Liechtenstein, there were doubtless many convincing arguments put forth to prove that a three-man team which placed 39th, 40th and 43rd out of 65 entrants in one ski event and 41st, 49th and 50th out of 63 in another was the real winner from a percentage point of view.
Deprived of grounds for claiming high aggregate scores, France, the U.S., Switzerland, Canada, Germany, Sweden each had reason to point with overwhelming national pride to spectacular single victories. But the one indisputable, over-all winner at Squaw Valley was no individual or nation at all, but the world itself, the world of sport and the world of people.
March 7, 1960
The habit of pessimism is easy in these days of endlessly continuing crisis, and it was constantly in evidence during the long months of preparation at Squaw Valley. Doom or, at the least, squalor was predicted for the VIII Winter Games for any number of reasons ranging from incompetent planning to the political schisms of the cold war. The fact that none of these dreary auguries materialized should not have surprised anyone, but there was room for both wonder and thanksgiving that they failed to materialize so very significantly.
Winter sports experts in Europe particularly had viewed the preparations at Squaw with disparagement, yet last week the Swiss president of the International Ski Federation, Dr. Marc Holder, together with two colleagues from Sweden and Norway, called this year's Winter Games the best ever held. "Never before," said Holder, "has there been so much done for the competitors and officials." "We've never seen anything like the way the Americans design and build equipment for preparing the courses," added Norway's Knut Korsvold.
In a more intimate, human way the failure of the world's international tensions to find a foothold at Squaw was just as spectacular. The friendliness and affection that existed between the competitors was obvious to millions of televiewers in quick unexpected little shots like that of Penny Pitou with her cheek close to that of the German girl who had just robbed her of her heart's hope, like that of a nameless American rushing out to comfort the little Polish girl who stumbled to the finish line in one event, sobbing at the fate that cost her a medal almost at the moment of triumph.
Even a ruckus among the U.S. speed skaters was productive of a rather special international tribute. "The only coaching I got," said one U.S. skater, "was from Russia's Klara Guseva. She spoke no English, but we got along in sign language. She was a darling." And the hotly contested hockey rivalry turned to an alliance when bested Russia offered the victorious U.S. a timely hint on beating the Czechs (see page 22).
"In the lineup of the columns on the ice, the Soviet and American athletes stand side by side and shoulder to shoulder," intoned Moscow's Pravda at the opening of the Games at Squaw. "The spectators approve this proximity, descrying therein one more good omen of the way to strengthening the friendship of the peoples of the U.S.S.R. and the U.S."
This is the pompous, diplomatic way of saying it on the eve of a summit conference. At Squaw itself they said it more simply, with a friendly smile and a handshake that put the whole world a lap or two ahead of the game.
Our Man on the Mountain
Staff writer Morten Lund took his skis to Squaw Valley. He is a pretty fair weekend skier, and when he noticed one day last week that the men's downhill course still had its control gates, he headed for the push-off point at the top of Squaw Peak. Here, for other weekend skiers, are Lund's notes:
"Trekked slowly through icy wind to where starting-gate poles stood shaking in the blast. Laced on skis, calmed by thought that all ski experts had proclaimed Squaw downhill to be the easiest ever included in an Olympic program.
"Lack of purchase forced carom tactic off lower pole of third gate and a full halt. Next section was a traverse across face of glittering, hard-frozen 45° incline to Gate Four, where the first big straightaway begins. Clung to slope like an ant to side of a sugar scoop. Had to scramble to avoid side-slipping straight down slope. Finally hooked arm around nearest pole of Gate Four and paused to scrutinize straightaway section.
"Decided there was not much to it except that it went straight down and ended a quarter mile below on the flat, where some very small people were skiing about. Let go of gate, moved quickly into high, then decided to abandon plans to take this portion straight, as the racers had. Started series of check turns to bring speed below Mach 1. Counted 23 turns to the flat. Racers had made no turns at all on this section, which explains why they came off Squaw Peak at 70 miles an hour, or approximately 55 miles an hour faster than Lund.
"Out on flat, finally managed elegant stop turn. Paused to take in stunning view of Squaw Peak before setting off for Gate Seven. Soon noticed that Gate Seven was placed on a hump, and that both gate and hump were approaching rapidly. Here good technique calls for quick retraction of skis or pre-jump, to keep skier from being thrown upward as he crosses hump. Retracted slightly late and became airborne just beyond Gate Seven. As gate closed in, managed to extend legs far enough to make skis touch the ground. Made hasty snow-plow stop before terrain dropped steeply away again. Decided to check bindings before going on. Bindings were O.K.
"Headed down drop-off and by judiciously knocking the tops off a few bumps during descent, stayed below the speed of light. Shot out on the flat where sighted friend riding chair lift. Decided to stop and wave. Came to stop 300 yards farther on. Friend already out of sight. Went on to Gate Thirteen.
"Here faced a tricky bit of terrain known as Camel's Hump, consisting of a sharp dip with a 12-foot wall of snow rising at the end of it. Went down dip and up wall by artfully jamming kneecap into lower rib cage. At top of wall started carefully planned 30-foot arc. At 29 feet entered section called Waterfall, which dropped abruptly away, and extended carefully planned arc another 40 feet, some of it on skis. Came to body-friction stop out on the flat a considerable distance from the base of Waterfall. Estimated that speed through this section had equaled that of Jean Vuarnet, the race winner.
