The crowd in the picture above is not the Olympic team from Monaco or Liechtenstein, both of which have somewhat smaller contingents. It is SI's team of editors, writers, reporters and photographers in Montreal who this week produced 19 pages on the Games, beginning on page 14.
If the SI team were to award a gold medal to its most diligent and resourceful member, the unanimous choice would be Anita Verschoth, whose reportorial talents, experience and linguistic abilities have contributed so much to our Olympic coverage over the years, beginning in Tokyo in 1964 and continuing through Mexico City, Munich, Innsbruck and now Montreal.
A sample Verschoth in action last week: swimming writer Jerry Kirshenbaum, faced with a series of uncommunicative East German winners, most of them named Kornelia Ender, called on Anita for assistance. At home in German, Verschoth was able to converse with Ender as well as pick up asides the swim star exchanged with her teammates and East German journalists.
Frank Deford, assigned to write the story on the captivating young gymnast, Nadia Comaneci, had his own language barrier. How do you talk to a taciturn 14-year-old Romanian? Here's how. Nadia speaks French and so does Anita, who also happens to be the staff expert on women's gymnastics and who covered Comaneci's sensational American Cup win at Madison Square Garden earlier this year (SI, April 12). After conversing in French with Nadia, Anita used German to talk to the Romanian coach, as did Director of Photography Jerry Cooke. Cooke, who was born in Odessa, is no mean linguist himself. In addition to German, he is fluent in Russian, French and, of course, English. A bearded and formidable cosmopolite, Cooke put all four languages to good use when badgering officials for better photo positions before the Games began.
August 1, 1976
During the hectic moments leading up to the Games, Verschoth was a veritable whirligig, attending press conferences as the various African nations dropped out and visiting the Olympic Village to interview athletes and check on various press credentials. Other members of the staff would return to the hotel after a long day of action to eat dinner together. Anita seldom made it. As a matter of fact, the group picture was shot at midnight one day last week. Everyone else was ready hours earlier, but they had to wait for Anita. As usual, she had been off working.