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Written By: David C. Gaskill
*Click images below to view larger versions.
Billy Mills breaks the tape in the 10,000 meters in the 1964 Olympics.
The U.S. Basketball team of 1964 remained victorious against the Soviet Union, 73-59.
Editor’s note: As the 31st Games of the Olympiad approaches, August 5-21 in Rio de Janeiro, I thought it would be interesting to resurrect stories of former Olympics as written in Coconut Times in the summer of 1992, year of the Games in Barcelona, Spain.

(from August 7, 1992)

    The Japanese aggression which culminated in America’s entry into World War II had a catastrophic impact upon day to day life in the Japanese capital of Tokyo. Simply put, by the end of the war, Tokyo was destroyed. The bulk of the city’s industry had relocated to avoid the bombings. Those that didn’t were destroyed.
    The end of the war saw the rebirth of the city, under the auspices of the occupying forces of the United States and its allies. Direct elections were held for the first time. Industries and corporations driven out of town by the war had returned. The population of Tokyo had exploded to 9.7 million people by 1960, up from 6.3 million in 1950. Naturally, new construction boomed in an effort to keep pace with the increase in both permanent residents and businesses. Tokyo, the imperial capitol, was now a center of commerce. Tokyo’s growth was awarded in being named host of the 1964 Summer Olympic Games. It had truly transformed itself into an international city.
    The East and West were still at one another's throats in 1964. The nuclear threat was still very real. The Olympic Games often provided a stage for political one-upmanship. In that regard, the 1964 Games were relatively calm except for one minor incident involving minor players.
    In 1963, the Games of the New Emerging Forces were held in Jakarta, Indonesia. The Indonesians refused to allow athletes from Israel and Taiwan to compete. As a result, the International Olympic Committee announced that it would bar any athlete competing at Jakarta from Olympic competition.
    The enforcement of the I.O.C.’s decree caused Indonesia and North Korea to withdraw their entire teams from the Games. Other than this episode, athletic competition was the focus, while political posturing was put aside.
    Spectacular performances were evident throughout the Games. The United States team was triumphant in the medal race, bringing home 36 Gold, 26 Silver and 28 Bronze medals. The Soviets finished a disappointing second with 30 Gold, 31 Silver and 8 Bronze.
    The track and field competition provided some of the more memorable events of 1964 the Games. “Bullet” Bob Hayes came into the Games with a record 48 victories at 100 yards and 100 meters. Hayes continued his domination at the Games, blasting through the field to win the Gold in the 100 meters by an Olympic record seven feet. Hayes thereafter became a member of the Dallas Cowboys and was twice named All-Pro at wide receiver.
    The Games also provided some unlikely heroes. Michael Larrabee was a high school math teacher in Los Angeles, who was laughed at when he informed his students that he was going to try out for the U.S. Olympic team. The laughter soon turned to cheers, however, when Larrabee won the Gold in the 400 meters, becoming the first white Gold medalist of the event in 32 years.
    Billy Mills was not considered a factor in the 10,000 meter event, being overshadowed by teammate and world record holder Ron Clarke. By the half-way point of the event, it became a three-man race between Clarke, Mills and Mohamed Gammoudi of Tunisia. The three were forced to thread their way through the crowded track, as they lapped remaining competitors. With Clarke and Mills neck and neck, Clarke pushed Mills aside to free up a lane of traffic. With that, Gammoudi burst into the lead. At the stretch, with the three exhausted runners again neck and neck, Mills found his final burst of speed to edge Clarke for the Gold by four-tenths of a second. Gammoudi finished third, a mere one and four-tenths of a second behind Mills.
    While sacrifice as well as talent are necessary to win the Gold, an athlete must be extremely gifted to be a repeat Gold medalist. One of these athletes was Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia, who, had he lived, would be 60 years old today, the date of this publication. Bikila won the men’s marathon in 1960 in Rome, running in his bare feet. In Tokyo, he decided to give the competition a fighting chance by running in shoes and socks. Even with this concession, Bikila won handily, finishing four minutes ahead of his nearest challenger. Another repeat Gold medalist was Al Oerter, who won his third of four Gold medals in the discus throw.
    The U.S. basketball team continued its Olympic dominance, beating the Soviet Union 73-59 for the Gold medal. Led by Bill Bradley, Mel Counts, Walt Hazzard, Jeff Mullins and Lucius Jackson, the team plowed through the field to remain unbeaten.
    Buster Mathis, at 293 pounds was the U.S. team’s entry in the super heavy-weight boxing division. Just prior to the start of the Games, however, Mathis broke a knuckle and had to be replaced. A butcher from Philadelphia, named Joseph Frazier, later to be known as “Smokin Joe,” filled in for Mathis. Frazier won the Gold in a 3-2 decision over bus driver Hans Hufer of West Germany, and later became heavy-weight champion of the world.
    Although the Tokyo Games ran smoothly for the most part, an occasional protest was heard. Upset at being disqualified for repeated holding in his feather-weight boxing match, Spanish boxer, Valentin Loren, the “Saragoza Southpaw,” decked the referee. Loren was banned from international amateur boxing for life as a result.
    There was also intense competition in the high jump between the United States and the Soviet Union which directly attributed some 25 years later to a military conflict between the two countries on the silver battlefield. Soviet high jumper Valery Brumel edged out the U.S. high jumper, John Rambo, for the Gold. Rambo, in a fit of patriotic fervor, exacted his revenge at a later date.
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