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The Olympic gold medals distributed in Rome were not gold medals. They were gold-plated. Credit for the exposure of this shocking fact goes to Peter Snell, New Zealand's 800-meter winner. His medal has begun to peel, and he has complained to his manager, Joe McManemin. McManemin plans a formal protest.
According to specifications laid down by the International Olympic Committee, the medals do not have to contain more than a tiny amount of real gold so long, presumably, as they look like gold. This year's supply was cast by the Stabilimenti Artistici Fiorentini, which says it simply plated silver medals following its usual formula and that it has had no previous complaints on the subject.
The last solid gold medals were awarded at the 1932 Olympics, back in the days of sweet and honest innocence; everything since then has been diluted or a complete fake. IOC Secretary Otto Mayer promises to replace peeling medals, but this offer would not impress Mrs. Al Oerter, wife of the U.S. discus champion. Her knowing female eye tells Mrs. Oerter that not only is Al's medal not gold, but "it's finished just like a piece of junk jewelry."
WHIFF OF AMATEURISM
Until last weekend the Seattle Seafair (SI, Aug. 22) was the best example of what an absurd parody of sport hydroplane racing has become. There, three drivers were seriously hurt and officials were unable to pick a winner until two weeks after the race ended. But that was before Sunday's 1960 Gold Cup at Lake Mead, Nev.
The first heats on Lake Mead were canceled by high winds, which produced what would have been merely an exhilarating chop for weekend fishermen but was a caldron of danger for the utterly unseaworthy hydros. The next morning the wind blew again, but officials sent the drivers off anyway. In the first heat, Bill Cantrell gunned his Gale V to overtake Miss Super Test II. Gale responded by leaping into the air and splattering back into the water. Cantrell bobbed alongside only half conscious. A helicopter soared out to the rescue, patrol boats raced to the scene and a stretcher was lowered. As Cantrell was whisked to the hospital, Driver Don Wilson growled, "That's not a Gold Cup out there. That's a destruction derby." The other drivers and owners agreed, and after a hurried conference they reached a decision: no Gold Cup this year. Once more it had been made clear that hydroplane racing is a sport that has outrun itself and its environment. It is a cumbersome undertaking in which huge cranes have to lower the fragile and overcharged creatures into the water, and which demands laboratory-perfect conditions before boats can be trusted. Whether the 1961 competition is held at all is a matter of grave concern to almost nobody.
THE INWARD EYE
In a California high school game Redwood beat Tamalpais 13 to 6, partly because of an awful gaffe by Referee John Hattala. In a complicated call growing out of a holding penalty on a loose-ball play, Hattala's error cost the Tamalpais team three precious downs at a critical moment.
But nobody realized this, not even losing Tamalpais Coach Jim Hanretty. There were no complaints, and the game was played without protest. Hanretty never would have known about the error except for a letter he received last week. It explained in detail just what Referee Hattala had done wrong. The writer: consciencestricken John Hattala.