London, Paris, Beirut, Helsinki, Hamburg, Barcelona, Addis Ababa. Although that may read like one of those seven-day economy tours, it is just a sampling of the foreign cities to which SPORTS ILLUSTRATED writers have been dispatched so far this year. We probably send more writers overseas from New York than any other magazine. The scope of international sport constantly widens, and our writers have learned to keep their passports with their credit cards and check books.
"I was told on a Thursday to be in Paris by Saturday," says Edwin Shrake, whose story on Michel Jazy, the track phenomenon from France, starts on page 32. Finding it impossible to corner Jazy in the city, Shrake trailed him to Helsinki, Finland and later to Bern, Switzerland. "My best interview with Jazy," says Shrake, "was in Helsinki, at a reception for him given by the French ambassador."
An American in Europe is confronted with unfamiliar customs and, frequently, a language barrier. An American in Africa may have more drastic problems. Take the case of John Underwood. John says he had more trouble with his stomach than the language when he was in Ethiopia last March writing about Abebe Bikila, the barefoot Olympic marathon gold medalist (SI, April 12). "At lunch, one day," recalls Underwood, "the cats were lighting under the table, and the main course was wat, a lamb and hot-pepper stew that looks like molten lava and scalds you going down, and anjera, a gray, fiat cake as long and about as digestible as an Ace bandage. It was murder. But I liked it." Since Bikila is a palace guard for Emperor Haile Selassie, Underwood also attempted to arrange an interview with Selassie. "But why would the Emperor want to be in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED?" he was asked. Underwood answered that our magazine has featured Presidents of the United States, but his unimpressed inquisitor shot back: "They're only Presidents. Haile Selassie is an Emperor."
Most magazines and newspapers rely on resident correspondents for their foreign coverage. SPORTS ILLUSTRATED has only one full-time staff member based outside New York: London Man John Lovesey. We feel the reader generally is entitled to an on-the-spot account (and an opinion) from a writer who is recognized as being among the most expert and talented in his field. That's why we sent Frank Deford to Barcelona, Spain for this week's report on what turned out to be a U.S. tennis debacle (page 20).
August 29, 1965
In 1965 SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, which twice has been cited by the Overseas Press Club of America for Best Magazine Reporting from Abroad, has sent 17 writers to 23 countries to do 30 stories on overseas athletes and international events. It is our conviction that a sports personality or situation is often best described on home ground. We are happy when readers write us that a story such as Jack Olsen's tale of the Australian who outwits the British bookies (The Happy Punter of Ally Pally, SI, Aug. 9) taught them more about at least one aspect of England and its people than anything they had read elsewhere.
World leaders are fond of saying that sport is a big help to understanding between nations. It is—when accompanied by accurate and sensitive reporting.