"Hopped up and pushed smartly off down long, fast flat where course dips in and out of deep dry creek bed. Had trouble getting out of creek, but finally sidestepped up far bank and brushed snow off stretch pants. Then set skis on homestretch, down bumpy traverse and moved across finish line, skidding and taking final control flag along.
"Allowing for five seconds to untangle control flag, Lund's time down Olympic course was 14 minutes 12 seconds, or only 12 minutes 6 seconds more than Vuarnet's."
See Here, Mr. Laughran
The technology of synthetics is a subject this magazine customarily leaves to others. Thus, little has been or will be said here of plastic Christmas trees in a choice of colors, of rabbits' feet available in nylon, or of synthetic rice designed purely to be thrown at brides on their wedding day. But now comes a little item which was put on display at the Jersey Coast Boat Show last week by one William Laughran of Manasquan, N.J.
Mr. Laughran offers for sale ($4.95) a handy, handsome and surefire packet for christening boats. Now everybody knows that you christen boats with champagne, just as you toss salt over your shoulder when you spill it, and avoid stepping on cracks in the pavement. This is simply the way people do things. At least they should.
Not Mr. Laughran. He has invented a special breakaway bottle (proper champagne bottles have been known to survive a christening) encased in a net that catches the broken glass. And inside the bottle is—not champagne but a foaming chemical which "will not stain clothes or injure boat finishes and assures the proper effect for photographers and friends standing by."
Now it is possible to warm up a TV Dinner and convince yourself that you have had supper. It is perhaps possible to regard the Easter show at Radio City as a religious experience. It is even possible, maybe, to absorb classical music by listening to Eight Great Themes by Eight Great Composers. It is not, however, possible to christen a boat with foaming chemicals without losing the soul of the boat and that of the christener.
Therefore, go to, Mr. Laughran, and take your breakaway bottle with you. There are some things with which nobody should tamper.
Muscling into Harvard
Next September, when the fall term opens at Harvard, less than a third of the 5,000 applicants for the freshman class will be accepted. How can Harvard be sure it is admitting the best of them? Last week, after a year's study, a seven-man faculty committee filed a 56-page answer.
Seek intellectual promise above all, said the faculty committee, without trying too hard to balance incoming freshmen by background and geographical origins in an "ideal class," and without too much concern for their ability to pay. Scrutinize "with increasing rigor" the applications of sons of Harvard alumni when their records show them academically weak. (In last year's freshman class, 40% of alumni sons were in the class's bottom quarter.) And so on.
What weight should Harvard admissions policy give to athletic ability? Formally and gravely, the Harvard facultymen bade their college give it "significant" weight.
Some, said the professors, may regard any attention paid to athletics as a "lapse from 'intellectual standards.' [But] intellect is not a fragile plant which needs protection." Moreover, said the report with cheerful crispness: "It is sometimes amusing to hear an athletic success, on the Thames at Henley or in the Yale Bowl, referred to in apologetic terms which the Greeks, at their most rigorously intellectual, would have found incomprehensible."
Granting that the athlete-scholar is "essentially a luxury for an admission staff already charged with looking for many other things" and granting that "no special preference [should] be given applicants on the basis of athletic ability," the committee recommended that Harvard continue to give attention to athletic rating "once the question of intellectual competence has been squarely faced."
Indeed, wrote the professors with a flush of Crimson pride, the soundness of the argument that brain and brawn can be compatible was demonstrated at Harvard last year: "Our winning football and soccer teams of 1959 are 'brighter,' in terms of academic performance, than were their notably less successful predecessors of a few years ago."
Rocket Mail in Maine—II
Those amateur rocketeers who sued the State of Maine for the right to shoot their missiles from the state's rocky shores (SI, Jan. 25) won their case and took to the launching pads at Lincolnville Beach, to fire two rockets last week.
The rockets were loaded with several thousand letters which were to be picked up in the middle of Penobscot Bay by Lincolnville Postmaster Cyril Hopper, who would then speed them along regular U.S. mail channels. The letters would then presumably become rocket mail collectors' items.
But the first rocket, containing 3,000 letters, suffered a parachute malfunction and instead of floating down near the boat of the waiting postmaster, it splashed into the bay and sank in 150 feet of icy water. A second rocket misfired completely on the launching pad, setting fire to the mail cargo.
Naturally, the amateur scientists were crushed, but Postmaster Hopper was most pleased. In rocket mail circles, he explained, nothing can beat a scorched letter.
Now that Squaw Valley is over, San Francisco's Prentis Hale, president of the Olympic Organizing Committee, is taking his wife and four children off for a well-earned vacation. Where? To Switzerland, that's where, for some skiing.
They Said It
•Casey Stengel, at the New York Yankees' spring training camp: "This time we're going to stick to sweat and toil, and maybe there'll even be a little bleeding."
•Martin Kratter, builder, announcing that the 5½-acre housing project to be built on the site of Ebbets Field will have a diamond for small-fry baseball: "Brooklyn will always have its Little League Dodgers."
•Bob Cleary, U.S. Olympic hockey player, on Russian hockey players; "They don't talk about Communism. Like us, they talk about hockey—and girl's."