Swimmers Frozen in the air in the split second before they hit the water. Hockey players in a mad rush to the net. The face of U.S. sprinter Evelyn Ashford as she strains toward the finish. The massiveness of Soviet center Arvidas Sabonis as he goes up for a dunk.
Those are just a few of the 110 images in an exhibit of photographs from SI and the Soviet quarterly Olympic Panorama that opened April 16 at the Lenin Sports and Concert Complex in Leningrad. The show, entitled Sports Feelings and sponsored in part by Eastman Kodak, will be seen in five Soviet and seven American cities in the next 28 months. Yevgeni Gringaut, the editor-in-chief of Olympic Panorama; SI managing editor Mark Mulvoy; and I, along with sports and government officials from both countries, participated in the opening ceremonies.
The joint exhibit is a small part of a U.S.- U.S.S.R. cultural exchange program that has, among other things, brought the Bolshoi Ballet to the U.S. and sent Billy Joel to the U.S.S.R. With the help of the U.S. Information Agency and the Soviet State Committee for Physical Culture and Sport, SI arranged to work with Olympic Panorama to put together an exhibit aimed at capturing the essence of sport. "We wanted to create a mood and a story," says Lee Wilcox, SI's promotion development manager and the exhibit's coordinator. "More important, we wanted to express the feelings we share with the Soviets."
Each photo is displayed alongside a comparable one from the other country. For instance, a shot of Soviet children in front of a giant chess set is paired with a picture of California kids tooling around on skateboards. One of the more striking photographs is by SI's Brian Lanker. In it, a boxer lies exhausted on a gym floor during training. When a seven-year-old Soviet girl spotted the picture, she cried out for her father. He calmed her, explaining that fighters frequently get tired and that the man in the photo would be all right.
Two million people are expected to see the exhibit in Leningrad before it moves on to other Soviet cities. Sports Feelings will open in the U.S. at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 16. It will visit Rochester, N.Y.; New York City; Chicago; Detroit; Los Angeles; and Seattle. SI and Olympic Panorama will add photos after the Seoul Olympics.
We hope you get an opportunity to see the exhibit. We think you'll find that, as Mulvoy said in Leningrad, "Sports is a universal language."